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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Single Malt Report: GlenDronach 8 year old 'The Heilan'

Speaking of young whisky to be appreciated now, I just tried this one last night...
...and decided to call my second audible (both Glendronachs, actually) in two weeks.  I had tried this whisky as part of an OC Scotch Club tasting that I led in July, but didn't really register it then since we were outdoors in 95 degree heat and there were cigars all around.  A lot of people, many of them new to whisky, liked this one the best -- even more than the 33yo Bunnahahbain.

'The Hielan' replaces the 8yo 'Octarine' in GlenDronach's range.  This new whisky is (I think) the first member of the regular range that is made entirely from spirit distilled by the current owners, the BenRiach Distillery Company.  Two elements about this whisky I liked from the start: 1.) Like the Octarine, it has ex-bourbon casks in the mix.  The rest of the official range is made up entirely of ex-sherry casks.  And since Glendronach indies are rare, it's difficult to chase down anything but very sherried 'Dronachs.  Yes, sherried 'Dronachs are often quite swell, but my two experiences with ex-bourbon cask 'Dronach indies were also very positive.  2.) The producers give this starter malt the same presentation as its older siblings: 46%abv, no chilfiltering, and no colorant.  So -- as I often like to say -- there's more whisky in my whisky.  In fact I'm making that my catchphrase.

Let's give this newbie a spin.

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Age: minimum 8 years old
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? No
Added Colorant? No
(Thanks to OCSC for the sample!)

Its color is the lightest gold I've ever seen on a Glendronach official bottling.  The nose is freshly grainy and even a little yeasty, lots of malt.  A hint of savoury herbs.  White stone fruits and milk chocolate.  Small notes of pine sap and peat moss.  A slight ethyl prickle.  Hints of Cow Tails candy and hot carpet.  Cookies in the palate, though light on the vanilla.  Then a burst of pipe tobacco.  Milky hot cocoa, then very dark chocolate.  Some peppery heat on top and a zesty bitterness underneath.  Maybe a little bit of toffee and tart fruit.  In the finish there's a huge hot cocoa note.  S'mores.  Roasted things (malt and nuts).  A citrusy tang.  Thick creamy dessert things minus the sugar.  Not a complex finish but has some decent stamina, especially the hot cocoa part.

Though this isn't the deepest whisky, it's a good bold drink.  The milky hot cocoa thing was so loud (and enjoyable) that I had to see if anyone else experienced something like it.  Luckily most folks do reference milk chocolate and MALT.  So much malt.  Together the milky chocolate and malt shine much brighter than the vanilla note.

Almost as impressive as its quality is its price of €30-35 in Europe.  If 'The Hielan' does make it to The States and the distributor can find it in their cold hearts to price the whisky at $30-35, then we're looking at a significant development.  There are very few age-stated whiskies at that price range now, and even fewer that are of any sort of quality.  But knowing GlenDronach's US distributor's pricing history, they'll put it at $50 and they'll lose me.

But anyway, for other opinions check out Serge's review and also Ruben from whiskynotes.  Though Serge digs this stuff, Ruben finds it "much too malty" and is disappointed by its lack of sherry.  Those are the very reasons I like it.

Availability - Europe only, as of the date of this review
Pricing - €30-35
Rating - 85

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