...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Single Malt Report Taste Off! - GlenDronach 12 year old "Original"

Here are the big three from this Taste Off! 

Yesterday, I started with a little explanation behind my intent for this Taste Off, as well as a few bits about the distillery's history.
Today, I'll report on the GlenDronach 12 year.
Tomorrow, I'll report on the GlenDronach 15 year.
Friday, I'll report on the GlenDronach 18 year.

(I just realized that I hadn't reported on a regular official bottling of single malt scotch in five weeks.  That streak is history.  I'd say 90% of the reports for the rest of the year will be single malts.  Anyway, back to the Taste Off!)

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: Pedro Ximenez sherry and Oloroso sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.
Bottle Code: 2011/06/29 11:47 LD60475

In response to yesterday's post, commenter Eric pointed out something interesting that I hadn't considered.  Some quick math to illustrate:

This whisky was bottled in 2011.
It is, at minimum, 12 years old.
2011 minus 12 years takes us to 1999.
The GlenDronach distillery was closed from 1996 to 2002.

That means the whisky in the bottle is likely almost 15 years old, as the latest production before the closure was in 1996.  A whisky company can quote any age statement on their bottle as long it holds no whisky younger than that age quote.  So in this case, the whisky within IS at least 12 years old.

So why wouldn't they just call it a 14-year or something older so that they could boost the price?

I think it's a brand and range decision.  They likely want to establish a standard familiar bottling age, like 12 years, even though the new 12 year old juice isn't ready for a few more years.  If their youngest and cheapest bottling was a 15 year old in the $75-85 dollar range it would appear to consumers as if GlenDronach was establishing itself as an ultra-luxury-only brand.  By putting a "12 year" whisky on the shelf now (at what goes for normal 12-year prices nowadays) they get themselves planted into the standard 12-year-old whisky market.  And, as Eric pointed out, it will allow for a smooth transition when the real 12-year-old whisky is ready to bottle.

This current "12-year" Original is different from its two older brothers.  While Revival and Allardice were matured in Oloroso sherry casks, Original has some whisky that was matured in casks that held the thicker, sweeter Pedro Ximenez sherry, as well as some from Oloroso casks.

Let's see the result of all these elements:

First tasting - 1 ounce, 20 minutes in the glass before nosing, neat

The color is a lovely copper, like the coating on new pennies.  The nose is of rich grape juice, then a little cocoa.  Then there's honey-soaked warm tropical fruit, cream in sweet tea, and something that might be leather.  The palate is one solid strong piece and took a few moments to deconstruct.  There's sherry but the maltiness is still plentiful.  There's some brown sugar, cognac, and sweet almond cookies.  Somewhere in there a mystery fruit (plum?) keeps showing up.  The sherry shows up stronger in the finish.  And it gets sweeter too.  A little bit of mint lingers on.

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

Sulfur sneaks out in the nose.  It's bready, yeasty, salty, and meaty.  The palate doesn't fray as noticeably.  Instead it gets maltier and grainier.  The sherry notes fade.  It finishes just as strongly as when neat.  The sherry shows up more here: sweet, and a little sour.

Thoughts, conclusions, questions
Much more enjoyable and complex when served neatly.  Sulfur characteristics don't scare me off, but here they seem to pound down most of the other elements in the nose.  When neat, the Original makes for the easiest drinking experience of the 3 whiskys, though that may have something to do with the lower ABV.

Is it better than Macallan 12?  Not necessarily.  But it is a good option for folks who want to try a different brand's sherried whisky.  And it will make for a legitimate option when Mac 12 is replaced in the new lineup.

I'm curious to find out what happens to this whisky once the new actual 12-year-old whisky from the new ownership starts entering the mix.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - At $48-$58, this appears to be the going rate for non-dyed filtration-free single malts in its age-range 
Rating - 82