Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.
As mentioned earlier, our home during our short stay in Scotland was the Glen House, which shares the grounds and pre-dates the building of the GlenDronach distillery. Located in a Glen (valley) alongside the Dronach Burn (river), the GlenDronach distillery was built in 1826 making it the elder-statesman of the three distilleries in the BenRiach Distilling Company. Much of the equipment and processes remain unchanged, although production was increased in the 1960s with the addition of a second set of stills. Amazingly, at the time the decision was made to have an exact replica of their original spirits safe made to ensure cohesion and to continue the traditions.
The washbacks at GlenDronach are all traditional timber, however they are made using Scottish Spruce instead of the usual Douglas Fir (also known as Oregon Pine). The Under Back is also an usual beauty, of cast iron and copper.
Maturation at GlenDronach is almost exclusively done in Sherry Butts and Puncheons, which provides the rich, round and spicy character that the brand has long been known for. There is however a small selection of unique finishing’s, found amongst the rare and much sought after ‘Batch Releases’.
The Manager’s Cask available for Hand Filling at the distilleries visitor centre during our stay was a 1st Fill Olorosso Sherry Butt, filled on the 12th February 1993. Considering this is 1 day (and 3 years) after my own birth I had little choice but purchase one myself. Sampling of the malt was graciously accepted, as I hope to keep this bottle as part of my collection, and the dark mahogany liquid did not disappoint! The nose indicated the heavy sherry influence, with dark dried fruits, heavy roasted nuts and a hint of bitter chocolate and coffee. The palate was rich and bold, with bitter chocolate, muscovado sugar and prunes. The finish was long, but lifted by the warmth of its cask strength.
Our tasting featured two unique GlenDronach malts, first was a 1992 Single Cask 25 Year Old. This shared much in common with the Manager’s Casks, with a depth of colour hinting at 2nd if not 1st fill sherry cask maturation. It was again sherry influenced, with dried apricot and prunes on toffee oat cakes.
Our second malt was a more unusual offering from the GlenDronach stables, a peated malt that was finished in Port Pipes. With a stunning red hue in the glass, the peat smoke stood between whiffs of red berries and plum. On the palate this malt instantly conjured up memories of the Plum Barbecue sauce my father has always basted his Pork Ribs with. The smoke, layered with the rich and sweet plum and a hint of spice. A vibrant red fruit note towards the finish to cleanse the palate, ready for another sip.