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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Single Malt Report: GlenDronach 21 year old "Parliament "

The Shadow of GlenDronach
After I received such a great surprise from the previous report's whisky, I decided to follow it up with another from the same distillery: GlenDronach's 21 year old "Parliament" single malt.  I've written about the rest of their regular range hereherehere, and here.

The 21 year old is a little harder to find than its younger siblings.  It's (obviously) pricier, though only 20-25% more expensive than the 18 year.  Compare that to Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Macallan Fine Oak whose 21s more than double the price of their 17/18s.  GlenDronach's small bump up in price for the 21 year also includes the highest ABV of its regular bottlings, 48%.  While the 15 and 18 are solely from oloroso casks, the 21, like the 12, is from a mix of Pedro Ximenez and oloroso casks.

And the "Parliament" moniker?  It has nothing to do with government.  Rather, birds.  Yes, a parliament of fowls (or Parlement of Foules), as Chaucer once wrote.  In GlenDronach's case, the fowl in question are rooks, these sturdy birds:
When in a group, rooks (like owls) are called a parliament.  A parliament (or a parliament of parliaments) of rooks have made their home in that corner of Aberdeenshire likely long before the distillery was built.  So GlenDronach named this whisky after their neighbors:

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: minimum 21 years
Maturation: Pedro Ximenez sherry and Oloroso sherry casks
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chill filtered? No.
Caramel Coloring? No.

As you may note from the pictures, the color is of a reddish maple syrup.

The bold nose leads with fresh stone fruits, especially apricots, along with dried cherries.  There's a sherry blanket surrounding everything, like Macallan 18 but larger.  Underneath the blanket lay raspberry jam, grape juice, pipe tobacco, and black cherry soda.  There are also highlights of bubblegum and fresh mint.  A wee peep of sulfur adds to bouquet rather than subtracting.

Cocoa powder leads in the palate.  It's followed by smoked prunes, ginger, and lots of salt.  It is very tart, dry, and tannic with sparse hints of sweetness.

The finish is very salty and dry.  Lots of tart grapes along with rich stewed raisins.  There's also a smoky note that is completely peatless.  But mostly it's dry and salty, like a dry Marsala.

What a grand pungent nose!  One could sniff this whisky all day long and never tire of it.  But it's whisky, so some folks may choose to drink it as well.  Had its flavors equaled its scents, then I would have written this entire report IN CAPS.  But the palate and especially the finish get tight, dry, salty, and tart.  Gavin Smith may note soy sauce in the nose, but I find drinking Parliament is like sipping a Kikkoman sherry cocktail (I hope that doesn't actually exist).

Having sampled the regular US range (yes there's a young NAS cask strength and a limited 33 year in Europe), I'd pick the 15yr first by a long shot, the 18yr second.  Meanwhile, the single cask releases are a league ahead.

But I'm not done seeking out GlenDronach.  I like their malt and their ownership, so I look forward to further exploring their whisky in the near future.

Availability - maybe a dozen liquor retailers in the US
Pricing - $120-$150 in the US, a little cheaper in Europe
Rating - 81


  1. I've got a mini from TWE, so I'll have to see how it treats me. At least now my expectations won't be too high, so if I'm lucky I'll get pleasantly surprised.

    1. The Malt Maniacs seem to like it moderately, though their tasting notes differ quite a bit. The crowd at Whiskybase scores it about the same as the MMs. The LAWS guys were underwhelmed by it. Jim Murray liked it, which is weird since there's a sulfuric note in there. Anyway, that's the range of reactions.

      I appreciate the choice to bottle it at a high ABV, plus the nose is nice. Definitely seems like GlenDronach is saving the money casks for the single releases.

    2. It's interesting if that's the strategy they're taking. I guess it depends on the make up of their consumer base - if it's mostly whisky geeks buying their stuff, then it makes sense to save the good stuff for single cask releases. On the other hand, if most of their customers are more run-of-the-mill whisky drinkers, then skimping on the quality of their core expressions seems like a bad idea.

    3. That's a good point. They'd certainly want to keep up the quality of their regular range since that's where they sell the most bottles and that's technically their actual brand. They may also have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their sherry casks.

      And this is all the Teacher's and Allied malt. It will be fun to see what happens when the Pernod juice, then the Billy Walker & Co stuff rolls out.