One of the older siblings in the GlenDronach standard range. Named, apparently, for a parliament of rooks (read flock of birds) that nests in the trees near the distillery.
Label says Oloroso and PX maturation, but I’d peg this more as 80% Manzanilla/20% Oloroso. Well…maybe not quite, but it certainly isn’t even close to as sweet and rich and vibrant as the Oloroso/PX mix would lead me to believe. Perhaps it’s simply the saltier nature of a quirky meaty note in here that makes me think Manzanilla.
Sadly, though not necessarily a spoiling factor, there is sulphur all over this one. Not a heavy sulphur, but a broad swath of it across all facets nevertheless. Even so…I still don’t mind sipping at this one.
Nose: Needs a little time in the glass before shaking hands with this one. Surprisingly beefy for a ‘Dronach. I don’t mean that in terms of strength, but a true meat note in there. Some sweeter sherry notes coming through too (orange, black cherry, raisin,). Clove. Malt heavy. Over-toasted cask notes. Finally…as mentioned…a healthy hit of sulphur.
Palate: Like a diluted a’bunadh with a heavier malt/meat component. Strong high content dark chocolate. Bitter greens meet bittersweet juicy grape. Tart fruit and wine. There’s a match-like ashy note here too. Quite drying.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
Is it primarily sulphur that holds this back? I’d also appreciate your views on the “prime time”, in terms of age, for GlenDronach. I’d previously given the 12 what I now view as short shrift but, pound for pound, now look at it as being as good as Macallan 12 – at least as a sherry finished whisky. My buddy, the Scotch Guru, also made an interesting point to me the other day – given the general mildness of Speysides and the depth of finishes, how important IS the quality of malt in Aberlour, GlenDronach, Macallan or Glenfarclas? I do not mean this as an argument for paying higher prices for younger whisky (far from it), but I would appreciate views as to whether these whiskies are primarily about the finish. Would anyone be interested in an unfinished version of one of the four I’ve mentioned and what are opinions as to how they would stack up against Glenlivet and Glenfiddich?
Yeah. The sulphur is the handicap for me, but there’s that odd beefy bit…almost like a few drops of Mortlach made their way in somehow. Don’t be put off though. This is NOT a bad whisky. Quite the contrary.
I’m a huge fan of the 15 year old, when it comes to the standard range, but going into the ‘brown tubes’ of the single cask range is where this distillery really shines for me. Perfection though? GlenDronach releases from the early to mid seventies. Holy hell.
To your next question…be careful not to confuse ‘finishing’ with ‘maturing’. I believe most of the whiskies from the distilleries you mention are matured for their entire life in sherry, as opposed to just a ‘finish’ at the end. Either way…I assume you’re looking for thoughts on what these malts would be like if strictly bourbon cask matured. I have the GlenDronach 14 Virgin Oak (review in coming days), and I know someone who has a bourbon matured Glenfarclas SMWS release (which I am crossing my fingers I get to try). The Macallan Fine Oak range may sate some of your curiousity too. I published Part one of a Macallan piece a couple weeks back. Part two (ALL Fine Oak range) is coming soon.
Ultimately though…I think it’s sort of a case of ‘if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it’. These whiskies are high quality malts that succeed in sherry. Let’s just enjoy ’em as they are. 😉
Your point on the difference between finishes and full sherry maturation is well made and well taken, but the ideas of “if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it” and “let’s just enjoy ‘em as they are” kind of short circuits the question as to what degree the success of these whiskies can be attributed to the quality of malt vs. the quality of sherry casks used. And it is a question on which I would suggest the jury may still be out – and on which I’d like to gather opinion. Some of your comments on Macallan’s 10 Fine Oak (80/100), for example, which, by reputation, should have as good a claim to high quality malt as any, do nothing but encourage this:
“This is not a bad whisky by any stretch of the imagination. It is simply nothing special, and absolutely does not stand up to the Macallan name. There is a vaccuum of character. Nothing really ‘off’ here…just don’t expect to be ‘wowed’.
Very Speyside in character (excepting the lack of a nice deep rich sherry wood which may have ratcheted this up a notch or two)…”
Indeed, the difference between 10 Fine Oak and the 12 Sherry Oak (only two more years but full sherry maturation) is significant: 80 vs. 86.5. So again, if it’s possible that they have difficulty standing without the benefit of significant sherry influence, to what degree are these indeed “high quality malts”? Is the height from which Macallan and others look down upon Glenlivet and Glenfiddich built of sherry casks alone? I look forward to future reviews that touch on this issue.