...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Single Malt Report Taste Off! - GlenDronach 18 year "Allardice"

Tuesday, I started with a little explanation behind my intent for this Taste Off, as well as a few bits about the distillery's history.
Wednesday, I reported on the GlenDronach 12 year.
Thursday, I reported on the GlenDronach 15 year.
Today, I'm reporting on the GlenDronach 18 year.

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: minimum 18 years
Maturation: Oloroso sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.
Bottle Code: 09/05026 21.05.09

So here it is, the oldest of the three whiskys from this Taste Off.  It is named "Allardice" after James Allardice (though I've seen his last name spelled differently) who led the group of investors that founded Glendronach distillery 125 years ago.

The amber stuff within is made up of oloroso-sherry-cask-matured whiskys that are at least eighteen years old.  It was all casked by previous owner Allied Domecq using lightly peated malt from their own  on-site floor maltings.  The peat (in this whisky as well as the 15yr) isn't immediately apparent.  All those years in rich sherry casks calms the phenolic effect to a hushed smoke.

Let us have a sip.

First tasting - 1 ounce, 60 minutes in the glass before nosing, neat

The color is almost identical to the 15yr, but maybe a touch lighter.  That could be due to batch-to-batch cask-to-cask differences.  It still has that great blushing maple syrup tone.  The nose has a strong sherry front.  Digging behind it one may find apple juice, maple syrup (yeah, pour this over your french toast), smoky cocoa, salted caramels, Frosties, and fried plantains.  The palate smacks of BIG SHERRY.  It's a little musty, maybe a tiny bit of smoke too.  There are stone fruits in caramel sauce, chocolate cherry cordials, and sherry-soaked angel food cake.  The sherry goes on forever in the finish.  Then more of the cherry cordials and stone fruits in caramel.  One may find some raisins as well as a heaping helping of cherry liqueur.

Second tasting - remaining 0.5 ounce from the bottle two hours later, a few drops of water

Similar to its younger brethren the curious sulphuric(?) notes in the nose unveil themselves with water.  To be more specific, there are spent matches, salt, corn chips, yeast, and bread elements.  But unlike the 12yr, this one doesn't allow those elements to win out, as grape juice and cherry Kool Aid lead the way.  The sherry doesn't even flinch in the palate.  It's sherry sherry sherry.  Then there's some cocoa, raisins, and a nuttiness.  The finish?  MOAR SHERRY!  Just lengthy singular sherry, very reminiscent of Macallan 18.

Thoughts, conclusions, questions
I gave this one a lot of time in the glass to try to crack through the sherry.  Sherry itself is a fortified wine, boosted by grape spirit that ups its strength.  This whisky, though, is like a fortified sherry.  In that way, it reminds me a lot of Macallan 18.  Had I the means, a comparison of the two would be a very educational Taste Off, but I leave that to bigger sherried-whisky fans.

Ultimately, these GlenDronachs shine best without added water.  It feels as if Billy Walker and company have already toned down the strength of the cask whiskys to reach the desired nose and palate, so diluting it further shatters the well-tuned structure.  Not all whiskys are like that, many can take water.  Some need water.  But, to me, these three GlenDs smell and taste best when served neat.  They're thick rich malts that probably serve best as a dessert......breakfast dessert that is.

To conclude:
GlenDronach 12yr Original - The easiest drinking of the three, and likely much older than 12 years.
GlenDronach 15yr Revival - The star of the bunch.  A reasonable alternative to any of Macallan's Sherry Oaks.
GlenDronach 18yr Allardice - Fortified sherry!  Would make any Macallan 18 drinker happy, at a lower price.
And remember, try 'em first neatly!

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - $120-$130 in the US, but with some creative purchasing this can be picked up from Europe/UK for $85-$95
Rating - 83


  1. It takes some really careful cask management to make good whisky that is fully matured in ex-sherry casks. I'm coming to the conclusion that I prefer second- or third-fill sherry casks over first fill, because I'd rather be able to taste what the malt brings to the table as well. If I wanted to drink something that tastes like sherry, then I'll just drink sherry (which costs 10% what a good whisky does).

    1. I agree 100%. I realized that after tasting Macallan 18. Think of all the sherry one could buy instead of one bottle of Mac 18. And over the past year, I've realized how much I prefer whiskies that don't hide the malt under heavy finishes or fancy maturation. I like distilleries with confidence in their spirit.

  2. Michael

    Thanks for your input. I did purchase my GD18 from the UK for a decent price - and glad I did not pay more. I have been very disappointed frankly though I am going to let the bottle hang out (as I have with a few other disappointments) to see if it will unwind and settle down.

    There is one point that you mentioned that I was quite intrigued by. You mentioned that you waiting 60 minutes before nosing and tasting. I have definitely come to the conclusion that a good long sit and a few swirls makes much for a much calmer, sweeter, smooth whisky - and more tasty. So I load up a few earlier in the day to allow for that process to take place so that I am ready to drink, they will be drinkable.

    Can you comment on why you think this process is helpful?


    1. Hi Greg!

      I think the key to whisky and time, in the bottle or glass, is oxidation. I can't comment on the exact molecular science, though. If someone has done a proper scientific experiment on this, I'd love to see it!

      But I can reference what I've experienced. Too much oxygen getting into a bottle can silence the whisky entirely. That's why you might see comments from seasoned whisky pros that once the bottle is at the halfway point, you have 3-6 months before the oxygen starts neutralizing the scent and palate compounds. When the bottle is down to a quarter, you have a month at most.

      BUT, a little breathing time helps. If you think of it like wine, sometimes it needs to breathe in the drinking glass for 10-20 minutes (depending on the wine) to let the compounds open up. But in the bottle, wine goes flat after a couple of days, unless you slip some inert gas (like Private Preserve) in there to keep the oxygen out of the drink. The large amount of alcohol in whisky helps protect it for a longer time, but that's not infinite either. None of this is scientific (sorry!) and I'm still trying to establish what works and what doesn't.

      Unfiltered stronger ABV whiskies seem to stay strong in the drinking glass for a longer period of time. On the flip side, I had an 18yr whisky last night that was filtered and only 40%ABV and after more than an hour it had lost its best elements in the nose and palate.

      I got the idea of letting the whisky sit for awhile from the Malt Maniacs (like Ralfy and Serge V.) as well as Jim Murray. It's still an ongoing study for me. But I've been sticking to the rule of AT LEAST one minute per year.

      Sorry for the lengthly unorganized response! Best wishes on the GD18. My palate currently doesn't dig most of the sherried whiskies out there. It used to, though! It's amazing how much personal preferences change. As you mentioned, maybe some time in the bottle will do good things for it!

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  4. BTW - I see you had the Balvenie Portwood 21 on your list. There you are in for a special surprise and delight - you may even give you up your beautiful wife.... :-).

    Again, I purchased mine from the UK - specifically Neil Jamison at the Whiskey Shop worked very well with me to set up a great deal on the shipping (though it was a $1,200 order) BUT he did a superb job and I highly recommend.

    1. Yes, shipping is the key to getting the great deals from UK and Europe! Thanks for the tip on the Whisky Shop! I've window-shopped their site quite a bit.

      I'm really looking forward to that Portwood. MIGHT have a dram of it this month. Can't wait any longer!