Whenever I hit some milestone, some number divisible evenly by 100, I wonder if I should do something special.
I have some reviews I can hold back, or put together. However since (at the time of writing this) I’m since bouncing back into normality of not working and doing school at the same time for the first time in 6 years, launching into a global pandemic, and also navigating various other life events that have been derailed by it, part of me was ready to say screw it and pass.
By happenstance my wife asked to do a mystery, and picked out one of the GlenDronach samples I had saved up. Saved for what? I don’t know, do I look like a guy with a plan? I’m like a dog chasing a car: If I ever caught one, I’d rip off a Nolan film.
Suffice to say I did realize I had other samples, and I should do those as some sort of multi-review, less my brand be diluted. And we all know how I feel about dilution…
I’m, uh… I’m against it. Ahem.
Anyway, I’ve taken pot shots at GlenDronach in the past. Why? Because there was a short window where you could obtain cask strength “single casks” (there’s some debate on if they vatted some lower kegs together) that tasted mighty good.
Since then a few things happened: They stopped peating their malt themselves, they were bought out by a large company, the prices jumped, and their tour has had less pours. And somehow, for some reason, the newer casks (when I’ve had them) haven’t been as tasty.
If I was a more conspiracy-minded individual, I’d say they were putting something in the water that’s making me like gay frogs. Luckily I’m not insane. I will say that the good times are done, and let you add in whatever LGBTQ+ amphibian theories you want.
So this recent batch: Worth it? Let’s see, shall we?
GlenDronach 34 1975 Dun Bheagan
Price: €230 at auction, recently, I think. I couldn’t find the original price.
Cask type: Hogshead
Cask number: 1704
No. of bottles: 222
Colour: 10YR 3/8
Nose: Passionfruit, floral, anise, lemon parfait, dark caramel, cotton candy
Funky, tropical fruit, some floral and nose, and then this “never-still-in-that-Labrador” way dessert note. Goes from light, bright acidic sweetness to rich caramel and a cotton candy extreme.
Wacky, and we’re not discussing the Races this time. Though I’m sure Captain Caveman would beat the ground at this one for the insanity of it all.
Taste: Violets, bitter leaf tea, black beans, butter, pecan, sprite-y
I had this blind, and I’m frankly confused. Other GlenDronach have been about the sherry cask working with the whisky. This? I guessed it was Glenlossie just because of the bitter/earth/bean notes. Yes, beans. I had a Glenlossie that tasted like beans once and now I’m scarred for life.
Sure, let’s blame it on that. Balances out with time and has a buttered pecan note to it. Almost youthful once you let it open up, though still with a strong floral character.
Finish: Floral salt, plum, smoke/heather, sultana, grapefruit, molasses cookie, roast pineapple
I’m pretty sure gelatin is easier to pin down than this finish. Weird, odd level of acidity, smoke, floral, salinity, roasted elements, and fruit.
Like one second you’re like “It’s floral with some fruit” and then there’s dried fruit and then there’s roast fruit and some molasses and then you’re like “Wait, I can’t write this many notes for a finish” and then we’re here.
Conclusion: Just an insane amount of weird flavours. Nothing like GlenDronach I’ve had before. Typically they have this distinct sherry/mix to them. Sure, the roastiness is there in some of the ones before 2002, but nothing like this. It’s more leather. This? Floral, bitter, tannic, smokey, lighter fruits.
In other words I got it totally wrong. But if you have the chance, this is a cracking fun whisky. Reminds me of older Black Arts releases. Truly a good whisky.
Guess: Speyside, 20+ years, 54%, maybe a Glenlossie?
Actually: GlenDronach 34 1975 Dun Bheagan
GlenDronach 12 2005 Single Cask Hand-Filled Distillery Exclusive
Thanks to /u/xreekinghavocx for pouring me a sample of this.
Bottled: Nov 22 2017
Cask Type: PX Sherry Puncheon
Colour: 2.5YR 5/10
Nose: Raisin, cloves, cherry, brown sugar, black pepper, vanilla
Tons of sherry influence on the nose. Big sherry notes, really smacks you across the face. Doesn’t give much in the way of the base spirit. The nose is nice enough. Wish it had a bit more balance to it.
Taste: Dried fruit, toffee, hazelnut, Xmas spices, chlorine
This is like diving into a public pool: It’s fine until the chlorine kicks in. Now my eyes are red and people are screaming. Wait, that may not be due to the whisky this time.
Caramel, dried fruit, Xmas spices, all of the hallmarks of a PX cask. It’s nice, however again, there’s no malt beneath. Oh and that pool note isn’t doing it any favours.
Finish: Cherry, brown sugar, almond, green banana, grapefruit
Alright, a bit of green banana. That hints this may be a whisky. That’s nice.
Joking aside, it’s a nice enough sherry forward whisky, and I like the proof, and it’s certainly showing off what happens in a wet PX cask, but can we get some of the stuff that we originally aged popping up sooner than the finish?
Conclusion: Sherry bomb, but not that of an interesting one. There’s sherry bombs that have big flavours of sherry and the whisky. This is raw and has more of the sherry than I’d be happy with.
It’s missing depth, which I’m assuming would have come with time, a better sherry cask, or the older malt.
But I still kinda like drinking these? I don’t know. It’s tough, right? Because I’ve had GlenDronach that has more character than this. If I was on a tour, and this was my option for a hand-pour, would I be happy with it? Should this be a special whisky worthy of traveling to Scotland for? Hard to say yes.
Thanks to /u/cake_my_day for pouring me these two whiskies.
GlenDronach 20 1990 Single Cask
Price: € 495
Cask type: Oloroso Sherry Butt
Cask Number: 1241
No. of bottles: 691
Colour: 2.5YR 2/6
Nose: Cranberry sauce, banana, basil, dark caramel
Nice wood/fruit mixture, good funk/fruit note, and some lovely basil. So comparing this to the one above, we have more of the base whisky/malt shining through, adding to the sherry.
It’s not just molasses, it’s a rich caramel. It’s not just red fruits, it’s an oaky/vanilla mixture. Granted I wouldn’t mind a bit more, the angel’s have been picky here.
Taste: Milk chocolate, brown sugar, apple strudel, eggnog
Nice strong, creamy chocolate note. This whole thing is decadent. If Covid makes people thicc, then this dram mimics all the best parts if your grandparents were able to visit (and survive).
Rich, caramel, strong molasses, and creamy.
Finish: Banana, strawberry, mint, earthy, cinnamon, Mandarin orange, raisin
Really odd left turn here. If the nose and taste were all rich, strong, molasses/Xmas notes, then the finish seems to go in a completely different direction. Lighter, acidic, less complex but more to it.
Conclusion: Fruit & Cinnamon with a sweet edge. Really odd whisky. I bounced around on what I really thought.
This used to be the “norm” for what we got from GlenDronach Single Casks. Part of me wants to be picky. Think “Hmm, this could have a bit more mind bending unique notes”. And I’m a snob.
So I debated some more. This is a dram from a time when I was spoiled. Not “flew all my friends to an Island party” spoiled, but certainly whisky spoiled. So I’m going to end on this:
This is how GlenDronach should taste from a single cask. This could have a bit more to it, but it’s solid..
GlenDronach 19 1994 Single Cask
Price: € 299
Cask Type: Oloroso Sherry Butt
Cask Number: 101
No. of bottles: 628
Colour: 10R 3/8
Nose: Gingerbread, hazelnut, honeydew, raisin, cherry, strawberry
Spice, some cooked cereal/butter, good backbone of the whisky, though more of the sherry as time goes on. Quite the fight between the two.
Lots of spice too. Needs to calm down before drinking.
Taste: Caramel, cinnamon, orange, pumpernickel, cantaloupe
Starts out with some of the base malt, though the sherry takes over and there’s a lot of spice going on. More fighting, more screams of can’t we all just get along, and a good chunk of back and forth.
Spice dominates. Yeast dominates. But it’s still nice, if bombastic.
Finish: Tons of ginger, cinnamon, mineral, almond, strawberry, yeast
Holy crap that finish is a ton of spice. Check the ground for holes because this dram has ripped up all the ginger there is and ever will be.
Dammit that’s a lot. Time doesn’t help too much, water doesn’t help too much, and I’m all out of ideas. I left this for longer and eventually it tames enough to pick aspects out, but really the finish is just a pale imitation of the taste. And everything is on fire.
And let’s be frank, I review whisky to escape from reality, where everything is on fire, so I don’t need it in the whisky too.
Conclusion: Too much spice. And that’s coming from someone who loves a ton of cinnamon in his baked goods. Hell I have to apologize to /u/distillasian because I told him to double the cinnamon in a recipe recently without seeing it, because I assumed they underdid it, and then there was too much.
Where was I? Yeah, it’s hard to get past the sheer spice amount in this whisky. I want to like it, and I can see why people loved it more than others here, but there’s nothing subtle about it. It’s a fist fight with Edward Scissorhands. It’s the gal who sold all the fake blood to Tarantino before Kill Bill. It’s the manure truck in Back to the Future II.
Not for me sadly. I tried. I really did. Perhaps not everything in the past was as great, or maybe it’s just not my thing. Still a fun ride while it lasted.
Scotch review #1335-8, Highland review #218-21, Whisky Network review #2000-4