Editor’s Note: These whiskies were provided to us as review samples by The GlenDronach Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy links towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
There’s a certain magic to a great Scotch whisky. It’s invigorating, classic, woodsy, perfect to sip by a campfire under a blanket of stars. The GlenDronach Distillery is well known for its high-quality, sherry cask-centric single malts. The distillery is located near Aberdeenshire, in the Highland whisky district of Scotland. The GlenDronach was founded in 1826 by James Allardice and was one of the first licensed distilleries.
This year sees the 19th batch release from The GlenDronach Cask Bottling collection. Twelve casks were selected personally by Master Distiller Dr. Rachel Barrie bottled from Pedro Ximénez or Oloroso sherry puncheons or butts. The batches were distilled between 1990 and 1994 and offer a deep well of complex flavors, each bottle providing a distinctly unique profile that doesn’t immediately scream Scotch, but does solidify The GlenDronach as a powerhouse distiller of single malt whisky.
Barrie has said in the official press release, “The GlenDronach Cask Bottling Batch 19 offers an insight into our sherry cask maturation history and the exceptional quality of the casks we have at The GlenDronach. I have personally chosen these casks to celebrate and share the very best of the distillery’s character. Each represents the rich selection of barrels, Hogsheads, Puncheons and Butts that have been used throughout The GlenDronach’s history.”
I was able to taste the 29-year-old cask #217 (1992), the 28-year-old cask #6052 (1992), and the 27-year-old cask #5080 (1994). Each separate tasting offered something different and exciting and, as it isn’t often I get to enjoy a nicely aged Scotch, I’ve found great joy in these three offerings.
Tasting Notes: GlenDronach Cask Bottling 1992 Cask 217
Nose: Slightly sweet, but the clearest aroma is that of burnt gunpowder, the residue of a toy cap gun.
Palate: Luxardo cherry, a toothsome subtle sweetness, with earthiness shining through and a smack of leather.
Tasting Notes: GlenDronach Cask Bottling 1992 Cask 6052
Nose: Bubble Yum bubble gum, along with caramel strawberry notes.
Palate: This is a very fruity Scotch, which was a surprise. Plum and vanilla stand out first. Out of the three, this expression was the weakest. It took some time to pick out specific flavors. There is a long, smooth finish on the back end.
Tasting Notes: GlenDronach Cask Bottling 1994 Cask 5080
Appearance: Dark and syrupy amber with hefty legs in the glass.
Nose: Orange and maple with subtle leather, a promising burn that opens quickly.
Palate: Tobacco and tart cranberry muddled with semi-sweet chocolate coats the palate. I enjoyed a smooth finish that settles and amplifies after a few minutes open in my Glencairn.
Final Thoughts: I was so surprised with this tasting. After many strongly stiff and smoky Scotch tastings, The GlenDronach Distillery Cask Bottling Batch 19 is remarkably different. My expectations going in were blown away as I was met with smooth sweetness and only moderate smokiness, as GlenDronach is usually made from unpeated barley.
My favorite expression was the oldest, with the 1992 Cask 217 offering the most distinct, fresh flavor profile and the lowest levels of sweetness of the bunch. With so few bottles released, I highly suggest shelling out the big bucks if possible. Maybe even going in with a couple of Scotch-loving friends to share in these unique expressions!
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Jerry Jenae Sampson
Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.