The Whisky Pilgrimage…Episode 6 – Sherry Matured Selection #3 – Glendronach 15

Hi everyone,

Once again, an entire calendar month has drifted by and I’ve struggled to get this written and out the door. There were a number of circumstances that came into play – illness, computer crash, career change – and while I am a good soldier and carried on with the drams I simply did not get around to this. All is well though and I aim to get a little more snappy with the posts.
Let’s begin with Selection #3
March was the final month for sherry finished whiskies, and I wanted to build upward in age over the course of the 3 months. Keeping in mind that I have roughly $150 for 3 bottles, here’s where I was at near the end of February:
  • Aberlour 10: $33
  • Macallan 12: $55
  • Which leaves about $62 for Selection number 3
As per the last post, I decided that it would not be too much of a cheat to spend a little extra on sherry finished whisky, as I’m bound to be able to make it up down the road. Knowing this, I went out and purchased a bottle of the Glendronach 15 for $72.
Glendronach was an easy decision. I am a fan of the 12 and if I wasn’t going out of my way to try whiskies I am not as familiar with, I would have purchased it instead of the Macallan 12. I was gifted a bottle of a 24 year old single cask (Willow Park Wine & Spirits – may be long gone for all I know) and that is without doubt one of the very finest bottles to sit on my shelf. Curt has given the 15 good reviews so I thought that this would be a good fit for me given the reasonable price at age and my affinity for this distillery.
15 years, aged in Oloroso Sherry Casks, and bottled at 46%…it ticks all of the right boxes. Glendronach 15 has proven to be an excellent choice. This is a very rich, sweet, weighty dram. The nose on it is excellent. At 15 years, you start to lose some of the sharp edge that you get off of a younger nose. I suppose this is one of the benefits of maturity. The flavours are more developed than the younger whiskies, and the finish is very smooth. I’m very pleased with the purchase.
How did the sherry finished whiskies stack up against one another?
  • Aberlour 10 v. Macallan 12: throughout the past few months, I’ve done some side-by-side tastings. These two whiskies are very different from one another. Macallan has that intense purity of spirit characteristic…when stacked against something cozy like Aberlour, I don’t find that I appreciate the razor sharp definition of the Macallan. I was really surprised by this. It’s a bit of a Betty Cooper / Veronica Lodge scenario. Just like Veronica, on paper the Macallan makes a lot of sense. In practice, it is just a little too sharp on the edges for my tastes. On the other hand, the Aberlour may not be all that glamorous…but like Betty it’s got a lot of soul, and it doesn’t have any significant designs on your pocketbook.
  • Aberlour 10 v. Macallan 12 v. Glendronach 15: Having tried all three of these side by side on several occasions, hands down the Glendronach 15 is the best of the bunch. It should not come as a surprise given the additional maturation (50% longer than the Aberlour!), but what caught be by surprise most about this was just how much of a gap I put between these whiskies. The Glendronach is simply superior to the other two. The Aberlour still put in a decent enough showing, but the 3-way battle royale did nothing to help Macallan 12’s case.
  • Final conclusion: Of the three whiskies selected, the Glendronach 15 is the best and I would suggest that it’s actually a pretty decent value for the dollar. Aberlour 10 is a great bargain and I am sure that I will continue to pick it up. Macallan 12 was my least favourite, and in my opinion, it’s pretty difficult to justify the price tag on this one as compared to what you get for about $15 more for the Glendronach 15. Macallan does have its merits and is by no means bad, it’s just not to my taste. If you haven’t tried it, I would really recommend giving it a shot at a tasting or at a pub before committing to a purchase that may not be the best value for your dollar.
Overall, how is the pilgrimage working out?
  • I am learning a lot: By regularly re-visiting the same whiskies – or family of whiskies – I’ve learned quite a bit about each bottle that comes through. In the past, I’ve either blasted through the bottle before learning much or have kept a miserly clutch on a few wee drops and in doing so lose track of my opinions,  instead of just enjoying what I have and moving on. This approach forces me to try and try again, so I feel like I’m getting the very most out of what I buy
  • Comparisons Matter: When it comes down to it, if you enjoy whisky, you can enjoy just about ANY whisky. It is only when you have a couple of options you can bounce between (be it in the same sitting, or the next day, etc) that you really start to be able to pick out the unique elements of the dram that you’re drinking. It takes unique skills, experience, and focus to be able to study a whisky standalone…going forward I plan to make a point of having some variety on hand so that I can get the most out of my drams.
  • The budget is pretty reasonable: I have not been perfect in terms of measuring & a strict week-by-week schedule, yet I am in no danger of running out of whisky. From these 3 bottles I have a slight heel of Aberlour 10 remaining (which I should really just put to bed…keeping for experimentation though), about 1/4 of the Macallan 12 left, and about 1/2 of the Glendronach 15. The cupboard is starting to get a little cluttered, particularly with the addition of Speyside/Highland Selection #1 (more on this next week). I think that knowing that something new is coming each month is helping me to keep a sensible pace. I’m enjoying having a plan & sticking to it, and as I’ve hoped, putting these parameters into place has helped to appreciate what I have.
So, that is it for Sherry Finished Whisky – onward to Speyside, a whisky producing region that for whatever reason I have neglected in the past. I’ve picked up Selection #1, and look forward to sharing in the very near future (honest!)

4 thoughts on “The Whisky Pilgrimage…Episode 6 – Sherry Matured Selection #3 – Glendronach 15

  1. Jeff

    Very good comment/comparison! I found much the same over Christmas when I bought my best friend a Macallan 12 (he’s a bit of a sherry fiend). Having tried the excellent Macallan Cask Strength, a bottle truly meriting $100, I was struck by the definition, but also the miserliness, of the 40% ABV of the 12; it’s as if they’ve afraid of giving you too flavour much for your money. I find the sherry in the Aberlour not nearly as polished or controlled (a trait that the Macallan CS maintains), but it’s no skinflint as a style (in fact, the A’bunadh is like the Ghost of Christmas Present – “Come in and know me better, man – Ha Ha Ha!”) I respect the Glendronach 12, but find Glenfarclas a better compromise between the two styles (an upwardly mobile redhead?) I’d like to read your comparision of the Glendronach and Glenfarclas 15s. By the way, the new Aberlour 12 is 48% ABV, so the battle may not be over.

    Another great point you make is the value of comparison. Information only has value in context and revisits and cross-analysis is a good way of providing this. Going back to familiar expressions has taught me at least as much as exploring new ones.

    Sorry to go on so long, but keep up the really good, approachable, content.

    1. ATW Post author

      Good comments, sir.

      Seems Clint is having a blast on his little journey here. The ‘Farclas 15 was one that was shortlisted for this trial. He and I had spoken of it. As I just so happen to have a bottle open, perhaps we can drag him kicking and screaming into the spotlight again to do the tete-a-tete you’re hoping for.

    2. Clint

      Jeff, thanks for the kind words…hopefully these posts will not be so few & far between.

      Specifically on that Macallan – I like that you used the term polished. Through what I’m read is meticulous production standards (not chemical manipulation & masking techniques) they’ve produced something of very fine quality. Having said this, it’s not for everyone. The characteristics that they prize in their single malt aren’t characteristics I would choose a the price premium.

      Not sure I agree on the 40% being too small. I found it sufficient for a non CS offering (actually a bit overwhelmed by their CS) but I guess it depends upon the way it hits you. I think they get a lot of mileage out of that relatively low ABV.

      Full credit to them for an excellent product – in this case my personal tastes are no reflection of quality!

  2. Jeff

    Certainly fair comment, Clint. I did start with the CS and, maybe for that reason alone, found the 12 a little “stretched”. They do get a lot out of 40% ABV, and my buddy says that, with time and bottle space, the nose and palate have firmed up considerably. It’s just that, off the cork, I felt you got everything you paid for – but paid for everything you got – and she’s pretty pricy for a 12.

    That said, Macallan’s customized wood/sherry combos have to be some of the most meticulous in the business and, of what I’ve tried, Highland Park is their only rival for level of control and precision.

    Looking forward to the Glendronach/Glenfarclas showdown.


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