Glendronach is one well loved distillery due to their heritage, sherried profile and the periodical single casks batches.
A quick history lesson: Glendronach was mothballed since 1996 till May 14th 2002 and it operated under Chivas Brothers until Billy Walker and co (AKA Benriach Distillery Company) bought it in 2008 and the core line (12, 15 & 18 yo) was successfully relaunched in 2009.
Now, If you look at that time table you can see some oddity which was a “secret” for a while (although not that well kept “secret” in the last few years) – All recent Glendronach 12 bottles that were bottled until May 14th 2014, were in fact at least 18 years old Glendronach as the available +12yo spirit was distilled before Glendronach was mothballed in 1996.
And so you got additional 6 years for free if you bought a 12yo one bottled before that cut day (and maybe even post this cut date but we cannot be sure of that), so a 18yo whisky for the price of 12yo – quite a good deal.
But it’s true for Glendronach 12yo that were bottled post 2008. As the distillery was still in production in 1996, the 12yo bottlings done by Chivas brothers in 2005 till 2008 will still be a ‘true’ 12yo (or thereabout).
The Glendronach 12yo changed when it was re-launched by Billy Walker & co. the old bottling was double matured, first round in ex-bourbon and then finished in sherry casks, or as the label said “double casks matured in sherry wood and traditional oak barrels” and was bottled in 40%.
The Billy Walker era bottlings are full sherry maturated: “matured in a combination of the finest pedro ximenez and oloroso sherry wood”, and so I was curious about comparing the bottlings both comes from that old stock (that was distilled before Glendronach was mothballed) and recently, with the help of two friends, it was finally possible to go ahead and have this kind of tasting.
So let’s go ahead and review three Glendronach 12 from that old stock, one from the old Chivas brothers regime bottled in 2007 and two from the Billy Walker era, bottled a year or so apart – let’s see how those bottlings differs one from each other.
Glendronach 12 Year Old (40%, bottled in 2007 by Chivas brothers)
Nose: Well, It definitely doesn’t smell like new bottling. There’s old sherry impact with dried fruits, raisins and layered sweetness. Very gentle with sweet pronounced vanilla, maybe even a tad too smooth (can we blame the low ABV here?)
Palate: Starts with sour berries. It’s somewhat vinegary with a dash of sweet sugar and of course sherry spices of nutmeg, cinnamon.
Finish: Medium length, gentle oak, white pepper at the back of throat.
Glendronach 12 Year Old (43%, bottled in 2013)
Nose: Feels a bit rough compared to old bottle. Even some new make spirit whiffs at first. Lots of malt, some oak and slowly slowly the sherry impact get stronger. Berries, plums, getting sweeter in your face. It’s more active & kicking than the old bottling (also thanks to higher ABV). with more time in glass it gets even more sweeter. No wonder people like it! (me included)
Palate: Dried fruits, oak, spice, sour berries, vanilla, vinegar and overall not as sweet as the nose.
Finish: Medium length. Livelier, sour berries, more sherry, dash of nutmeg.
Glendronach 12 Year Old (43%, Bottled 05/03/14)
Nose: Less rough and without the youth notes of the 2013 bottle and that’s more like it. However there’s less sherry impact and it resembles the 2007 bottling somewhat but without the old sherry sideshow. The nose is closer and has narrower band of notes but contains a bit of spices notes.
Palate: Gentle, sour berries, cooked nutmeg, cinnamon and gentle sweetness.
Finish Gentle,nutmeg and slightly sweet berries paste.
Thoughts: That was an interesting tasting. The 2007 release has a more pronounced vanilla impact from the first-round bourbon maturation. The 2013 is what Glendronach lovers like – sweet, robust, energetic and sherry-in-you-face profile, while the 2014 behaves a bit more like the 2007 than the 2013 but ended as the least favorite – maybe some less-than-perfect old casks were used here?
P.S. Glendronach 15bottled nowadays? It also have some “free” years tucked on…