|Many thanks to Florin for the whisky that this once held!|
In 2009, Billy Walker and the new ownership of GlenDronach not only gave their regular single malt range a facelift/refresh, but also started to release official single cask bottlings. These small releases met with immediate approval by everyone from Jim Murray to the Malt Maniacs. These single casks have continued ever since.
Each release spends its life maturing in sherry casks. Some of them are from ex-oloroso, some are from ex-Pedro Ximenez, some are from butts, some are from puncheons. They come different year groups -- 1971-1972, 1978, 1985, 1989-1996, 2002 -- and are priced accordingly. Their big prices may give one pause, but they (at cask strength) are always cheaper than 43% ABV Macallans at the same age range. They are rarer than those Macallans and better critically regarded.
Because they have different maturation lengths within different sizes of casks that had held different sorts of sherries, these GlenDronachs don't all taste the same. I tried K&L's exclusive 1993 single cask, last month. Two days ago, I tried this:
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: 18 years (August 1991- September 2009)
Maturation: former Oloroso sherry butt
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Alcohol by Volume: 51.9%
Limited bottling: 760
The color lies somewhere between maple syrup and well-steeped Earl Gray tea.
The density in the nose requires a bit of time (and a good nosing environment), but it's worth it, trust me. First, there's digestive biscuits (the chocolate dipped kind, of course), then hay, fresh soil, unsmoked pipe tobacco, carob, and menthol. Give it some more time. Then there's maple syrup, clove cigarettes, orange rind, raisins, tropical fruit juice, and dark caramel sauce. Finally, sherry gelato -- I don't know if it exists but it should.
The palate makes a direct progression from chocolate to cigar tobacco. In between there's hazelnut cake with nutty frosting, a stone-fruity sherry, dried apricots, and anise. The texture is very full and mouth-coating.
Then comes the big finish. Spritely curlicues of sweetness spring up out of a dry sherry sea. Nutella on toasted barley bread. A little soil, a lot of menthol, with a hearty sweetness increasing with time in the glass.
An amazing finish, so dense it fills one's cranial cavities until one exhales sherry vapor through the nose. This is the sort of sherry cask matured whisky I've been looking for, with the wine, oak, and malt working together as a team. One can assume a lot of this quality comes from the sherry butt, though GlenDronach also produces a malt which compliments the barrel so well that we get this lovely union.
Of course, this particular cask is sold out everywhere. Trust me, I checked immediately. But from now on, Glendronach, I will be watching your butts.
Former oloroso sherry butts, that is.
Availability - Sold out, though other single casks are released annually
Pricing - similarly-aged GlenDronach single casks: $140-$160
Rating - 92