Heeland, hilan, heelon

Posted 31 July 2018 by Matt / In Glendronach
The Dramble reviews Glendronach 8 year old The Hielan

Bottle Name: Glendronach 8 year old The Hielan

ABV: 46%
Distillery: Glendronach
Region: Highlands Age: 8

I’ll admit it – I had to look ‘Hielan’ up. And then I felt a little bit stupid. ‘High or elevated land, applied in Scot., specif. in pl. with the, to the mountainous district of Scotland lying north and west of a line drawn approximately from Dumbarton to Ballater and thence to Nairn’. It seems fairly obvious in hindsight, that of course this is simply a descriptive historical word for a particular part of the Highlands – but then again, in my travels I also found: heeland, hilan, heelon, hielin and highlan. The etymology of language is rarely straight-forward. 

The Glendronach The Hielan’ was launched in 2015 replacing the 8 year old Octarine – which, I guess wasn’t quite the colour of magic. Similarly to its predecessor, The Hielan is composed of both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask whiskies and is bottled at 46% ABV. Whilst both have been entry point bottlings to the wider Glendronach range, perhaps the comparisons should stop there – whereas Octarine favoured the sherry-forward character commonly associated with the Glendronach range, The Hielan takes us on a rather different journey.

Nose: Pronounced and exceedingly malty. The malts almost feel like two styles - part savoury with buttered toast and yeast extract, and part sweetened with aromas of toffee and butterscotch. Macerated orange segments appear after a short period of resting and are joined by citrus peels. Running throughout is cask influence – but much more from the ex-bourbon side of things – with a sense of creaminess and fairly defined vanilla. The addition of water tones down the malt onslaught to focus on sweeter flavours – golden syrup and bananas sprinkled in brown sugar.

Taste: A robust and initially sweet arrival that is surprisingly punchy. Malt loaf, porridge and barley syrup alongside toffee and caramel apple sweetness. In the mid-palate, both types of cask exert themselves - vanilla from the ex-bourbon, and ginger, soft sugary biscuits and almonds from the ex-sherry. Whilst developing sweetly, these all progress into a back palate that is very nutty, but at the same time slightly bitter. Reduced, there’s much malted milk, vanilla pod and some perceivable oakiness – the only real hints of youth that this whisky will provide.

Finish: Medium, still malty, but with both grassy and floral aspects (cut reeds and daffodils) that become more peppery and nutty as the whisky fades.

Glendronach 8 year old Hielan is bold and packed full of flavour and character. It’s also quite different to the rest of the distillery’s core range. Whereas everything 12 year old and upwards starts to focus increasingly on the sweet, rich and sherried side of things, The Hielan is a whisky for those of you who like your malts malty. 

Score: 84/100

Master of Malt
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