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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Single Malt Report: GlenDronach 10 year old 2002 Single Virgin Oak Hogshead #4530

Yes, what you see here is an actual bottle.  I bought this as a birthday present for myself two years ago.  I saw it at a The Bonding Dram and said "Oooooo.  Woooooo?"  It sat patiently in my Whisky Closet for about a year and a half as I tried to find an opportunity to do a Glendronach series.  With its new oak cask, I figured it could be bourbon-ish thus might be better for the Spring or Summer.  Now it's Spring and now I'm doing a Glendronach series.

Like yesterday's single cask I have no idea if this one spent its entire existence in new oak, thanks to the revelation that GlenDronach has been known to rerack its so-called single casks into different types of casks and not divulge this information.  (I again point you to MAO's excellent Glendronach articles.)  But like yesterday's single cask, I wouldn't be surprised if it did spend all or most of its time in the listed virgin oak hogshead.

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: 10 years (June 2002- October 2012)
Maturation: Virgin Oak Hogshead
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%
Cask: 4530 (selected by The Nectar Belgium)
Limited bottling: 298

When I first opened the bottle, the whisky was REALLY sweet, like a bourbon+scotch liqueur.  It was a bit much for my palate, but luckily the liquid calmed down after a month.  These notes come from a little above the halfway point in the bottle, about two months after it was opened.

Its color is dark gold, darker than yesterday's 8yo, like an older barrel strength bourbon.  Right up front I find three major notes in the nose: Corn syrup, cotton t-shirts, and sawdust.  There's much less ginger than in the 8yo.  With about 20 minutes of airing out, the nose broadens.  Wheated bourbon (like Maker's but better), clover honey, root beer, milk, and something meaty.  After a half hour it's all bourbon: vanilla, caramel, and baking spices. Its palate is less hot and more approachable than the 8yo.  Not exactly "scotch", but not exactly "bourbon", either.  LOTS of oak, but the malted barley still stands strong in the background.  Limes and simple syrup.  Sweet, not much complexity, but nothing going cockeyed either.  The finish has Caramel with a capital "C".  Honey in tonic water.  Wheated bourbon (like Maker's but better). Swisher Sweets and a hint of wood smoke.  Gets sweeter with time.

WITH WATER (~40-43%abv)
The nose is loaded with vanilla and caramel, reminiscent of Cow Tales and salted caramel everything.  A moderate sized note of thick toffee.  In the far back, there are notes of roasted grains and phenols, but one needs binoculars to find them.  Nose binoculars.  The palate leads with some grassy malt with a massive layer of caramel and vanilla on top.  Small notes of cayenne pepper and tart citrus later expand with time.  The finish is sweet and grassy, with lime juice and a spicy zip.

Scottish bourbon.  I know I'm not the first to state that conclusion, but it kinda fits.  This cask is totally inoffensive (unless American oak offends you) and not complex, but impossible to hate as a dessert whisky.  If you have a bottle, I recommend airing it out a bit, otherwise you'll find pours from mid-bottle better than those from the top.

Unlike yesterday's 8 year old single new oak cask, this whisky never seems to be out of control nor a mess nor a slog nor a total oddity.  I would easily recommend this one over the other, whether the improvement is due to the two extra years or if it was just a better cask.  It does seem to be a limited experiment (which is why I bought it), and I doubt they'd actually do an all-virgin-oak release as its own regular expression.  But as far as whisky experiments go, it ain't bad.

Availability - Auctions?
Pricing - I bought it for €59 (€49 w/o VAT, cheapest 'Dronach single cask ever?)
Rating - 83
[NOTE: Please see my September follow-up review. This whisky became considerably worse with time.]


  1. I was wondering how this compared to Glenmorangie Ealanta and looks like you gave them both the same score. What is interesting is how Glendronach seems to have gotten more from its cask than the older Ealanta.

    1. Didn't realize I gave them the same score! They come to the whole new oak sub-category from separate directions. The Ealanta was matured in "heavily toasted" casks, while this GlenDronach's cask was likely Char City. Ealanta is more graceful, yet a little sleepy. This single cask is muscular but a little clumsy. It's been a bit too powerful to sip as the summer arrives. I like them both, but I'd still take the Astar (R.I.P.) over these two.