Category Archives: GlenDronach

GlenDronach 12 y.o. Review

GlenDronach 12 y.o.

43% abv

Score:  84/100


Re-tasted and Re-evaluated.

Try as I might, I can not love this whisky.  I first reviewed it a couple of years back, and after having dipped my beak into the fantastic 15 year and other older variants, I began to second guess my earlier appraisal of this 12 year old.  I went at it completely independently of my previous marks and scores.  Interestingly enough, with absolutely no idea as to how I had initially broken down my scoring, I differentiated in only one place (the nose), and by a mere half point.

In an attempt to allow this bad boy to sparkle a bit, I threw together a bit of an informal horizontal tasting.  Four 12 year old sherried malts from the Highlands/Speyside regions went head to head.  The results were…unspectacular.  All good.  None exceptional.  Though I figured this may come out on top…it actually ranked in the bottom.  Sorry…ain’t gonna tell what the others were.

GlenDronach is a Highland Distillery of some esteem, and rightfully so.  Founded in 1826, they have been producing fine whisky for just shy of 200 years.  In recent times (2008) GlenDronach has been taken over by BenRiach.  The tradition of crafting bold sherried scotch whisky has not flagged in the least.

And while this is bold, it’s by no means beastly. 

Nose:  There seems to be a slight imbalance here, in that the barley is still singing over all else.  I would hope for a little more restraint on those cereal notes by 12 years.  It’s not unpleasant, just…not quite there yet.  Rum-soaked fruitcake notes (the usual spiel with sherries malts…figs and raisin, etc), some orange, chocolate dustings and pencil shavings.  Some toasted marshmallow creaminess too.  Though not bad, it sounds more pleasant than it is, if I’m to be honest.

Palate:  Barley, sherry (grape/wine) and sweet citrus are primary flavours on the palate as well, dipping and dodging the oak notes.  The arrival is firm, if unexceptional, before it moves on into drier fruits and a lingering oak whimper at the end.

If not for a bit too much cereal roughness (which is long ironed out by the 15 year expression) this would score higher.

Enjoyable, but a little disappointing.

Now…let’s go back to the beginning, in referencing the 15 (and other releases as well).  Though I can’t say the 12 y.o. does much for me, everything from the 15 year mark and on is really, really worthwhile.  GlenDronach, along with sister distillery Benriach, has some of the greatest old stores around.  Hit up some of those exceptional single casks if you can.  Those from the ’70s, in particular.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Would You Rather Spend The Night With A Bunch Of 18 Year Olds Or One 32 Year old?

Awkward is having your wife catch you with a sassy 18 year old.  Domestic nuclear winter is having her come home and find you messing around with nine 18 year olds at the same time.  Not that anyone would want to be in that situation.  Errr…ummm…

Ok, ok…listen up, boys.  They may be pretty…they may smell good…they may taste good…and they may not even be ‘out of your league’…but no 18 year old will ever give you what a stunning 32 year old can.  I promise.

Though usually I’d give you a few paragraphs of preamble before jumping in to the nitty gritty, this time let’s leave it up to the imagination…

Let me tell you a little about how this one goes.  First there was a fair-haired lass from Speyside…


Glenfiddich 18

43% abv

Nose:  Heather and gooey honey.  Big ol’ baskets of fruit and armfuls of flowers.  Creamy vanilla ice cream, drizzled in creme caramel.  Red apple.  Berries in cream.  Pancakes and syrup.  Oaky, but young and vibrant for 18 years.

Palate:  Smooth and unchallengingly sweet.  Creamy vanillins dance with dried fruit and crunchy apple.  Lovely really.  Almost refreshing.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s familiar and you can’t help but sneak a second peek.  Cute and red-apple-rosy-cheeked.  Probably dated the quarterback.  Do you have a chance?  Maybe.  Is she worth it?  Hmmmm…time will tell.


GlenDronach 18

46% abv 

Nose:  Heavy sherry, rich and sweet…could only be Oloroso.  Cherry and cocoa.  Cinnamon and gingerbread.  Vanilla.  Slight yeastiness.  Fruitcake, mild cigar leaf and deep plumminess.

Palate:  Slight bitterness, almost tannic.  Heavy raisin bread and rummy fruitcake.  Drying.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Bubbly and fresh, but…there’s a little more of a dark side here.  This is not vanilla sex.  This is jeans and cardigans by day…handcuffs by night.  There’s a sensibility and maturity here that tells you no one will ever know about this dark side but you.



Macallan 18

43% abv

Nose:  Rich and chewy sherry…but very soft.  Nutmeg and cream.  Muted cherry.  Toffee.  Heather.  Nearly faultless nose.

Palate:  Mildest of dried fruit.  Caramel.  Warm melted chocolate.  Oak.  Lasts none too long, but a beautiful top note and denouement.  Man…what exceptional balance.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This one is a princess.  She’s not in your bed ‘cause she wants to be.  She’s there ‘cause she’s slumming and looking for an experience.  Don’t get too settled…don’t fall in love.  You can’t afford the upkeep on this one.


Highland Park 18

43% abv

Nose:  Creamy honey and rich peat smoke.  Dusty, spicy vanilla.  Mild cigar.  Rich sweet butter.  A bouquet of soft fruit and barely seen floral notes.  Hint of dill.

Palate:  The delivery is unbelievably smooth and calculated. Rich wood smoke teases, then mellows out with sweet caramel notes

Thoughts & Impressions:  Messy-haired and ready for a pillow fight.  She’s not leaving till sun-up.  And that’s not ‘cause she wants to sleep.



Bunnahabhain 18

46.3% abv 

Nose:  Smoke and sherry.  Ashy peat.  Pear and sweet banana cream.  Some sort of orchard fruit.  Honey and vanilla.  Stunning interplay at work here.

Palate:  Gooey, chewy malt full of smoke.  Sherried honey oak and a complex tapestry of spritely fruits.   This is maturity and youthful zest in perfect harmony.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Just a down-home small town girl that everyone underestimates.  The thing is…she’s bloody brilliant at everything she does and no one who meets her can resist her.  This is a keeper, if only you were looking to settle down.


Talisker 18

45.8% abv 

Nose:  Yeah, baby…there’s the Talisker pepper!  Salt.  A peaty backbone.  Cinnamon and ginger.  Some kinda soft orange fruit.  Toblerone.  Warm leather.  An absolute classic on the nose alone.

Palate:  Pepper.  Surprisingly sweet and fruity.  Swirling ribbons of smoke.  Peat.  Faint notes of old sherry.  Such a phenomenal linger smoked green apple.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Yow!  She’s a spicy one.  Blonde and bold.  Fiery-tempered.  Full of personality.  Highly possible she’s also the love of your life.



Longrow 18

46% abv

Nose:  Prickly and peppery.  Hint o’ mint maybe.  Smoke and caramel.  Licorice.  Some salt and thick cream over blueberries.  Wee bit o’ peat, but not near what I’d generally expect from a Longrow.

Palate:  There’s the peat I expected on the nose.  Comes through with some spiced apples and smoke.  Lindt chocolate with chili.  Long, long finish.

Thoughts & Impressions:  The dark-haired younger sister of your girlfriend.  Sassier and miles more charming.  No, you’re not wrong…she is trying to seduce you.


Caol Ila 18

43% abv 

Nose:  Slightly ‘green’.  Honeydew melon.  Aloe.  Mild citrus.  Fruits are starting to come forward.  Salt.  Very light smoke.

Palate:  A little more smoke than on the nose.  Great green fruit delivery.  Lovely and uplifting.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She comes from the biggest house on the street.  Her parents have lots of money and drive brilliant cars. She’s the one everyone wants but are afraid to approach.  Shame, really.  She’s also a sweetheart, and easy to love.



Laphroaig 18

48% abv 

Nose:  Orange and chocolate.  Cedar.  Fruity.  Heavy vanilla and black licorice flavored jujubes.  Pear drops.  Sambuca and fruit bowl with dominant bananas.

Palate:  Poached and caramelized white fruits.  Floral smoke.  Some dark chocolate and Werther’s Originals.  Drying with tobacco and clean smoke.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This is a mysterious one.  Redolent of exotic and foreign perfumes.  Dark and alluring.  This is the Dashiel Hammett heroine seen through a haze in a dark and smoky bar.  You love her.  But can you handle her?




After a romp like that I promise you you’ll still be left wondering ‘what if?’  And further, that empty feeling won’t be sated until you finally spend a little time with the one that should have had your attention all along…


Springbank 32

46% abv

Nose:  Smoke and wax.  Coconut milk and soft pineapple juice.  Marmalade.  Vanilla and oak.  Some tame spices.  Becomes fruitier and fruitier over time.

Palate:  There’s the maturity.  Waxy…smoky and oaky.  Dried fruit…apricot maybe.  Creosote.  Gorgeous, gorgeous oak.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s what you’ve waited for.  Vibrant and sweet.  The older she gets, the more you love her.  Age has taken all of her best and given it just a little more brilliance by imparting a mature knowing.


barry's place pics 014

How can you possibly top her?  Simple…you can’t.  I’ll take my beautiful 32 year old over any 18 year old…any day.

Happy birthday, babe.  Love you.  Always have.


– Tasting notes and write-up:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt (except Caol Ila, courtesy of Pat)

GlenDronach 1972 (KWM Exclusive) Review

GlenDronach 1972 (KWM Exclusive)

Cask 711  Kensington Wine Market Exclusive

Oloroso Sherry Butt

49.8% abv

 Score:  94/100


In 1972 Canada was fighting for their lives against the Russians…in hockey.  Scotland was…well…not kicking at each other in skates, but busily producing some of the finest spirit the world has ever seen.  As a Canadian AND a Scotch lover I’m not sure who comes out ahead here.  Let’s call it a draw.

Many moons and thirty-nine years after the ’72 Summit Series (and the filling of a certain cask at the GlenDronach distillery in Speyside) a ragged crew of Canadians hopped the pond for Scotchland, touring distilleries and swilling spirit.  In their wake they left nothing but stumbling footprints, empty bottles and a bunch of poor shell-shocked Scots shaking their heads and sweeping up the mess.

Though the leader of this motley collection, Andrew Ferguson, was a relatively fine upstanding young man, there was also a devil in their midst.  It should come as no surprise that the devil would have an agenda, and let’s face it…against the devil, only the purest stand a chance.  Having tipped more than one glass with Mr. Ferguson, I can attest to him being upstanding, but let me also add…I think his halo may be a little tarnished.  Against this monster…he hadn’t a hope in hell.

This devil has been known by many names.  Here on ATW he is called Maltmonster.

Fortunately for us, while the Maltmonster is a master of subtlety when it comes to writing and sarcasm (indeed his pieces for ATW are so woven through with hidden references and no-name name-dropping that a lifetime of lifetimes couldn’t untangle ‘em all), his subtle touch goes by the wayside when he finds a whisky worth seeing the light of day.  This leads us back to the tale at hand…

Upon first tasting cask 711 in the warehouses at GlenDronach, the Monster realized that his heart would now forevermore be divided.  His dear, sweet wife holding one half…and a stunning 39 year old with a full body and great strength of character with the other.  In order to have both of his true loves, he began to work his dark magic on Mr. Ferguson.

Fear not.  This tale has a happy ending.

Much to the benefit of whisky lovers all over the Canadian West coast, the Maltmonster and his cohorts managed to convince Andrew (or maybe Andrew convinced himself?) that a cask of 39 year old single malt could be a viable financial investment for the Kensington Wine Market.  Hence…KWM’s latest single cask exclusive bottling.

Though I don’t adore this one with the fierce dedication that MM and AF do, I admit that I do love it.  It was mentioned that perhaps it was a little long in the tooth (my words, not theirs) and I tend to agree, but it is by no means too far over.  A few years younger would have allowed the fruits to shine a little more brightly still.

The change from first pour to first sip is incredible.  Allow it plenty of time to open and unfold.  It really is quite brilliant.  The nose is rich in spice and exotic fruit.  Orange and purple grape.  Chocolate and dark roast coffee beans.  There is a mature oaky note that carries a whiff of latex paint (not unpleasant).  Over all of it there is a lingering scent of freshly baked cinnamon twists.

Huge tropical fruit delivery on first sips.  Big, bold and mouthcoating.  Chocolate, candlewax and oak all over this one.  Big oak.

Great cask selection, guys.  I must get my own bottle before this disappears.  A deal with the devil perhaps?


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Pat

GlenDronach 1995 (PX Sherry Puncheon) KWM Exclusive Review

GlenDronach 1995 (PX Sherry Puncheon) KWM Exclusive

52.2% abv

Score:  88/100


Sexy…very sexy.

The ‘KWM’ in the title refers to the Kensington Wine Market, a local specialist retailer here in Calgary with a fine boutique selection of malts which often fall outside the mainstream.  For obvious reasons, we like this.  For those ATW readers and adherents outside of my locale (and there are starting to be quite a few.  Cheers!) you may have a little more difficulty procuring a bottle of this, but do make the effort.  I don’t imagine you’ll be disappointed.

This particular ’95 GlenDronach cask (682 bottles) was recently purchased and bottled exclusively by KWM.  Years spent in ex-Pedro Ximenez wood have imparted such strength of character that it is easy to see why the team at KWM opted for this cask.  Dark and rich, enchanting and enticing.  The enormity of 52.2% abv is the perfect vehicle to carry the intensity of these bold flavors.  I’ll concede I am a sucker for a rich sweet cask strength sherry…especially when it has a few years behind it.  Even moreso as the temperatures drop in the cold winter months.  Having said all of that, this one still kinda knocked my socks off.  In an odd sort of paradox this whisky is old beyond its years, but still young and spirited.

GlenDronach (anything beyond the 12 year mark) is starting to be one of my favorite sherried malts.  The revamped lineup more than holds its own against its contemporaries, and to be completely honest…its only real competition from the sherried Speys is Glenfarclas, in my opinion.

So what have we here?

Nose:  gorgeous cask influence (sherry and fresh oak); zesty fruit and pinches of spice; a mild maltiness and slightly meaty character; eclair and a touch of charred wood smoke.  Stunning nose.

Palate:  chocolate and sherry arrive holding hands; waves of spices and bitter apricot; oak and malt; explosive delivery and a wicked fade that reverberates in waves.

I can’t even imagine how phenomenal this would have been at 17 or 18, but even at 15…right up there.

A note of kudos to any involved in cask selection…well done.

Right now I only have the sample.  I WILL be buying this.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

GlenDronach 15 y.o. Revival Review

GlenDronach 15 y.o. Revival

46% abv

Score:  92/100

After having recently had my socks knocked off by a couple of exclusive bottlings of GlenDronach I decided to revisit the core range. Glad for it too. “Revival”, GlenDronach’s new 15 year expression, is exactly what I’ve been looking for. A mid-price sherried malt that sparkles without the benefit of excessive aging (and the price that comes with it) or cask strength might (contrary to popular belief, I don’t always want that massive delivery).

To its credit this malt is still bottled at a respectable 46% abv. As I’ve been attempting to drill this home for some time now, I’d like to clarify a little here. Higher bottling strength (alcohol by volume, or ‘abv’) equals a deeper intensity of flavor. We’re not out to get soused here, folks…we’re looking for the proper form of delivery for so romantic a drink. Why dilute the magic?

At 15 years the malty cereal notes so prevalent in the 12 year old expression have all but disappeared.  Instead we’re left with sweet Oloroso sherry and chewy toffee.  Rich and creamy melted chocolate, lightly spiced orange, and fine threads of vanilla and oak are rounded out by a touch of dried cherry and tart plum. Delightful.

Though wickedly tasty in its own right, the nose is so much bigger than what you get on the tongue. How could it not be? By no means is this a disappointment…simply an observation.

It all ends on a high note, as the finish is unique and defining.  The mildly peppered blackberry notes that linger are something that will keep me coming back to this one time and again.  Doubtless, the best expression in the current range.

Shimmeringly beautiful. This one had me at ‘hello’.

Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

1972 Glendronach



In order to try a repair the rift that exists between Canada and Sweden over the 1994 Olympic games, after  Sweden took the gold medal in hockey from us in an overtime shootout and then went on to make a postage stamp with the winning goal on it, I thought it would be appropriate, as sign of good faith, to do tasting notes in both official languages.  Please excuse my heartfelt
attempt to translate these notes properly, as some of the meaning might be lost in the translation.



1972 CASK # 718   38 YEAR OLD 51.5% ABV  BOTTLE # 313 OF 396

NOSE: Oranges.  Varnish.  Coffee bean and lavender.  Raspberry.  Burnt butter.

“Potatis, köttbullar, sill.”

TASTE: Dark chocolate.  Bitter tannins.  Black pepper and mint.

“Färgade smaksatt vodka.”

FINISH: Long and warming

“Längre än Tiger Woods marrigae löfte.”

ASSESSMENT: Good expression of Glendronach, but it’s hard to get past that one off note of varnish on the nose.

“Detta är bättre än Dolph Lundgren är en skådespelare och mindre störande än att sätta ihop Ikea-möbler.”




NOSE: Fruit explosion.  Pineapple, bananas, mango, melons, cherries and oranges.  Cocoa and mint.

“Kål renar, inlagd sill.”

TASTE: Melons and prunes.  Tannins from the sherry.  Raisins, coffee and cinnamon.

“Färgade smaksatt vodka.”

FINISH: Long and fantastic.  Begins creamy & spicy, then warms up and fades gently.  Little briny at the back end.

“Ungefär lika länge som en Abba-musikalen.”

ASSESSMENT: Complex and balanced older sherry fruit bomb.  What a nose!  Would put this whisky right between the Black Bowmore and the Glenfarclas 40 year old.

“Detta är whisky att Sedin tvillingarna skulle ha firat med om de hade visat upp och spelade i sista matchen i Stanley Cup-finalen.”


– Sincerely, Maltmonster