For the second year running, on our Spirit of Speyside Festival Super Sunday, we headed towards Huntly to pay homage to GlenDronach.
Last time we took the staple distillery tour which was ideal timing given the
takeover by Brown-Forman. A year on, we wanted to see what changes had arrived
at this remote whisky outpost and opted for a more luxurious option with the
GlenDronach Connoisseur tour. It’s a pleasant drive across the rolling
countryside as #theTormore4 rolled out, allowing us to shake off the
ill-effects of the night before and the persistent odour of the epic cottage
Upon reflection, the standard GlenDronach offering is more
of an entry level tour and doesn’t grant access to a warehouse. That’s a
disappointment, as it’s my favourite part of the tour; being able to share the
dunnage atmosphere, sense of time and patience. This environment is always my
advice to anyone feeling pressurised by the demands of modern day life. Get
yourself into a dunnage warehouse and switch off. Soak up those aromas and
dream about the whisky potential.
We reached GlenDronach on what was developing into a
beautiful refreshing morning. Checking in for our Connoisseur Tour, our
presence seemed to influence a travelling German malt brigade who decided
against the standard tour and thought if it’s good enough for #theTomore4, then
they should opt in as well. Clearly there’s no Brexit when it comes to whisky and our
Thankfully during this #dram17 weekend, GlenDronach had the
foresight to call up a very experienced guide and Karen was to take us back
around the distillery, into a warehouse and then finishing with a tutored tasting
of 6 whiskies that she had selected. Standing outside the main distillery
buildings, our band had now swollen to 8 and
we remarked on the stylish still house that was added to the original
distillery buildings. A marvellous example of 1960’s architecture that I
suggested to the group reminded me of my old primary school. Talk of the water
source and the site history, no doubt allowed Karen to gauge the level of
experience amongst the cartel she was accompanying.
From the outside, little has changed since the arrival of
Brown-Forman with the only exception being the Stars and Stripes that flies
alongside the Scottish Saltire and the United Kingdom. This is welcome as
GlenDronach is visually a charming and classic distillery with the exception
being the added still extension that was commonplace across the industry during
the swinging sixties. Moving into the stunning cobbled courtyard, discussion
turned to the farming community and the local desire to be chosen by the
distillery to provide barley, as it pays more than going down the cattle feed
alternative. Thankfully, there was no discussion about soil type.
Then the disappointment of no photography allowed indoors. This
is a rule we’re seeing across many distilleries nowadays and given GlenDronach
isn’t in production during the weekends, I do feel there should be a
compromise. After all, we do see official photographs and the last distillery
in Scotland to meet a tragic fate was from memory Talisker and that had nothing
to do with a camera. A shame, but it didn’t hamper our tour experience as Karen
kept us entertained with facts and tales about the distillery. Of particular interest
were the mini-condensers, perched behind each still that prompted an
informative discussion. Having recently seen within an old full-sized condenser
at Knockdhu, it was interesting to hear about their maintenance and the
problems associated with such a piece of equipment. They can have a short shelf
life but pay for themselves within a year, although I remain a fan of worm tubs
Ushered into a nearby dunnage warehouse we sampled the
atmosphere of these slumbering GlenDronach casks. Again, no photographs, but
you were able to take some shots from outside with the doors opened as a memento. This tour highlighted that the key component is the guide.
Karen was fantastic and elevated what is a standard walk through a distillery
into a memorable experience. Engaging, knowledgeable and enthusiastic it reaffirmed
our faith in the mothership that is GlenDronach.
Then for some, the best part
of any tour was a set of 6 whiskies she had selected and guided us through.
Sadly, I was the driver of #theTormore4 chariot again, but it was great to see
GlenDronach catering for the nominated driver. Remember whilst in Scotland you
have to abide by our drink and drive rules with a zero tolerance approach, its
best to opt for the labelled samples to enjoy at a later date. Hence why I can
now bring you my thoughts on each whisky, including 2 specific distillery exclusives
and the current (at the time of writing) bottle-your-own Manager’s Cask.
GlenDronach Allardice 18-year-old
Colour: a bronze rubbing
Nose: almonds coated in dark
chocolate, also caramel and a ginger freshness. Also evident are cherries,
raspberries and spent matchsticks. Returning to the glass gives syrup tart and
honeycomb plus ginger ale! With water cloves are noticeable.
Taste: more chocolate and treacle,
almost a Black Forest Gateau cake in some respects. Honey and olives, there's a
bitterness from the wood that is firmly in place - with water cloves and
grapefruit come through.
Overall: a stronger opener that
leaves you excited as to what follows, rather than looking back with fondness.
GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 5
Bottled at 55.3% strength and containing whiskies from Pedro
Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks.
Nose: punchy arrival with cherries and strawberries. There’s
plenty of redness here with cranberries, marzipan, ginger and orange marmalade.
Water unlocks apricots and fudge notes.
Taste: surprisingly restrained at first, as I was expecting
a dominant sherry beast. Instead its more rounded and salacious with dried
cranberries and marzipan again. Raspberries inject some sweetness and then an
assortment of spicing with cinnamon, dried fruits and candied orange.
Overall: there’s much to enjoy here for the asking price of
around £55. A very solid session dram, with just enough edge to keep your interest.
GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 6
Bottled at 56.1% strength and containing whiskies from Pedro
Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks.
Colour: a rich amber
Nose: initially its strawberries and golden syrup with a
hint of creaminess. Then a satisfying blast of sweet cinnamon followed by figs
and then more spices with all-spice and nutmeg.
Taste: a nicer texture and less of the alcohol even though
this one is slightly stronger. More marmalade but the orange is muted with dark
chocolate, strawberries and meringues. Towards the end more vanilla and some
Overall: this is my favourite of the cask strength editions.
It just has that little touch of glass and elegance that separates it from the
bravado of the 5th release.
GlenDronach Manager’s Cask
Cask number 1441, bottled at 57.7% from a sherry puncheon
available at the distillery as the current bottle-your-own for £85.
Colour: cherry wood
Nose: some classic notes here but a noticeable herbal vibe
is in the mix. Black olives sit alongside red liquorice, cranberries and red
apples. There’s an element of cherry as well, beeswax and raspberry jam. Tarragon
cuts through the sweetness with an earthy resin, orange marmalade and sweet
Taste: rich and decadent are the initial emotions. It’d be
too easy to replicate the nose with colourful red characteristics on the palate.
It’s the spices that grab you here.
Nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla. A dark chocolate finish with
Brazil nuts. Maple syrup, treacle and plump cherries.
Overall: well, #theTormore4 walked away with 4 bottles of
this after the tasting so that should give you a summary of how it went down.
It’s only now that I have that moment to sit down and appreciate it fully.
Distillery Exclusive 1994 #3399
Bottled at 53.2% strength, this single cask #3399 is only
available at the distillery and will set you back around £130.
Nose: a deep
intoxicating resin laced with cinnamon and cloves. There’s a beef dripping
quality assisted by walnuts and furniture polish. The fruity warmth of poached
plums is noticeable, as are the cherries.
Taste: a lovely
texture and childhood memories of conkers and cola cubes. All-spice, cardamom and
some sweet cinnamon with liquorice. There’s a rich creaminess offering balance
with the driving force from the sherry cask. Molasses and blackcurrant jam with
vanilla round off a satisfying experience.
Overall: I’d be happy to pay £130 for a bottle of this but I
was limiting myself to the Manager’s cask upon our visit. It’s a chunky but well
balanced GlenDronach and is a real crowd pleaser.
Distillery Exclusive 1994 #1189
Bottled at 54.1% strength, this single cask (number 1189) is
only available at the distillery and will set you back around £130.
Colour: treacle toffee
Nose: I’m kinda thinking peppered steak of all things. Dark
chocolate and treacle, ginger loaf with plump cherries. Liquorice and maple
syrup add more depth and sweetness. It’s a very layered whisky, combining
spicing with sweetness and more traditional sherry notes.
Taste: a rich and complex palate, the sudden rush of
sweetness comes as a surprise. Juicy cherries and a firm helping of vanilla
backed up by an earthiness. It’s a thick, almost chewy whisky, with chocolate
and toffee notes smothered in all-spice and cinnamon.
Overall: it’s a close run thing between these 2 distillery
exclusives both from 1994. Cask 1189 is I think the more interesting, whilst
its brother is more immediately accessible. My favourite overall is actually the
Manager’s Cask that on paper is a bargain and delivers.
The Connoisseur tasting rounded off a delightful start to
our Speyside Super Sunday. Before too long after claiming our bottle-your-own souvenirs,
we were back on the road towards Dufftown and lunch, followed by some whisky
ice cream, Glenfiddich, Aberlour and then Murray McDavid Art of Blending, to bring to an end a marvellous
few days on Speyside. Yes, I seem to be doing these events in reverse order
somehow, but whatever way you approach this festival, it’s a formidable catalogue
of events and experiences.
Labels: #dram17, Allardice, bottle your own, featured, glendronach, spirit of speyside