Thanks to xile_ for the dram.
What was the occasion: End of year tasting, I’ve reviewed other whiskies before this, I’m taking time to ensure that I can still review, I’m trying to figure out how to lay my leg down to not scream in pain (it’s throwing off the rest of the participants), I’m dealing with conflicting thoughts of having fun, being drunk, and being in super pain.
It’s a lot. Try living through it. I had a great time. And a lot of pain. Then I got high and still won hands down at Goldeneye after not playing it in years.
What whisky did we review? GlenDronach 20 1995 Single Cask, an older release from 2015 directly from the distillery, which is a rarity for me, as I typically review independent bottlings because I’m not rich beyond imagination. I’ll elaborate more on that in the bias section.
GlenDronach releases batches of single casks each year. I say single casks, however there have been accusations that they have vatted some casks together (thus no longer being a single cask) into one cask due to alcohol levels in the casks and then release them later as a single cask, and I want to get ahead of it, so that’s out there.
These are age stated, vintage stated, cask strength, and used to be affordable and available. All great things (save that last one no longer being true).
This particular one was in a PX Sherry Puncheon, aged 20 years, and made before the company stopped using peated spirit (It was only lightly peated).
What’s the distillery? GlenDronach was a fan darling distillery that was owned by BenRiach distillery up until 2016. The company also owned Glenglassaugh distillery and sold all three to Brown-Forman in 2016.
Since Brown-Forman took over, there’s aspects of what has happened to it that make people less GlenDronach obsessed. I say less because some people are gonna be fans even if GlenDronach beat Rihanna nearly to death (which they did not). But that leads us to my bias.
What’s my bias? A few things to note about GlenDronach and why I feel they aren’t the darlings they used to be:
- Prices on the single casks went up
- The quality went down (IMHO)
- They stopped making peated whisky in the aughts
- There was a time where the age stated releases had older whisky in them due to changing over the distillery and needing to use older whisky, which eventually evened out and the age stated releases weren’t as good as before
- The distillery tour was downgraded (based on stories of pre and post purchase from whisky fans) and less whisky was handed out on tour (this is the lesser of all the points, but shows a general trend that happens when companies take on large amounts of debt to obtain other companies, therefore saddling the new acquisition with debt and lowering the points that made it good in the first place).
Ahem… let’s move on, Comrade.
So on the one hand, I’m disappointed and kinda over GlenDronach. I liked them, they stopped tasting as good, there’s very good reasons for all of that (I personally wonder if they released all the honey barrels at cheap prices to entice Brown Foreman to buy them at a higher price, but I have no proof of that, so it could be aliens for all I know), and I moved on. I don’t spend days debating if it’s good or not now. But when I review a new one, I should at least put my thoughts down to explain why my review may differ from yours.
On the other hand, every tasting we used to have years ago used to have at least one GlenDronach at it. At minimum. Varying age statements, much beloved, everyone trying to have more reviews than the last, each of us debating what we’re going to buy so we could have them all, and much fun. It was an enchanted life.
So another GlenDronach from that period where I can be nostalgic even though I hate nostalgia as a human emotion… Was I swayed? Let’s see, shall we?
Vintage: June 2, 1995
Bottled: August 2015
Cask type: Pedro Ximénez Sherry Puncheon
Cask Number 444
Number of bottles 691
Colour: 5YR 6/8
Nose: Raisin, sulphur, cherry, smoke
Yeah, that’s a very sherried, very PX influenced whisky. Rich, slightly floral, and some sulphur from the cask.
Do I get flavours beyond the sherry? No. Is it a good sherry flavour and not the cheap, unrich flavour that you can get from some sherry casks? Also no. Am I generally a negative person? Trick question, no. I’ve seen more complex GlenDronach releases from the period for the nose, but I’m also nostalgia high and enjoying a good sherry cask nose, so I’m happy.
Taste: Cherry, cloves, currant, brown sugar, grassy There, more whisky flavour in the taste versus the strong sherry dominant flavour. Big rich flavours, lots of fruit, spice, and some grassiness on the back end.
This used to be the norm for tastings, by the way: When something was sherry dominant, we called it a sherry bomb, because the current culture needs to add in violence and war to all manners of speaking otherwise we can’t relate.
Anyway it gains more complexity and less of what I used to call “overproofed sherry”, where the sherry notes were erasing elements of the whisky completely.
Finish: Raisin, coal ash, algae, mango, Xmas spices
Earthy, still rich, lovely tropical notes pop up, and those Xmas spices I”m addicted to. There’s oatmeal cooking in my house right now and it’s all I can do to not make them all and eat them. I love Xmas spices.
Conclusion: An old school Sherry bomb that doesn’t exist anymore. Or if they do, you pay a mint for them or I don’t run into them in my price bracket anymore. So how much of this is nostalgia and how much is this being a good dram?
Let’s be honest: It’s heavily sherried. There’s only wisps of GlenDronach left. Not so much that it’s annoying, but enough that I’d have to think about buying it over some other GlenDronach single casks I’ve had.
That said, if this was the standard versus what cask strengths sherried whiskies I’ve had since, then I’d be super happy. If I bought this today and drank it, I’d be happy. If I had to pay the super price that’s required, it becomes like Van Winkle 12 or Weller and good, but not worth that price.
So try one of these if you get the chance, continue enjoying GlenDronach if you do, and have a good one. Or don’t, I don’t know you.
Scotch review #1618, Highland review #272, Whisky Network review #2346