Saturday, January 12, 2013

New Release - Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 1

Skirting the border of the region designated as “Speyside” by the Scotch Whisky Association. Glendronach lies within the rolling arable land of the Aberdeensire countryside between Huntly and Aberdeen. Long held in high esteem as an excellent malt but only really attracting a cult following due to its scarcity, Glendronach is finally attracting a lot of interest since its present owners took over from Pernod Ricard in 2008.

Glendronach distillery was founded in 1825 by James Allardice (in homage to the distilleries founder the present 18yo expression bares his name). The present buildings date from 1850 when the distillery was rebuilt making Glendronach one of the prettiest, traditional looking distilleries in Scotland. The distillery was the last to use stills direct fired by coal. This practice was finished in 2005 so pretty much all of the whisky you’ll be able to get from Glendronach at the moment will have been produced using coal fired stills (a rarity these days as most Scottish whisky distilleries ceased this practice long before 2005 and only Glann Ar Mor in France and Yoichi in Japan use coal fired stills at present).

The distillery is owned by the Benriach/Glendronch distillery company who bought the distillery from Pernod Ricard is 2008 and launched a new range soon afterwards, offering many more expressions than the lone 12 year old that was available previously. Since then the distillery has gone from strength to strength and has won many fans, becoming famous for its range of excellent sherry cask matured malts. Released towards the end of 2012, the Cask Strength is a new addition to the standard Glendronach range. It will be released in limited batches. This first batch consists of 12,000 bottles. It consists of a vatting of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez cask matured whisky and is bottled at 54.8%. It retails for around £50.

Our tasting notes
The nose is as you’d expect, except the influence of the Pedro Ximenez cask is thankfully not too dominant as it sometimes can be. There’s all sorts of things going on - honey, coco powder, ginger, raisins and walnuts, Chocolate Hob Knobs, flor, caramel. Also a little hint of wood polish. There are also some Rum like notes such as Demerara sugar and over ripe bananas. Excellent stuff. With water I get fudge, butterscotch, coconut, milk bottle sweets, digestive biscuits, that little bit of wood polish is still there. A little sweeter overall with the addition of water but also a little simple. Still very good. Takes water well.

On the palate there’s a big mouth feel. Very unctuous and oily. Quite a bit of sweetness - milk chocolate, honey, caramel, blackcurrants, raisins. Not overly rich or cloying, again the Pedro Ximenez cask influence is not too much. Water makes it much simpler than before. There’s chocolate orange, ginger, short bread and raisins.

The finish has a lovely hit of ginger, it gets very oaky, which reminds me of some bourbons.Just the right amount of mouth drying oakiness though, doesn’t dominate but adds balance and body. Gives way to a lingering, nutty, sherry flor character with juicy blackcurrants. The addition of water tones down the oak but the ginger is still there as is the nutty flor character which follows, all a little mellower and less insistent though.

What’s the verdict?
This is a hugely enjoyable dram. Prefect sherry cask matured whisky with no dodgy off notes and not too woody. To my tastes, when sherry cask matured whiskies are good, they can be very good. I reckon those people that can be a little indifferent to overly sherried whiskies will find this an excellently balanced dram, and those who like a slighty more wood driven malt will find this has enough character. A whisky for everyone! For the price and the quality I’d say this is definitely one to seek out.

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