This GlenDronach Tawny Port Finish is not so much a good whisky as it is an interesting one.
GlenDronach is a Speyside distillery known and revered for the stunning depths of its sherried malts. Its accolades are many and well-earned, and its trajectory is only on the upswing since the owners (BenRiach) began investing plenty of time, attention and money to bring the distillery back from a five year silence in the late ’90s and early ’00s. For that, of course, we’re eternally grateful.
Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of this distillery. It’s a profile perfectly suited to my proclivity for bold flavours and flawless use of sherry maturation. Of course there is the occasional dud of a cask with hints of sulphur, but for a distillery so heavily reliant on these barrels, they are surprisingly few and far between. Marry that standard of excellence with a spate of beautiful older single cask releases in recent years and I find myself in sherry heaven.
So…having said all of that…to see a GlenDronach release floundering under the weight of this experimental ‘finish’ is somewhat disappointing. At the risk of offending the purists, at the heart of the matter sherry and port are not dissimilar. They are both brandy-fortified wines. The actual ins and outs of regional regulation requirements, maturation processes, fermentation, etc absolutely make these two beverages unique, however I’d be hard-pressed to always be able to identify a port-finished whisky vs a sherry-finished whisky.
I suppose what I’m driving at is simply an articulate way to voice the following question: is this whisky’s profile defined primarily by the 15 year old malt itself, or by the finishing period in port pipes? I ask this in light of one particular fact: that port should be sweeter than sherry, by nature, and this whisky is not nearly as sweet as I’d expect in even the most basic of unfinished GlenDronach releases.
Just my two cents, folks (and not even worth that). Either way…not a bad dram, just missing the soaring highs I’ve come to expect from one of the most exciting distilleries out there.
Nose: Maltier than I’d expect in a 15 year old GlenDronach. Where are the big fruits? Some dark breads here and maybe a touch yeasty. Whole unground nutmeg seeds (milder than the pungent ground spice). Raisin and caramel. Fine dark chocolate. There’s simply not enough going on here. Kinda disappointing, really. Expected a lot more fruit.
Palate: Malty bread notes. Currants. Lots of spice. Maybe some bitter grapefruit. Citrus pith…with none of the sweet accompaniments. Some woods and bold red wine notes at the back. Behind the coffee aroma, that is.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt