I suppose we’ve run out of words to describe special things in the whisky industry. Premium. Prestige. Special. Limited. I suppose no one has the balls to come out with a “really fucking fancy, mate” whisky, and we’re a poorer people for it.
It’s actually an interesting state of affairs: I work in the industry, and therefore it is curious to watch how other brands use the English language, to find the next over-egged phrase to describe a product. Personally, I think it speaks of either a lack of confidence or generally an extensive range in which most other words have been burned out. The industry’s marketing teams borrow or steal massively from each other; it’s slightly cannibalistic at best, like some flesh-eating virus at its worst. Don’t even get me started on producers reaching for the French words, like terroir, and getting it all arse about tit. (I said don’t… Anyway, I’ve already been there.)
Have we reached Peak Adjective? The more brands that come out to market – with equally little to say about provenance, because there is almost no provenance in whisky – the more brands have to strive to be a bit different, which means more words. We must be different. At least with Scotch whisky, they have to stay within the boundaries of truth. In Ireland, they blatantly lie and get away with it repeatedly. In storytelling, there’s generally a rule of thumb that you tend to avoid purple prose. It is (except on Malt, where one or two of us quite enjoy a robust purpling of our sentences – as if myself and Adam are warring it out for the most overblown, attention-seeking sentence) considered a faux pas. But why not stick more adjectives onto our labels? Why not clutter them up with extraneous words, cake them in ornate script, or spaff out meaningless epithets? Not that I am accusing GlenDronach of that – but the “Master Vintage” has prompted this particularly ranty rant.
Master Vintage. I mean, clearly “vintage 1993” (not a proper ingredient-based vintage, because whisky doesn’t do proper vintages, because we’re all very silly, but the year a whisky was distilled) is not enough any longer. Vintage isn’t posh enough – a bit like those middling Tory MPs that didn’t go to Eton and therefore don’t really make it to the front benches quickly enough. Sorry, old boy.
Master Vintage. I’m not at all sure what this means. The material states 1993 is revered among GlenDronach fans – I’m not so sure it is particularly the case, given GlenDronach nerds have many good years to appreciate. Was 1993 a good year for the stills? Was the copper particularly porous that year? Was the spirit cut different to the previous year? Were the casks that had rolled off the boat from Spain any better?
Anyway, what we have with the Master Vintage is a 25 year old GlenDronach that has been matured in Pedro Ximénez And Oloroso Sherry Casks – nothing new there, then, and that’s kind of the problem, if indeed it is a problem, with GlenDronach, in that it has spoiled us over the year with bloody old and great whiskies that have been matured in PX and Oloroso casks. First World problems.
Oh, it’s bottled at 48.2% ABV. Price? £250. Thanks to the Glendronach team for the sample.
Glendronach Master Vintage 1993 – Aged 25 Years – Review
On the nose: praline, slightly winey notes. Touches of blackcurrant, raspberry jam. Toffee. Hazlenut. Milk chocolate. Coffee – Tiramisu, vanilla. Apricots. Golden syrup on baked sponge cake. The winey notes return, with black tea. After a while, the vanilla, syrup, ginger notes simply hang about too long for a GlenDronach. It’s pleasantly sweet, slightly bready, but a little two-dimensional; and quite light. At worst, it’s starting to feel… Macallan-esque. Shudder!
In the mouth: rather a gentle beast if I’m honest, though what’s here is charming enough: yes, the praline, nuttiness is here, smothered in apricots and stem ginger, with Tiramisu echoing the nose. Cinnamon, just a touch. Leans towards some slight marmalade-covered ham note and olive oil, croissants, but a touch of blandness if I am honest. A slightly earthy note on the finish: herbal, but not rounded, not a diverse combination of flavours.
Lacks a bit of body, a bit of backbone and complexity, compared to the usual very high GlenDronach standard. It’s still an okay whisky, but it’s not as good as this distillery can produce. You should save your pennies for another month and track down the Grandeur Batch 10, which was fabulous.
I am a big fan, continue to be, but when we love a distillery that usually means we pay them extra close attention. We are tougher to please, like a pushy parent. We are – dare I say it – approximately 15% more grumpy than usual.