The Glendronach visitor experience is rather the strange one – on the one hand the centre has a welcoming feel of modernity meeting tradition, on the other, it seems trapped by its own popularity and the legacy of Billy Walker and the Benriach Distillery Company. Tours commence with the obligatory introductory video – I don’t mind these nearly as much as some people – they set the scene, they set the mood – and many visitors won’t have the basic fundamental knowledge that these videos quickly and succinctly provide. Glendronach’s video however is desperately in need of an update – as well as providing information now several years out of date, it also contains a 2 minute section presenting viewers with the official tasting notes for all of its core expressions – one after the other. Sleep never felt closer.
Those of you clued up on all things Glendronach (especially members of the Glendronach Appreciation Society) will probably be aware of some of the changes being implemented by new owners Brown-Forman. The good news – 15 year old Revival will be revived once again in a few months time, so get your wallets ready – though whether it’ll be returning at the very reasonable price of the previous revived Revival remains to be seen – I’m going to guess not. The bad news – no more peating is taking place at Glendronach – none, nadda, zip. Brown-Forman have taken the decision that smoky Glendronach is not where they see the brand in the future, so whilst there’s still peated stocks in the warehouses for future releases, in time, these are going to be consigned to the history books.
Glendronach 18 year old Allardice, named after founder of the distillery was released in 2009 a year after the purchase of the site by the Benriach Distilling Company. It is matured exclusively in ex-oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 46% ABV. Well regarded by sherried whisky aficionados, the bottling is widely available and costs roughly £80 here in the UK.
Nose: No doubts about the oloroso influence here – immediate raisins, dates and caramelised figs. These are supported by chocolate, sponge cake and some heady tobacco leaf notes – fresh and golden, but still slightly oily and sticky. In the background, stewed stone fruits – lurking – hidden behind a wall of dried berries. There’s a touch of malt here, and likewise hazel nuttiness and gentle spicing – white pepper. The addition of water heightens the tobacco aroma further and adds some ground coffee beans.
Taste: A rich and syrupy arrival packed full of reduced berry fruits, chocolate, coffee grounds. Then, quite a perceptible minerality comes to the fore – wet granite, slate, flint. It provides some sharpness and juxtapositions nicely against the intense sweetness of the sherry. Mid to back palate, slightly more tropical fruits – foam bananas and mangos, but still well within the grip of Mr Oloroso. Pepperiness again, slightly intense, prickly and certainly more pronounced than on the nose – as well as spicingness, this adds quite a lot of dryness. A few drops of water adds some orange peels as well as bringing out the underlying cask influence with some bitterness.
Finish: Long, quite peppery and very drying.
Glendronach 18 year old Alladice is rather the game of two halves – starting sweet, rich and deeply sherried on the nose and front palate, it rapidly becomes peppery and dry on the back palate and particularly in the finish. There’s not a huge amount of complexity here, but all the contrasting elements come together nicely to form a tasty, well-made sherried-forward expression.