...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Glendronach 33 year old 1975 Duncan Taylor Three Generations versus GlenDronach 15 year old Revival

I wouldn't have been able to do today's Taste Off without the assistance of two good guys.  I'd like to thank Daniel for sharing (read: giving) a significant part of his bottle of GlenDronach Revival with (to) me.  And thank you to Jordan for finding the '75 Duncan Taylor 'Dronach for a gosh darned bargain -- then splitting it with MAO, Florin (A Prince), and me.  Please see this link for MAO's review.

Here are today's whiskies...
...nuzzled up together in Mathilda's Baby Bjorn seat.

Glendronach is best known for the quality of their sherry cask whiskies, but this 1975 was actually from a former bourbon barrel.  Since Duncan Taylor has taken down the page explaining the "Three Generations" name, here's the best story I've been able to assemble: Albert Shand (former Glendronach master distiller) distilled the spirit, his son Euan coopered the cask and filled it, and his grandson Andrew (of Duncan Taylor) bottled it.  Three Generations of Shand.

In order to gain some perspective on this older ex-bourbon Glendronach, I matched it up with the aforementioned official GlenDronach 15yo Revival.  I did review Revival two years ago, but my palate has changed since then, plus that review was off of a mini.

Here's another photo of the two whiskies to give you a better idea of the color differences between a sherry cask and a bourbon cask:

Ex-sherry cask in the middle. Ex-bourbon on the right.
Roses on the left
Let's start with the more familiar Revival, previously reviewed here

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Region: Highlands (near the Speyside border)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 15 years
Maturation: ex-Oloroso sherry casks
Bottled: 2012
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

The color is mahogany.  The nose begins with molasses, dirty(?) prunes, figs, dates, and fudge.  There are also hints of moldy sherry funk that tend to be found in much older sherried whiskies.  Then things get really interesting......smoked toffee, iodine, and something invitingly skunky.  Is that you, Peat?  With time, black grapes and orange oil take over.  Espresso, grapes, and raisins lead off in the richly textured palate.  The sweetness of the fruits is mostly balanced by the bitterness of the coffee.  There's also a little bit of eucalyptus in there.  The espresso and sugary raisins continue into the finish, as well as a eucalyptus glow.  There's a definite hint of smoke in the back of the throat.

I liked this much more than last time, especially the elements that (I think) are the results of the malt's light peating.  The sherry in the nose was more funky than I'd remembered it to be, and that's a big plus in my book.  So the nose is excellent, the palate remains just good (though miles better than Macallan 12 or 18).

Then the Three Generations:

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Type: Single Malt
Region: Highlands (near the Speyside border)
Age: 33 years old (1975-2008)
Maturation: ex-bourbon cask
Cask: 706
Alcohol by Volume: 51.4%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No

It is of a light gold color in the glass.  Lots of orange oil in the nose.  In fact, there's orange everything: peel, juice, candy, etc.  Cream-filled caramel chews show up next.  Lots of rose blossoms.  There's American oak sawdust in there, along with softer sandalwood notes.  Subtle hint of peat, again?  After an hour of air, the whisky opens up into tropical fruit (papaya?), horse manure, and lime juice.  The palate has more of an alcohol bite to it than the Revival.  It's also very tannic.  Oak smoke and a drying bitterness.  A progression of orange→malt→sugar in the background.  Some of the nose's rose blossoms float in bitter and fruity teas.  Perhaps stemming from the fact that I've been huffing this whisky for an hour, I suddenly get some palate clarity.  This a cocktail of Campari, simple syrup, and tea.  In the finish, the tropical fruit returns, now more like Kern's guava nectar, followed by the wood smoke.  There's an intense interplay between bitterness (oversteeped black tea) and sweetness (simple syrup), followed by a citric tartness.

Wow, LOTS of oak in the nose, almost like an old bourbon -- coconut, caramel, honey, vanilla, etc.  That's then followed by orange oil and a strong floral tea.  I think some more malt shows up after a little while.  More floral tea again in the palate, lightly sweetened.  Water has prettied it up.  Some good bitterness keeps it from being too fragile.  The oak smoke remains.  The finish is full of flowers, citron, and that good bitterness.

I've never found so many tea-like notes in a whisky before.  Could this be from all of the q.alba tannins?  It never ruined the party, instead it left me searching my sensory vocabulary for a match.  Though, I can imagine the oak could make other palates grumpy.

The main elements that appeared in both Revival and Three Generations were rose blossoms, oranges, and coy peat.  Otherwise, the differences in cask maturation made them much different whiskies.  I liked the bourbon cask GlenDronach, but the real surprise for me was how much I enjoyed the very sherry Revival.

A final thought.  I've been gradually assembling the bit and pieces for a Taliskravaganza-type series on Glendronach during some month in 2015.  Samples of these two will be added to the bunch, as it will be fun to see how they perform alongside the other 'Dronachs.  But for now...

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $75-$90 in the US; $55-$70 in Europe pre-shipping
Rating - 89 (picked up two more points)

Availability - Happy hunting!
Pricing - $280-$350, was $169 in Oregon not too long ago
Rating - 86


  1. One thing to note with Revival is that the bottling date will have a major impact on its actual age:


    1. That's true. I like his PDF. Now I wonder if the extra couple of years (the mini was from 2010, this bottle is from 2012) made a difference in quality. I might just wait to get one bottled next year or 2016. That's if they're not experience shortage issues by then.

  2. I tend to find citrus (orange and maybe lemon) in any whisky that was matured in ex-bourbon. Highland Park has stated that this comes from American oak so I'm inclined to agree that it's a characteristic of the oak rather than the bourbon.

    1. It's interesting, I usually find a lot more citrus in the HP 18 than the 15 -- though the 15 is seriously underrated. The old(ish) Dalmore Gran Reserva was all sherry cask, but was a wall of orangeness. Jackson also used to write about the big orange character in all of Dalmore's sherried releases. So I started wondering if the citrus was due to an interaction between a spirit and any sort of oak. But then I took a look at Charlie MacLean's notes on each distillery's whisky.

      Here are the distilleries whose character has citrus notes, per MacLean's Whiskypedia:
      * - in the new make
      ** - in sherried releases

      Arran - nose and palate
      Auchentoshan - nose (lemon)
      Balvenie - nose (orange peel)
      Bladnoch - nose and palate (lemon)
      Bruichladdich - palate
      Craigellachie - palate
      ***Dalmore - nose (orange peel - also the new make is "more citric (from the larger still) and "The overall style of Dalmore new-make is appropriate for sherry wood maturation")
      Glen Elgin - nose (tangerine)
      **Glenfarclas - in >15yo sherried expressions, orange marmalade
      Glenfiddich - palate
      Glenglassaugh - Edrington era (orange juice)
      Glen Grant - palate (lemon)
      *Glenmorangie - in the new make (tangerine)
      Glen Ord - nose (dried orange peel)
      *Glenturret - in the new make (orange)
      Highland Park - nose (caramelized oranges)
      *Jura - in the new make (lemon), mature character nose (orange zest)
      *Knockdu - in the new make (lemon), mature character nose and palate
      Linkwood - nose and palate (lemon)
      **Longmorn - sherried releases nose (orange)
      Macallan - nose (dried orange peel)
      Strathmill - nose (tangerine and oranges)
      Tamnavulin - palate (lemon meringue)
      Teaninich - palate
      Tomatin - palate (caramelized orange)

      One thing to take away from MacLean's finding is that there's a lot of citrus in Scotch! And it seems to come from different stages in production. Then, there goes our theory that it's just the Highlanders that have citrus notes. Finally, tall stills seem to result in citrusy new make. I might just put this in its own post someday when I have some time to research it further.

    2. Theories are meant to be tweaked and refined. That would mean citrus notes are also coming from the esters.

      I recall seeing a Richard Paterson interview where he explained that a lot of Dalmore's new make start maturation in ex-bourbon casks (though I'm sure they are also filling ex-sherry casks too). Because W&M was previously owned by Fortune Brands, they had considerable access to Jim Beam barrels.

    3. You could be right about the citrus notes coming from the esters. But I USUALLY find them in (as you mentioned) ex-bourbon cask whiskies, like Longrow lemon and the orange oil in indie Glen Ords. I'd be interested in sorting this out further, because I like the stuff. Looks like I will have to do a post on it someday soon.