...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Glendronach 33 year old 1975 Duncan Taylor Three Generations versus GlenDronach 15 year old Revival

I wouldn't have been able to do today's Taste Off without the assistance of two good guys.  I'd like to thank Daniel for sharing (read: giving) a significant part of his bottle of GlenDronach Revival with (to) me.  And thank you to Jordan for finding the '75 Duncan Taylor 'Dronach for a gosh darned bargain -- then splitting it with MAO, Florin (A Prince), and me.  Please see this link for MAO's review.

Here are today's whiskies...
...nuzzled up together in Mathilda's Baby Bjorn seat.

Glendronach is best known for the quality of their sherry cask whiskies, but this 1975 was actually from a former bourbon barrel.  Since Duncan Taylor has taken down the page explaining the "Three Generations" name, here's the best story I've been able to assemble: Albert Shand (former Glendronach master distiller) distilled the spirit, his son Euan coopered the cask and filled it, and his grandson Andrew (of Duncan Taylor) bottled it.  Three Generations of Shand.

In order to gain some perspective on this older ex-bourbon Glendronach, I matched it up with the aforementioned official GlenDronach 15yo Revival.  I did review Revival two years ago, but my palate has changed since then, plus that review was off of a mini.

Here's another photo of the two whiskies to give you a better idea of the color differences between a sherry cask and a bourbon cask:

Ex-sherry cask in the middle. Ex-bourbon on the right.
Roses on the left
Let's start with the more familiar Revival, previously reviewed here

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Region: Highlands (near the Speyside border)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: ex-Oloroso sherry casks
Bottled: 2012
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

The color is mahogany.  The nose begins with molasses, dirty(?) prunes, figs, dates, and fudge.  There are also hints of moldy sherry funk that tend to be found in much older sherried whiskies.  Then things get really interesting......smoked toffee, iodine, and something invitingly skunky.  Is that you, Peat?  With time, black grapes and orange oil take over.  Espresso, grapes, and raisins lead off in the richly textured palate.  The sweetness of the fruits is mostly balanced by the bitterness of the coffee.  There's also a little bit of eucalyptus in there.  The espresso and sugary raisins continue into the finish, as well as a eucalyptus glow.  There's a definite hint of smoke in the back of the throat.

I liked this much more than last time, especially the elements that (I think) are the results of the malt's light peating.  The sherry in the nose was more funky than I'd remembered it to be, and that's a big plus in my book.  So the nose is excellent, the palate remains just good (though miles better than Macallan 12 or 18).

Then the Three Generations:

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Type: Single Malt
Region: Highlands (near the Speyside border)
Age: 33 years old (1975-2008)
Maturation: ex-bourbon cask
Cask: 706
Alcohol by Volume: 51.4%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

It is of a light gold color in the glass.  Lots of orange oil in the nose.  In fact, there's orange everything: peel, juice, candy, etc.  Cream-filled caramel chews show up next.  Lots of rose blossoms.  There's American oak sawdust in there, along with softer sandalwood notes.  Subtle hint of peat, again?  After an hour of air, the whisky opens up into tropical fruit (papaya?), horse manure, and lime juice.  The palate has more of an alcohol bite to it than the Revival.  It's also very tannic.  Oak smoke and a drying bitterness.  A progression of orange→malt→sugar in the background.  Some of the nose's rose blossoms float in bitter and fruity teas.  Perhaps stemming from the fact that I've been huffing this whisky for an hour, I suddenly get some palate clarity.  This a cocktail of Campari, simple syrup, and tea.  In the finish, the tropical fruit returns, now more like Kern's guava nectar, followed by the wood smoke.  There's an intense interplay between bitterness (oversteeped black tea) and sweetness (simple syrup), followed by a citric tartness.

Wow, LOTS of oak in the nose, almost like an old bourbon -- coconut, caramel, honey, vanilla, etc.  That's then followed by orange oil and a strong floral tea.  I think some more malt shows up after a little while.  More floral tea again in the palate, lightly sweetened.  Water has prettied it up.  Some good bitterness keeps it from being too fragile.  The oak smoke remains.  The finish is full of flowers, citron, and that good bitterness.

I've never found so many tea-like notes in a whisky before.  Could this be from all of the q.alba tannins?  It never ruined the party, instead it left me searching my sensory vocabulary for a match.  Though, I can imagine the oak could make other palates grumpy.

The main elements that appeared in both Revival and Three Generations were rose blossoms, oranges, and coy peat.  Otherwise, the differences in cask maturation made them much different whiskies.  I liked the bourbon cask GlenDronach, but the real surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the very sherry Revival.

A final thought.  I've been gradually assembling the bit and pieces for a Taliskravaganza-type series on Glendronach during some month in 2015.  Samples of these two will be added to the bunch, as it will be fun to see how they perform alongside the other 'Dronachs.  But for now...

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $75-$90 in the US; $55-$70 in Europe pre-shipping
Rating - 89 (picked up two more points)

Availability - Happy hunting!
Pricing - $280-$350, was $169 in Oregon not too long ago
Rating - 86