...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