Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Review / Glendronach Batch 18 Single Casks #2091 & #5897

These two whiskies form part of the latest batch of the highly anticipated annual single cask series from the Highland distillery of Glendronach. The Glendronach Batch 18 consists of 18 single casks, which span a range of ages and vintages, and each was hand-selected by Dr. Rachel Barrie - the Master Blender of Glendronach. The oldest was distilled and filled to cask in 1990, while the youngest is from 2009. 

All casks are either ex-Oloroso sherry, ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry or ex-Port in origin and are bottled at their natural cask strengths - these range between 48% and 61.9% ABV. All are also non chill-filtered and of natural colour. The price range is £97/ $129 US to £861/ $1,140 US. Each cask will only be available to purchase in an allocated region. The two reviewed here will only be for Europe and the UK. Full details of each cask are listed in our recent Inbox blog post here.

The Glendronach distillery was founded in 1826 by James Allardice and is located in the Aberdeenshire countryside close to Huntly. The majority of the present buildings date from 1850 when the distillery was rebuilt following a devastating fire and it was the last in Scotland to use stills directly fired by coal - this practice only finished in 2005. The distillery is known for its use of high quality ex-sherry casks and is currently owned by Brown-Forman. The annual production is around 1.3 million litres.

Our tasting notes

Glendronach Cask #2091
Distilled 2009/ Bottled at 10 years old/ ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry puncheon/ 61.9% ABV/ 692 bottles/ £100
This is the youngest bottling of the 18 casks selected for Batch 18 and the colour is golden yellow with a hint of copper. The nose is packed with aromas of dark dried fruits -think of raisin and currants in particular - along with a heavy presence of orange, especially the peel and oils. Underneath are hints of hazelnut, ginger cake and cocoa powder.
On the palate the leading note is of fruitcake - the raisin and currants combine with caramel, toffee and toasted almonds to create this feeling. Then come further notes of praline, gingerbread and vanilla. All are supported by that distinct and prominent orange characteristic from the nose, although this feels more like spiced orange now thanks to hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove. Late hints of black treacle and white pepper add to the mix. The extreme ABV makes this hot later on and most would want to add a splash of water. This makes the whisky lovely and creamy, almost fudge-like, and allows other notes to sine through more - this is especially true for the vanilla. The heat is deadened and gives it a more balanced feel.

Glendronach Cask #5897
Distilled 1992/ Bottled at 27 years old/ ex-Port pipe/ 48% ABV/ 853 bottles/ £530
One of the older bottlings in Batch 18 and this whisky has colour of deep amber. The nose is rich, heady and fruity with initial aromas of plum, date, fig and caramel being joined by candied orange, walnut and honey. A suggestion of blackberry jam and crystallised ginger offer further depth and complexity, along with aromas of cinder toffee and beeswax polish in the background.
On the palate this whisky has an immediate richness and feels viscous and mouthcoating. Candied orange and citrus oils mingle with dark dried fruit - think of the plum, date and fig from the nose, plus raisin and sultana. Then comes a distinct note of canned peach with a hint of caramelised pineapple. These are backed up by further notes of gingerbread, dark chocolate and walnut along with chocolate orange (you know, that famous branded one), honey and a heavy pinch of baking spices - imagine cinnamon, all-spice, five spice with later hints of star anise, clove and mace. A final hint of cocoa powder and toffee round things off nicely.

What's the verdict?

These are two very nice whiskies that sit at either end of the Batch 18 selection in terms of age, price and cask type. As mentioned, both are only to be available in the UK and Europe. However, other similar casks and ages are available in the different markets. The only place you will be able to see (and taste) all 18 bottles together is at the distillery, which is a very cool offering.

To us, these two whiskies show two real sweet spots for the Glendronach spirit. The age around 10 years, which always seem to be a bit under rated, and the late 20s seem to really suit the heavy, robust spirit that they produce there. It is great to see this highlighted and also like the idea that different casks are available to different markets. This gives more people the opportunity to buy, rather than spreading fewer casks very thinly across the world.

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