Today was snowing badly when we woke up and we had planned a tour of Glendronach which meant a 20 mile drive across the hills. We’d be fine though on well managed Scottish roads right?
So we got to Dufftown and took the road to Huntley and it was all good until we got into the hills. Suddenly it went from clear road to 1 foot of snow on the road. Turns out it was drifting in off the fields. We turned round and tried another way. Again we were turned around by snow drifts. There was only one route left and i was losing hope of making it. We went through Keith and down the A96 which seemed clear. We made it through, hurray!
The guide at Glendronach was surprised we’d made it and staggered that we’d want a tour in this weather. I remarked it was perfect weather for standing in a still house. Warm! The tour was on…
I stumped for the £15 tour which included “a range of older and single cask Glendronachs” in the tasting. Sounded like a bargain to me (and was). There is a connosieur tasting for £25 that involves taking samples out of casks but that needed booking in advance. I shall be going back!
So off round the distillery we went in the snow. This was a really good tour. Firstly we were allowed to take photos anywhere, including in the still house. No “your device could cause a spark and an explosion with the alcohol vapours” concerns here. Another thing that made the tour for us was the guides adaptability. We made it clear that we’d done lots of tours and she left some of the obvious details out (explanation of what grist is for example). This left her able to go into more details where we wanted them (distillery history, work force, still shape) and made the tour go at what felt like our pace.
Here is the mash tun, wash backs, stills and spirit safe.
It was too cold to head into a warehouse and the snow was really coming down plus, like I said, I intend to go back for a connoisseurs tour at some point, so I can wait. On a cold blizzardy day like this, it was time to sample some older and single cask Glendronachs!
To warm the taste buds up, we started with Glendronach 12. You can read my tasting notes for this dram here.
Next up was Glendronach 18, named “Allardice” after the founder of the distillery. This may be 18, but there are up to 33 year old whiskies in this and, for me it oozes quality. Here are the dramstats:
- Price £55
- ABV 46%
- Non chill filtered
- Not coloured
Nose: Malty, rich dark fruit, malt loaf, deep rich sherry with prunes, dates and currants. You can smell the oloroso!
Palate: Prunes, dates, rich oloroso, currants and malty
Finish: Burnt caramel, treacle, dried fruits and sherry. There is a hint of wood smoke (Glendronach barley is peated to 1ppm in these expressions but this is the first time it’s come through). Dry oak.
Verdict: I’m drinking this, loving it, and staring across to the shelf at the price in disbelief. I am not used to being able to buy whisky this good for only £55. This went straight into the shopping basket.
Next up was Glendronach Cask Strength.
- Price ~£55
- ABV 54.8%
Nose: Alcohol burn, apple and dried fruits. Slightly malty with orange, a touch of toffee. The orange gets big with water.
Palate: Lots of dried fruit and sherry, malty and slightly tropical but lots of raisins and orange. Hint of gariboldi and fig rolls.
Finish: Pepper, oak and dried fruit. Big, creamy toffee and orange.
Verdict: This was excellent. The only reason I didn’t buy it is because I preferred the profile of the 18. I think the price is good and the whisky is high quality. I am really enjoying this tasting!
Now we go up a notch for the Glendronach Managers special, a bottle you fill straight from the cask:
- First Fill Oloroso Sherry Butt
- ABV 59.2%
- Distilled 1993
- Price £85
Nose: Big sherry, tonnes of fruit, touch of pepper and burnt cinder toffee. With water chocolate comes through and the fruit really ramps up.
Palate: Sherry, chewy! Cough syrup. With water it’s a dried fruit explosion with chocolate and malt loaf.
Finish: Raisins, dates, figs, sherry, cola and drying oak.
Verdict: Wow. The longer this sits in the glass, the more comes through. This is a great butt! I really wanted a bottle of this, but looking round the shop there were other single cask oloroso expressions at £10 cheaper from the same year but pre-bottled. I wondered if the £10 was a tourist rip off and a premium on “bottling your own”. I asked our guide what the difference was and she said she preferred the managers special, but offered me the chance to taste the other one (another sign of how good this tour is)
Glendronach single cask distillery only 1993
- Refill Oloroso
- ABV 56.1%
- Filled 1993
- Bottled June 2012
Nose: Oloroso, HP sauce, malted barley (factory smell), dried fruit.
Palate: Sweet, sherry, oak.
Finish: Drying oak, fruit but perhaps a touch too oaky for me.
Verdict: This is a good whisky, but it’s nowhere near the Managers special and my notes reflect that. If I’d not had the managers special, I expect these notes would be very positive and I’d even be tempted for a bottle, but I was standing with a dram in each hand and the Managers special was absolutely excellent, definitely worth at least £10 more (I don’t mind paying extra for quality) and I bought a bottle of that too.
There was one more surprise. I asked for a bottle of the 18 and the Managers special and our guide phoned the distillery manager! It turns out that when you buy the manager’s special, the manager comes and fills the bottle for you, signs the bottle, chats about it and poses for a photo! This just put the cherry on an excellent tour for me!
Here we are