Speaking of independent bottlers allowing us to experience malts that are outside the profile a distillery is officially associated with, and following Monday’s bourbon cask Aberlour, here is a Glendronach from a bourbon cask. It was bottled in the Whisky Galore series that Duncan Taylor put out through the mid-2000s. Usually (always?) bottled at 46% and without added colour or chill-filtration, this label put out a lot of high quality malt at highly reasonable prices. The name was changed later to NC2. As the whisky loch of the 1980s dried up the volume of quality whisky available at reasonable prices dropped dramatically across the board and the current incarnation of Duncan Taylor’s affordable line, Battlehill (often sold at Total Wine in the US) seems to offer fewer hidden treasures. Glendronach itself is, of course, highly identified with sherry cask whisky, especially the alleged “single casks” they began to put out in large numbers in the late 2000s and on. What does their whisky taste like when not from a sherry cask? Well, the results from this virgin oak cask were not encouraging, but virgin oak is a very different beast from ex-bourbon wood. Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading
Let’s start the month with one of the five single cask bottles I opened in the week of my 50th birthday. I selected whiskies that were distilled and/or bottled in significant years of my life. The secondary goal was to end up with a group that spanned the old Scotch regions and also a range of whisky styles that I enjoy. First up from the set is this Glendronach 19. It was distilled in 1993, the year I left India for the US—permanently, as it turned out. This is a PX cask that was bottled for the UK market. It’s one of several 19 year olds distilled that year and bottled in 2012 or 2013—Whiskybase lists 17! Now, we know that at Glendronach “single cask” doesn’t necessarily mean the whisky is from a single cask. And it’s also true that some of the least successful examples of “single cask” whisky from Glendronach have been PX casks (see, for example, this one and also this one). On the other hand, there have also been some I’ve liked (like this one). Where will this one fall?
Let’s see. Continue reading
Glendronach—the distillery that understands the word “single” in a manner different from the rest of us—is almost entirely associated with sherry cask-matured whisky. Very little non-sherried Glendronach ever seems to make out into the world, but some does from time to time. This cask is one of them. However, it is not likely to be one that can give me a sense of what Glendronach’s spirit is like away from the heavy influence of sherry that has become their calling card. This because not only is it not a sherry cask, it is a virgin oak cask, and chances are always good with virgin oak casks that the oak—not yet tamed by serial maturations of whisky—will be very talkative if not entirely overpowering. Let’s see if that proves to be the case here. Continue reading
In my “Coming Soon” posts for the last couple of months I’ve promised a Glendronach 17 yo from 1995 bottled for the Whisky Exchange. But I’ll be damned if I know where that sample is. As I’m unlikely to have pulled something so specific out of thin air, there are two possibilities: the sample is lost somewhere on my shelves; or I drank it at some point without taking notes or clearing it from my samples database. It’s so wonderful getting old! Anyway, I have for you instead a Glendronach 18, 1991. This was released in 2010 and was from only the third batch of Glendronach’s releases. In those days the mania for this series had not yet set in and it was not difficult to acquire bottles; nor were the prices so high. It was also well before suspicions began to be expressed about the nature of these releases. You may have already seen my post about the question of whether these were/are indeed single casks in the way that most consumers understand the term—if not, you can read it here. Well, as it happens this putative single oloroso cask also yielded an unlikely number of bottles: 760 to be exact; suggesting that this too was a product of a cask or two being re-racked into an oloroso butt for the final phase of the maturation. Has this resulted in flabby whisky? Let’s see. Continue reading
A third 25 yo whisky to end the week and this is an official release with a rather big reputation: a Glendronach distilled in 1968 and bottled in 2003. I’ve had small pours of it on a couple of occasions before; this large sample came to me from the ever-generous Sku. This is a throwback to Glendronach’s past, distilled and bottled before the Billy Walker era (which itself ended last year). Indeed this whisky was bottled when the distillery was still owned by Allied Distillers and before it was mothballed in 1996. It’s an old-school sherry monster that does more at 43% than most others of its kind do at cask strength, and I’m looking forward to making its acquaintance again.
By the way, the usually restrained Johannes van den Heuvel gave this whisky 97 points! I’m not sure when in his whisky tasting career he rated this or what he would make of it now. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading
It’s been more than two years since I’ve reviewed a Glendronach. That was a review of the 15 yo Revival, which was about to go on hiatus at the time. I’m not sure what the situation is with that or the 18 yo Allardice, especially as the distillery’s ownership has changed since then, with Billy Walker moving on to Glenallachie. I’m also not sure what the new ownership has been doing with Glendronach’s single cask program—I haven’t paid much attention to that either, having gotten slowly turned off the distillery as a whole since learning about their “single cask” shenanigans. I do have a bunch of single cask Glendronachs on my shelf, however—though I haven’t purchased any in the last couple of years—and my ambivalence about the distillery does not extend to refusing to open and drink or review them. This particular cask was bottled for Abbey Whisky, a British online store. I’ve previously reviewed another Glendronach exclusive to them—an oloroso cask—and it was that one that led me to purchase this one. I opened it at one of my friend Rich’s whisky gatherings up in the Twin Cities, and while a number of people there really liked it, I was not very convinced by it (and nor was he, I think). I’ve since taken it to my local tasting group’s most recent tasting as well and most people there loved it. I liked it a bit more on that occasion but not very much more. Continue reading
As you may have heard, the Glendronach 15 is going on a hiatus for a few years. Presumably the distillery needs to build up aged stock for future releases. You may also know that some of the age-stated regular release Glendronachs put out since the new ownership re-opened the distillery in 2008 have in fact mostly been older than the age stated on the label. This is because the distillery was mothballed from 1996 to 2002. What this means is that a 12 yo released between 2009 (which is when it was first released) and 2014 had to be more than 12 years old (as no spirit was distilled between mid-1996 and 2002). But starting last year the 12 yo could at least theoretically have gone back to being 12 yo whisky distilled in 2002. Not so for the 15 yo. A 15 yo released in 2015 (as this bottle was) cannot contain spirit distilled in 2000 and is therefore at least 18 years old, possibly more. And so rather than continue to put ever older whisky into the 15 yo, as they did for a good number of years, the distillery seems to have decided to wait till spirit distilled in 2002 and later turns 15 years old. Presumably they’d rather save the older casks for their lucrative, so-called “single cask” releases. Can’t fault them for that. Continue reading
I really liked the last Whiskybase exclusive Glendronach—this 21 yo oloroso cask from 1993—and am hoping this 19 yo from a PX cask will have more in common with it than with the controversial PX cask 23 yo that led to all the fuss about Glendronach’s use of the term “single cask”. Of course, what that controversy tells us is that using the terms “oloroso cask” or “PX cask” may be meaningless. As the cask information on the label only refers to the last cask in which more than one cask may have been re-racked, this so-called PX cask may in fact have whisky in it that spent far more of its life in oloroso casks, and the so-called oloroso casks that so many prefer may have whisky in them that spent a goodly portion of their lives in bourbon casks (and may even have been re-racked alongside PX casks). Yes, what finally matters is what a particular whisky tastes like, but if that’s the case, why bother putting cask details on the labels at all? Anyway, I shouldn’t get on a high horse about this as I’m obviously still buying Glendronach’s “single cask” releases. Continue reading
Over on Diving for Pearls Michael Kravitz is in the middle of a week of reviews of unsherried Glendronach (you should go check it out). Me, I’m much more conventional: I have a review of the standard issue 18 yo, the Allardice. I’ve had my eye on this one for a while but the price, north of $100 pretty much ever since it showed up, kept me from buying a bottle. I should also say that when I got a taste of it some years ago I thought the 15 yo was better anyway. However, thanks to the fact that in the EU this costs less than the Glendronach 15 “Revival” does in the US, I finally plumped for a bottle. And (spoiler alert) I’m quite glad I did. I’m not sure, by the way, what the mathematics on this one’s age may reveal. I know that the early editions of the 15 yo had to be quite a bit older than 15 (based on when the distillery was on hiatus) but I’m not sure if that’s true of this as well. Doubtless someone will be along soon to clarify.
Let’s do another Glendronach. Unlike yesterday’s 20 yo this one is from a PX cask and was a US exclusive, I believe. I’m not sure if the distillery is still putting out “single casks” in general release in the US or if they’re only doing store exclusives now. While the last PX cask Glendronach I had was no great shakes, I’m hoping this one will be as good as the excellent UK exclusive PX cask 4681, a 15 yo from 1995 which was my first ever “single cask” Glendronach (I still have a large reference sample saved; I should review it sometime).
Anyway, let’s get right to it.
Glendronach 17, 1996 (53.2%; PX cask 1491; from a sample received in a swap)
Of my two previous Glendronach reviews one was of a 21 yo,1993 from an oloroso cask that was quite good and the other was of a 23 yo, 1990 from a PX cask that was mediocre. This one is also from an oloroso cask and also from 1993; and like the other 1993 was also bottled for a store, in this case for Abbey Whisky in the UK. And where that was cask 23, this is cask 33—and since these were both distillery releases the proximity of the number suggests a strong likelihood that they were from the same distillation run and perhaps even the same parcel of quality sherry casks. So all the signs seem to point to a good outcome. Then again not every cask can be a winner. And it’s also the case that given the lack of clarity of what “single cask” means at Glendronach this may not all have started out in oloroso casks, and may have been re-racked into a cask 33 in a completely different year (if you read my piece on Glendronach’s “single cask” shenanigans you might remember that I was told that the cask numbers are often recycled every year). Continue reading
This might be the last single cask Glendronach I buy for a while. This is partly because prices have all but risen out of my comfort zone—there was a time when these single casks represented excellent value but that time is gone; and partly it’s because the more I’ve thought about it the less comfortable I’ve become with Glendronach’s lack of transparency around the labeling of these whiskies as “single casks” (see here if you don’t know what I’m talking about). This particular cask, selected by and bottled for the lads at Whiskybase, is said to be a single oloroso butt and I think (though I’m not sure; parenting two small children is a hell of a thing on the brain) it may have been released to commemorate an anniversary of their store or maybe a milestone on the site. As I trust Menno and CJ’s palates I was confident that this would be a good one, distillery shenanigans and all, and indeed that proved to be the case. I opened it for my local group’s tasting in January (where it was a hit) and have been tasting it regularly since. Here, before I sharply accelerate the bottle’s demise, are my formal notes. Continue reading
A little over a year ago I published what has probably become the most read of all my whisky posts: my report on Glendronach’s somewhat freewheeling use of the term “single cask”. This post has been in the top 10 most read pages on the blog every month since, and it seems like it gets linked to on some whisky forum somewhere in the world for the first time every week.
While whisky geeks seem to find the question interesting they also seem to have largely shrugged at the practice. There hasn’t been any sort of sustained outrage, and nor have there been calls for Glendronach to clarify their practices or use less misleading language on their labels—I haven’t myself purchased any of the single cask releases since then and so can’t confirm if there has in fact been any change on that front.
Well, we get the transparency that we ask for, and the industry is probably all too pleased that we don’t really ask for very much. Continue reading
With a name like “Three Generations” this whisky doubtless has some complicated story behind it. However, I’m too tired to track it down. I’m not even sure if it is a single cask. I know it is comprised of whisky distilled in 1975 and is, unusually for Glendronach, not from sherry casks. This sells in the vicinity of $300 in the US (where still available) but it was recently discounted heavily in the state of Oregon and this discounted price was split further between me, Jordan D. (of Chemistry of the Cocktail), Michael K. (of Diving for Pearls) and Florin (master of the oyster dance). Let’s get right to it.
Glendronach 33, 1975, Three Generations (51.4%; from a bottle split with friends)
Nose: Honey, malt and toasted oak–spicy and creamy with a nice hit of vanilla. Below that there’s a bit of prickly, peppery citrus (somewhere between lemon and orange). With time/air the fruit takes a slightly tropical turn with some (tinned) pineapple and papaya making their way into the mix. With more time the fruit gets muskier and takes over. With a lot more time there’s a fair bit of tart mango on the nose. With a drop of water the fruit is joined by more malt and wood. Continue reading
Last month I made a post I wasn’t planning to about confusions about Glendronach’s prized single cask releases. You can read it and how/why I came to write it here. Long story short: the term “single cask” probably rarely means what you think it means. This may have been the most read of any post I’ve made in the year (almost) since my blog went live. It’s no real big surprise why: Glendronach is a rising star distillery among geeks, and geeks love discovering “dirty secrets” of the industry–as I’ve said a number of times in a number of places, most of us actually know very little about what goes on at the production level in the Scotch industry. The outrage that my post sparked, at least for a day or two (and, for a change, not directed at me) had its source, I think, in the fact that the “dirty secret” being revealed is connected directly to the chief source of Glendronach’s growing cult status among geeks: the cachet of the single cask. I’d like to possibly annoy you about that today. Continue reading
[Update: See the follow-up post here.]
Warning: this is long and symptomatic of obsessive compulsive disorder, and in any case may be something you already know or don’t care about. If you do choose to read the whole thing what are you going to find? Well, after a long’ish setting of the stage in which I describe how I came to think about this issue at all and the conversations that led me to explore it further, I detail how I came to discover that the term “Single Cask” may not refer to a whisky that was matured for its entire life in one cask; and furthermore that the cask type stated may not refer to the only type of cask in which it was matured. My chief reference here is to the Glendronach distillery but I suspect this is far more broadly applicable. Continue reading
These days it’s hard to throw a stone in the whisky world without hitting a single cask release from Glendronach (though it would probably be a good idea to not throw stones in the whisky world, were one to actually exist). It feels like there’s one every other month. We don’t really get any of these in the US usually, and so it’s nice to see this release from K&L of an official oloroso sherry cask from 1993. I have already reviewed another 1993 oloroso sherry cask release from Glendronach (also 19 years old) and you can read my take on that one here.
K&L seems to have had some trouble selling this one out. That’s a shame because this is really quite good. The problem is probably that the whisky market in the US is not quite as mature as in the EU when it comes to single malts and the Glendronach name doesn’t carry quite much cachet here yet as it does in the UK and Europe where a much larger set of casks are released every year and most sell out. As a result, $140 for a 19yo probably seems like too much of a barrier. I think it would probably help if the excellent Glendronach 15 “Revival” were a little cheaper and could function as a gateway for the brand (the more affordable 12 yo “Original” is fine but nothing very distinctive); but, in general, I think it is hard in the US to sell the general malt market on relatively expensive teenaged whiskies from the second and third-tier names (even if the whiskies themselves are very good). Continue reading
Glendronach used to be, and sometimes still is, listed as a Speyside distillery, but the Scotch Whisky Association (which regulates the production and marketing of all Scotch whisky quite strictly) has placed it (along with the similarly regionally troublesome Ardmore) in the Highlands. And as the SWA is a litigious lot, let’s agree that it is in the Highlands; and as I don’t particularly care about regionality, let’s just forget I brought the whole thing up.
Glendronach used to be open, then they closed, and then they opened again, and in 2008 were bought by the same folks who revived Benriach. Since this takeover there’s been an overhaul of the core line: there’s a new 12 yo (“the Original”), a new 15 yo (“the Revival”), and an 18 yo (“the Allardice”, named after a founder, I believe). I have not had the 18, but the 12 and particularly the 15 are quite good in their class. Neither are as good, in my view, as the more recent 21 yo “Parliament”, which is now available in the US. However, among whisky geeks the excitement around Glendronach—which is seen in this community as surpassing the Macallan and vying with Glenfarclas for the championship belt in the heavily sherried weight-class—attaches itself largely to their releases of various single cask whiskies from particular vintages. I have tried a few of these and they have all been very good at worst, and a 15 yo, 1995 single PX sherry cask (#4681) for the UK was really quite excellent. Continue reading