GlenDronach is one of my top five distilleries as it produces consistently good whisky at very sensible prices. Also, I like that it is one of the few distilleries around that create sherry bombs, those intensely dark-fruitastic sherry-cask-matured whiskies that make your knees quiver. The core range is very good too.
So GlenDronach decided that it was time for something completely different: the GlenDronach Peated.
Now, some of the old drinkers are thinking: GlenDronach used to be peated! And you’d be right. You can see descriptions of old bottles that combine the sherry flavours with a lightly peated GlenDronach spirit. But certainly in the new era, GlenDronach has earned its reputation for deliciously sweet whiskies, which makes the GlenDronach Peated is very much an unusual release.
A brief history of GlenDronach
GlenDronach is a Highland distillery, which was founded in 1826 by James Allardice. It was one of the first distilleries founded after the Excise Act of 1832, which sanctioned the distillation of whisky in exchange for a license fee. GlenDronach was built in the Valley of Forgue, which lies in the centre of Aberdeenshire’s castle country. The Dronac burn – from which the distillery gets its water – flows through the grounds. And it’s from this water source that the distillery gets its name.
The distillery was later expanded by Walter Scott of Teaninich, and in 1920 passed into the hands of Charles Grant, son of the Glenfiddich distillery founder. For 40 years it remained in the family, but in 1960 was sold to Teacher’s, whereupon it supplied whisky for blending. A flurry of business deals: in 1996 the distillery was mothballed by Allied Distillers, who owned Teacher’s in the 1970s, then moved to Chivas Brothers before finally being sold into the independent hands of the folk who owned the BenRiach distillery (and later Glenglassaugh).
GlenDronach does things the old-fashioned way. Much of the barley used for production is grown locally. Glendronach has its own floor maltings, providing around 15% of the malt used in making whisky. It was the last distillery in Scotland to use coal-fired furnaces to heat its two pairs of stills, before being converted to indirect steam heating. And finally the whisky is matured in the original cool, damp dunnage warehouses, with stone walls and earth floors, and where the barrels are stacked no more than three high. If you had a romantic view of a whisky distillery, then GlenDronach would fit the bill rather nicely.
GlenDronach Peated Tasting notes
The GlenDronach Peated is bottled at 46% ABV and costs around £35 a bottle.
On the nose: exceptionally light, honeyed and fresh. The peat is gentle, certainly – it says Peated not Heavily Peated on the bottle after all. Quite fruity, in fact: perry cider. Touches of vanilla – bourbon casks, rather than sherry here.
In the mouth: lovely texture – this is a quality spirit. Creamy, buttery and very mellow peat. Chamomile tea. Honey. Green tea. Unlike some of the Islay peated whiskies, there isn’t a bold saltiness or citrus note here, nor is it especially smokey, which I often find with those ones. Rather it’s more vegetative, mossy and earthy. Plenty of barley, and a new-spirit fruitiness. Floral. Touches of mango. This leans towards a Viognier wine.
Certainly it’s pretty young, and the casks haven’t yet radically gone to town on the whisky. But I think the GlenDronach spirit is good enough for this to work well at whatever age this is. I’m imagining what this will be like with time, or even a more heavily peated spirit.
Well, the GlenDronach Peated is certainly a change of gear! A quirky little whisky. Perfect to sip in the spring, or outdoors on a cool summer evening. It’s not at all a complex, mind-bending whisky, don’t get me wrong. At £35 a bottle, you probably wouldn’t expect it to be. The trick to really enjoying this whisky (or any, I suppose) is in coming to it without any expectations and enjoying it for what it is.
And I really like this. It’s totally not what I expected from GlenDronach – that’s the point – but it’s interesting and a fantastic experiment. Most importantly, this is something you should very much throw into a blind tasting. I imagine the typical whisky drinker, well, she may easily put this down as a young Kilchoman or Caol Ila…