A relative who knows I’m a huge fan of anything Hannibal recently sent me a link that suggested the show could come back for a fourth season on Netflix. This got me excited as well as sentimental. It’s been seven years since the first season came out, and I remember still being in college, just getting into sherry-influenced single malt back then. Hannibal is infamous for loving wine, but being a huge fan was not enough for me to take a deep dive into that particular drink. I was not and am still not into wine. I like to eat (animal) liver with anything but Chianti. Instead, I’d drink a dram of Glendronach 12 whenever a new episode came out. I thought to myself, it’s red like red wine and has influences of sherry, which is a type of wine, anyways. I went through three bottles of Glendronach 12, if I recall correctly, which is a lot for me. I usually only ever buy one bottle per release.
I remember online chatter that claimed Glendronach (GD) could be the next golden boy of sorts, a primarily sherried single malt that could be a whisky geek’s new Macallan. Macallan was, at that point, releasing more NAS and slowly getting rid of some releases with age statements. It, along with Aberlour A’bunadh, were the talks of the town when it came to sherry bombs. GDs were full of age statements and priced very well compared to Macallan. Their single casks were a lot more affordable then, too. Oh, where did that optimism go, after Brown-Forman got their hands on what Billy Walker built?
Oddly, I remember “reviewing more GDs” as one of the requests when Malt asked what their readership wanted for 2020. Luckily, this ex-bourbon Glendronach became available as SMWS started being imported in the Philippines. I figured this would be a good chance to compare a single cask ex-bourbon aged Glendronach with a single cask PX aged Glendronach. Sadly, I don’t have a single cask Oloroso. I also emptied my Octarine, could have shown what a double matured GD would be like. Hopefully, these reviews will satisfy whoever made that request, though this might be cheating; these two OB single casks are from Billy Walker’s era. The main focus of this piece should be on the 10 Year PX and 11 Year SWMS. I just added the 17 Year PX as a bonus.
Glendronach 10 Year Single Cask 2002 PX Puncheon – review
Cask #1988, distilled: 03/07/2002, bottled: 05/2013. Bottle # 544/664. ABV: 55.6%.
On the nose: A strong welcome of paint thinner and polishing paste. It’s followed by brief whiffs of sulfur, chocolate, umeshu, coffee, canned peaches, figs, sultanas, raisins and cinnamon. At the end, I get more acidic scents, which remind me of cranberries and cherries.
In the mouth: Hints of sulfur greet me, but it quickly dissipates into coffee and chocolate raisins. Another wave of coffee, cherries, figs, canned peaches, undertones of fake maraschino cherries and cinnamon. More hints of sulfur come up but also quickly disappear. Some tart red grapes, kyoho grapes, pink peppercorn and varnish at the end.
A really pleasant dram. I found this expensive ($90) when I bought this in 2013, but now, when I see what most sherried spirits have become, I think it’s worth it. The ABV really doesn’t bother me. It felt more like a 46%, while having the more robust flavors of higher proof spirits. The flavors are robust enough to be noticed, but none of them really stick out in terms of strength and length to ruin the balance.
The lack of sulfur notes makes me remember why I really fell hard for sherried single malt back then. I guess the sulfur issue really is with the newer casks. But then, 90% of my sherried whisky experiences are with Oloroso sherry. I guess I unconsciously welcome this change of sherry flavor.
SWMS 96.15 “Lively as a basket of bees” – review
11 years old, distilled: June 8, 2006. Cask: Refill barrel/ex-bourbon, ABV: 59.7%.
Color: first steeped white tea bag.
On the nose: Surprisingly mellow notes of wax, lemon, cloves, honey and hints of cinnamon. This basically smells like a hot toddy without the hot water blasting you. I can paint a mental image of a glass filled with diluted honey, a cinnamon stick sticking out with a clove shoved into a slice of lemon.
In the mouth: A pretty sharp sweet taste at the beginning. Something like a floral honey syrup breaks down into nutmeg, cloves, lemon, peppers and wax. Surprising notes of toasted coconut husk and coconut appear at the end.
For an 11-year-old, high ABV single malt, this was pretty tame. The flavors didn’t jump out at me—yet, while lacking, they were coherent in painting a picture. Every note in this was enjoyable. I think it’s sad that there isn’t much to it, but I like my first experience with an ex-bourbon-aged, single-cask Glendronach.
Glendronach 17 Year Single Cask 1996 PX Sherry Puncheon – review
Cask 1490, distilled: 16/02/1996 and bottled: 05/2013. Bottle # 565/709 and ABV: 53.1.
Color: fish sauce.
On the nose: A heavy dose of PX sherry, apricot and figs, followed a bit more sulfur. But the apricots and figs present themselves in a tart syrup that quickly fades away. Another sniff gives way to more sulfur, which lasts longer this time, and balsamic vinegar. Behind it are more subtle scents of stewed apples, cinnamon and milk chocolate.
In the mouth: A welcoming wallop of sulfur and thyme. Lasting undertones of stewed apples, peach liqueur, cinnamon syrup and muscovado syrup.
This is a first for Glendronach for me in the way that this is stronger and more complex on the nose, while being more mellow yet lasting in the mouth. The rest I’ve had, single cask or not, have been more expressive in the mouth.
I found this perplexing, too, because I assumed an older cask would have less sulfur in it. I guess the whisky spending more time in the cask gave it more sulfur influence.
I spent $150 for this back in 2013. I loved its punchiness when I wasn’t sensitive to sulfur notes years ago. If I had reviewed this years ago, I would have given this an 8.