After a long hiatus here (except for the Feis ile 2023 bottles annual post) and finally settling down in a new and exciting job, it’s time to resume activity here, albeit I cannot promise it will be too ordered or frequent.
In the coming months, I’ll post some tasting notes as usual but I will also write posts about a long, fantastic and magnificent pilgrimage trip to Scotland I took last October with my good friend Michael (of Malt And Oak Blog), starting with this post.
And what a trip it was… It probably felt even better going on this grand our, after all the delays COVID-19 caused us. The trip was originally planned for April 2020 and was commenced last October, 2.5 years later. We had everything planned perfectly, with flights and accommodations booked and then a world crisis hit us. We slightly revised the plans but basically we followed the original plans: 2 weeks and a lot of distilleries.
We were asked: why do you need to visit so many distilleries? Isn’t it boring to hear (and see) over again and again how whisky is created? The tools and ingredients are the same after all!
My answer: once you’re a serious whisky geek, the slight differences in the whisky creating process and tools do matter as you pursue deeper understanding of this ‘magic’. Also, the visiting experiences are different from one distillery to the other and we were curious to see how whisky tourism progressed and recovered in the last few years.
So we started the trip with a quick stop at Glen Garioch but it wasn’t a full pledged visit – just a quick stop to say hi and the real first visit of the trip was at Glendronach distillery.
I was very excited to visit the distillery as I couldn’t fit a visit there in my previous trip to this area few years ago. the surrounding of the distillery are lovely and peaceful, the distillery is nestled and hidden from the main road and is quite beautiful (perhaps except for the modern look of the still house)
Going inside to the small yet homey refurbished visitors center, you will see the Bottle your own station and the lovely bar where you can buy and drink drams from long gone bottles (or current range):
We went for the basic tour, which was… basic. not much fun fair, just a standard solid tour around, going through all the steps of whisky making process. But there was one thing that put a serious damper on the visit: strict and full ban on taking pictures inside the production area.
This ban on taking pictures is something that I cannot understand and I have to admit it really pissed me off – I have (and many other tourists) finally returned to Scotland after flying thousands of KM (or Miles, it doesn’t matter as it still was a 4 digits distance) and then immediately a tour with restrictions.
On the trip we encountered other distilleries with pictures snapping restrictions, but none went this far with a full ban. In some distilleries we got explanations (or excuses) for this ban and frankly, my eyeballs rolled 360 degrees in their sockets and fumes came out from hearing those lame and funny excuses. Yes, they were lame, 100% so and the reasons are carried over from ages with chemical flashes and open-fired stills. In the age where everyone carries a phone with led flashes (if used at all), whisky tourism is important, even very important. It serves as a critical tool to distilleries to make their visitors emotionally connect. Prohibiting selfies and taking pictures inside the distillery, like how whisky is produced is a trade secret, really ruins this part and will prevent the visitors from being volunteering ambassadors of the distilleries.
Anyway, after the tour we went back to the visitors center and went into the new tasting room where we had a tasting of the 12yo, 15yo and the port wood expressions. All were good and it’s only a proof that whiskies being tasted in the distillery are far more tasty than tasting them elsewhere 😉
I checked my notes and seems like I reviewed Glendronach 15 Year Old about 8 years ago. A lot has changed since those days. Back then Glendronach were owned by Billy Walker and now it’s produced under the sure hands of Rachel Barrie. Here are my quick tasting notes:
Glendronach 15 Year Old (46%)
Nose: Sweet with dates and raisins, dried berries and milk chocolate. After a while there are plums, dark chocolate and dried roses petals for added floral touch.
Palate: Dried sour sweet red berries, oak spice and cinnamon, milk chocolate, pepper and ending with slightly spice bitterness
Finish: Short medium length, lingering berries, sour sweet berries (mainly strawberries and raspberries), oak spice, pepper and chocolate.
Thoughts: It’s a really nice and tasty dram. The standard 12 Year old was also solid and the Port Wood also improved since the initial batches.
After the tour and the tasting, we went back to the main area of the visitors center and there we encountered another discordance. We were booked for the 15:30 and we were told that we can enjoy the bar until the distillery visitors center closes at 17:00 but in fact it was closing for business when we finished the tour at 16:30 so no special drams at the bar for us. So if you want to taste whiskies from the bar, drink them before the last tour!
Anyway, we didn’t let it ruin the visit and we got a wee taste of a dram (Glendronach 19 Year Old in Madeira) from the bar as a compensation for the miscommunication. Then, as planned, we went for the BYO station where I bottled myself the first distillery exclusive bottle of the trip.
Glendronach BYO 2012 10 Year Old (61%, Cask 914, Distilled 5.6.12)
Nose: Alcohol punch at first sniff, after minute rest there are vanilla, fresh sour sweet berries, chocolate, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg. The berries are led by raspberries and cranberries. With a few drops of water there’s more spice and pepper and also more sour sweet cranberries.
Palate: Very nutty, lots of cinnamon and nutmeg. White pepper, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and espresso, red fruits peels and sour sweet cranberries. With water: getting more spicy and with added oak bitterness.
Finish: Medium length, very nutty, mix of chocolate and mocha and fruits redness.
Thoughts: I had better single casks from Glendronach in the past but it’s a solid dram. The 1993 vintage BYO was also very good but the price prevented me from bottling myself a bottle…
Bottom line: It was a solid tour to start the trip, although it paled in comparison to the rest of the trip (barring one exception) but nevertheless, it was still a good warmup, I crossed Glendronach off my distilleries to visit list and I did get a BYO as a “souvenir”.
Name: Glendronach Distillery
Location: Forgue, Aberdeenshire
Water source: Dronac Burn
Stills: 2 Wash still, 2 Spirit still
Capacity (yearly): 2,000,000 litres
Tour in a nutshell
Tours availability: See on their site
Cost of tour: £20-£50
Length of tour: 1 hour – 2 hours
Distillery Exclusive bottles: two (one premium and one more accessible)