Given our recent articles on GlenAllachie, it only seems fair that we return to GlenDronach – or the mothership as Mark refers to it as. I just think of GlenDronach as the distillery I always seem to drive the Tormore4 to every Sunday morning during the excellent Spirit of Speyside festival. What the future holds for GlenDronach remains to be seen. So let’s talk about something else and a spin on the Malt wheel of fortune landed on vintages.
Distilleries have periods or specific years when everything comes together and there’s an evident symmetry in the glass. You’ll hear chatter about an era at Bowmore, certain Springbanks, the old style Macallan bottlings and Jura’s – that’s a joke – you’ll never hear that one. Tormore’s from 1995 are growing increasingly prominent on my radar. What’s behind this coming together to deliver a series of memorable whiskies sometimes isn’t known. Yes, it can be due to production changes, possibly a good year for barley or a batch of great casks. On the other hand, it could just be a stroke of luck, as there is no rhyme or reason for the end result. It’s more about the enjoyment of the moment and once word hits the street; tracking down another bottle!
Once the word is out then these things prove harder to acquire and prices in today’s market inevitability burst upwards. Such was the case with this single cask GlenDronach that heralds from 1993 – this is considered an especially great year for whiskies from this distillery. Selected and bottled for Abbey Whiskey and their ongoing 10th Anniversary celebrations, this online retailer has a knack for picking very good single casks as a website exclusive. This particular release sold out almost immediately once it was revealed. Fear not though as we’d recommend their Anon Batch 2 or a very enjoyable 2006 Glenrothes that is bottled at a whopping 67.1% strength!
Thankfully, Mark and I were fortunate enough to receive samples of this particular GlenDronach to review. Bottled at an impressive 24 years of age and 60.6% strength, the sherry butt (cask #652) unleashed 543 bottles. At the time of release, the price was around £170 and literally flew out of Abbey HQ. Time then for our own individual thoughts and scores.
GlenDronach 24 Year Old – 1993 – Abbey Whisky 10th Anniversary – Review
Colour: Treacle. Honestly, one of the darkest whiskies I’ve ever reviewed.
On the nose: massive. I mean, it’s ridiculously intense: molasses, dark syrup. Figs and balsamic vinegar. Old wood notes – camphor, ink. Raisin. Burnt toffee. Blackberry, elderberries. Port. Coffee. Leather. Only slightly woody, which is impressive considering the colour. Water just allows that woodiness to edge in.
In the mouth: obscene stuff, almost too powerful at first. A dab of water: chocolate, with damson jam. Really rich and plummy – with that jammy intensity being, curiously, rather approachable and not at all off the scale without water. (It is 60.6% ABV, let’s not forget that.) Slightly metallic, in that old wood way. Cola, with coffee and bitter dark chocolate returning. Cloves and Chinese five spice. Ginger, and coffee again on the finish.
This is just ridiculous, to be honest. Way off the flavour scale in some respects, that it’s very difficult to really compare and contrast with other whiskies, or even other GlenDronachs. It’s massively intense – and, perhaps more importantly, it’s sold out. Which means no one can taste it for themselves, unless they splurge at auction, which may or may not add to the cost (which at the time of writing I still don’t know, because I am a fundamentally lazy person, but I’m guessing a couple of hundred notes). Suffice to say, this is an entirely overwhelming GlenDronach, but if you’re into this thing, you might as well go the whole hog.
Colour: Coca Cola.
On the nose: jeez this is bold as with no prisoners taken. A really coarse vanilla mixed in with a herbal basil characteristic. Matched with a thick intense resin, charcoal, dark chocolate, aniseed, macadamia nuts and cinder toffee. Blackberry jam, figs and roasted plums bring a degree of sweetness but also depth. Adding some water tones matters down a touch resulting in more brown sugars and a creamy caramel but little else.
In the mouth: again this is vicious on the palate. Where to unravel this complexity? Star anise, bitter orange, nutmeg, ginger cinnamon, shiitake mushrooms, lemon and a little lime to cut through the density. Yes, practically the whole spice cupboard thrown in. More of those chocolate, treacle and coffee flavours permeating through the bold exterior, this has to take some water. I find it more enjoyable with water and those rough edges sanded down. Now it’s more a vanilla-chocolate mud-bath with cherries and a dry oaky roasted finish.
A real bold formidable GlenDronach. Personally, I don’t go overboard for these sherry beasts even one that’s well into its 2nd decade of maturation and offers more complexity. I can appreciate it for what it is, but would I want to sit down with this on a regular basis? No. I prefer the sherry casks from the 60’s and 70’s that just – well until you experienced these its hard to put into words – offered more balance and layers. As a modern age sherry cask matured whisky, this is certainly up with the best examples from its era. For me though, it’s just a bit overboard.
Note: image via Abbey Whisky. Any commission links help with our hosting costs and do not influence our reviews.