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Monday, June 8, 2015

Glendronach? Glendronach. A week of unsherried Glendronach.

Since Billy Walker & Co. (also known as BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd.) took over the distillery, revamped their regular range, and began releasing single casks, Glendronach has won over Sheeple and assertive WhiskyDicks alike.  And that's a feat.

They have us all so enamored with their product that nary a fuss was made when My Annoying Opinions revealed Glendronach may be misleading consumers on their "single cask" labels.  The same anoraks who decry the loss of age statements, the addition of chill filtration, caramel colorant, and the designated hitter did not even burp a gripe out over the fact that these single casks may not actually be single casks since these whiskies likely had other undisclosed maturations in other casks.  The connotation of "single cask" has been thrown into question, and possibly the denotation as well.   I have little doubt that if Diageo were the perpetrators, then there would be a larger outcry.  But everyone's still cool with Glendronach.  And that's a feat.

On a more personal level, Glendronach helped bring me back around to enjoying sherry cask matured whisky.  Thanks to the bevy of sherry-finished whiskies on the market (with Glenmorangie Lasanta being the biggest culprit) my palate became averse to all things sherry+whisky for a couple years.  But a little GlenDronach Revival can set a person right, as can those aforementioned single ex-oloroso casks.  A third feat.

Whatever BenRiach Co. and/or Allied (the previous owners) are doing with their sherry casks, it has been working admirably.  But what about Glendronach whisky that is matured in something other than the rich sherry casks that tend to define the distillery?  The official range has a set of "Wood Finishes": Sauternes (12yo), Virgin Oak (14yo), Moscatel (14yo), Marsala (18yo), and Tawny Port (18yo).  While the website says these spent their first years in European oak, reviews of the products usually don't mention sherry characteristics.  Add in the fact that their coloring is very light, and one may hypothesize refill-refill-refill European oak casks were responsible.

I wanted to explore this further.  Since wine finishes hold little interest for me and I do like well utilized US oak, I only plucked a sample of the Virgin Oak finish.  Then I found a sample of a "Virgin Oak" single cask.  Then I found an entire bottle of a "Virgin Oak" single cask for my own mischief.  Finally with a weird bit of luck, I found a sherry-free independent Glendronach at a local whisky shop.

So really what you're going to see from me this week is a bunch of Glendronachs that spent a lot of their lives in sherry-free American oak.  Some of these whiskies will still be loaded with tannins, but not all of them, so perhaps I'll be able to get a glimpse of the spirit outside its home habitat.

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