Glendronach distillery tour

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…

The wort inside the mash tun

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

Overall Verdict: I really enjoyed this tour. Glendronach has become my favourite distillery over a handful of excellent experiences with their whisky and after a brilliant tour and tasting. It’s safe to say a bottle of this stuff will always be on my whisky shelf.

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Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 20

Well we’ve left the teens and they were pretty good to me with plenty of highlights. How would the last 5 drams fare? Well, we know that there is a 50 year old whisky somewhere in the mix (I’m expecting it on xmas eve), so really there are 4 mystery drams to go.

Day 20 revealed Glendronach 12 year old. Great news! The 15 year old has been one of the highlights of the advent calendar so far, so only three years younger, this one should be pretty good right? Here are the dramstats:

glendronach12

 

  • Age 12 years
  • ABV 43%
  • Not coloured
  • Non chill filtered
  • Price: £31

Nose: It looks as if it may be sherried, but it’s not too fruity at first. Liquorice, malt loaf, cough mixture and chocolate malty vanilla. Needs a little time to open up, but when it does it goes ultra malt with sweet vanilla and ovaltine.

Palate: Cough mixture and liquorice, burnt malt. With time it becomes sweet and malty.

Finish: Malt lingers with vanilla, then bitter notes come in with the earlier liquorice leaving a lasting impression.

Verdict: Lovely, particularly after time in the glass. If the huge maltiness found in this and the 15 year old represents the distillery character, then please buy me Glendronach for xmas! At £31 this is almost a no-brainer. The only thing stopping me saying I’d definitely buy this, and I mean the ONLY thing, is that the 15 year old is only about £9 more and I thought the 15 was even better. In the light of most whisky at 12 years old, this is a monster bargain. But, if you can possibly stretch £9 further, buy the 15 and you won’t regret it! I’m spending a week in Speyside in February and, though it is a few miles to the east, Glendronach is now top of my list for distillery visits. Look forward to a review later in February and thank you Master of Malt for showing me Glendronach!

 

Whisky Advent Day 16

And day 16 is….

Glendronach 15 year old “revival”.

I’m pretty excited about this as I’ve never tasted it, but I’ve heard only good things. Glendronach was restarted by the good chaps behind Ben Riach and so represents an independent distillery that needs our support. they inherited old stock distilled before the place was mothballed, and judging by the awards it must really have been decent stuff.

Here are the dramstats for the revival:

glendronach15

  • Price ~£40
  • ABV 46%
  • Age 15 year

Nose: Tons of rich sherry fruit. Lovely! Chocolate raisins, medjool dates, toffee apples, muscavado sugar, then very malty ovaltine.

Palate: Oh yes! The nose, which promised so mucy rich malty sherry is carried through to the palate with a rich malty sherry fruit explosion! chocolate, dates and malty ovaltine!

Finish: Raisins, sherry and chocolate vanilla with malty ovaltine.

Verdict: YUM! Serious bargain, one I really enjoyed finishing off!