Thursday, May 25, 2023

Review / Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 12

The new whisky is the latest limited addition to the Cask Strength series from the Highland distillery of Glendronach. The Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 12 has used whiskies of differing ages matured in ex-Pedro Ximénez and ex-Oloroso sherry casks from Andalucía in the south of Spain. The whisky has been created by Dr. Rachel Barrie, the Master Blender for Glendronach. The series was started by former owner Billy Walker and has gained somewhat of a cult status amongst whisky fans. The Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 12 is bottled at 58.2% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It is available through selected specialist whisky retailers worldwide. A bottle will cost £75. 

The Glendronach distillery was founded in 1826 by James Allardice and is located in rural Aberdeenshire, close to the town of Huntly. The majority of the present buildings date from 1850 when the distillery was rebuilt following a devastating fire. 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, who took control in 2016. The annual production has recently increased to around two million litres. 

"The Glendronach Cask Strength series offers a deep insight into the distillery’s signature character, by bottling at the whisky’s natural cask strength, as was the custom before the turn of the 20th Century. Add a drop or two of water to Batch 12 to open up the liquid and reveal a cornucopia of flavours." 
Dr. Rachel Barrie. 
Our tasting notes 

The colour is deep amber and the nose is rich and expressive. Aromas of dark dried fruits (think of raisins and prunes especially), mocha and crème brûlée are to the fore and are supported by further aromas of orange oil, toasted hazelnut and caramelised peach. There are also hints of sandalwood, dusty spices and chocolate coated cherry.

On the palate this whisky feels rich, sweet and indulgent. It is exceptionally well balanced given the high ABV.  Juicy dried fruits lead the way with plump raisins and brandy-soaked prunes to the fore. There are also notes of bitter orange peel and maraschino cherry - the orange evolves to be more marmalade-like, while the cherry becomes the chocolate coated cherry from the nose with time.

There is incredible depth to the whisky. Further notes of burnt caramel and a hint of black treacle wrap around the fruity elements and are supported by more savoury characteristics. Dusty and earthy spices add warmth (imagine cinnamon, ginger and szechuan pepper) while sandalwood and chamoix leather give complexity. There are late hints of toasted almond and walnut, coffee grounds and clove.

The finish is long, rich and warming. The dried fruit and citrus notes linger deep into the finish and work well with the more savoury and spicy notes. The black treacle and blowtorched crème brûlée really come through towards the end, as does soem fiery pepper and ginger powder.

What's the verdict?

This Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 12 is a sumptuous and decadent whisky, and one of the best in the series for a while. As mentioned, the series has a cult following with people constantly comparing releases or discussing if the Billy Walker bottlings are better than Rachel Barrie's. To us, one is not better than the other. But they both have different approaches. 
Walker went down the heavier 'sherry bomb' route, which some people preferred, while Barrie seems to be showing the subtlety and nuance in what an ex-sherry cask can do. The recent whiskies may not be as big and bold as in the past but now have more depth and elegance, which this Batch 12 has in abundance and that we prefer. 

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