17 Jul
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Spiritual Guide: GlenDronach Batch 16

A new guide for spiritual enlightenment by the pious team at Glengarry. Join us monthly as we explore everything spirit related. View the full issue online here.

GlenDronach Batch 16


GlenDronach Distillery can be found nestled in the hills of the Scottish Highlands, about an hour northwest of Aberdeen.  Founder James Allardice, an exuberant extrovert by nature, led a consortium of local farmers and businessmen in creating this distillery, with it being amongst the first to receive a licence under the 1823 Excise Tax legislation.

GlenDronach whisky quickly grew in popularity, especially among local nobility who would introduce Allardice to contacts in London; this high standing went straight to his head, leading to neglect of the distillery and its eventual bankruptcy in 1842. In the time since, the distillery has been owned by one of the sons of William Grant of Glenfiddich, then William Teacher and Sons before ending up in the hands of Allied Distillers for use in blends like Teacher’s and Ballantine’s.

As was common at the time, with surplus stock due to an industry in decline, GlenDronach was closed in 1995. Production resumed in 2002, and in 2008 was purchased by BenRiach Distillery Co, led by Billy Walker who oversaw the revival of these brands.  It is quite possible this period of inactivity is what contributed to this whisky becoming a favourite for myself.

A whisky not stripped of its guts by chill filtering and not watered down to 40% after being aged in delicious Sherry butts to produce big, bold, yet balanced treacle treats that will always get me going (think Homer Simpson drooling).  I am always loath to choose or even voice a favourite, but this sits firmly in 1st equal.  I suppose if you looked at my current stock holding at home this would be obvious.

Another theory that has led to the boom in popularity of this distillery around the world, and my spirit cupboard (which I alluded to above), is the fact they were closed for several years from 1995.  Upon resumption of production, conscious of their place in the market, it was decided that they would continue with their core range of 12, 15, 18 and 21 year-old bottlings. The gap in production this meant that the “re-releases” of these bottles were made up of stock much older than stated on the bottle.  A Dutch blogger by the name of Bert Rutkowski (hero) did all the hard work and neatly published a graph (can be found here) which shows the technical age of these whiskies at the current times.

For instance, in 2017 the 15 yr old became 15 yr old spirit distilled in 2002 etc, but for the 2016 release of this whisky, the stock used was from prior to closing (6yrs earlier) making it 20-21 years old.  Now, the truth of this has never been questioned or published by GlenDronach (that I can find). However, conveniently, right at this time of peak age was when GlenDronach 15 was the favourite amongst every whisky geek I have spoken to and sales reached such a high that it is no longer available.  Fortunately, this coincided with my growing passion for whisky!

Next on the list approaching peak age is the 18 year “Allardice” which by 2019 will unofficially be made up of 24-year-old spirit.  At an RRP of $175 this is outstanding value for an already outstanding value 18-year-old, 46% Sherry Cask.  Delightful tastes of Christmas cake, chocolate, almonds, honey and stone fruits.  It kind of reminds me of a Sauterne with a touch of heavy Rum added and is certainly just as drinkable.

Insert drinks break here.

Right, enough rambling. The reason we talk about GlenDronach in this issue of the Spiritual Guide is the impending arrival of the 16th collection of Single Cask releases by GlenDronach. Each year the Master Distiller chooses a selection of casks that embody the finest traits of GlenDronach.

Current Master Distiller Rachel Barrie says “Each cask individually demonstrates the finesse, powerful complexity and rich layers of Sherry cask maturation found in every GlenDronach expression”.

The 16th Batch is the largest we have seen, comprised of 15 different casks released which each yielded between 513 and 698 bottles.  Being an eagerly awaited release somehow spread across the globe; NZ has been allocated 2-3 cases of only 7 of these releases. Still it’s clear we have an above average allocation (obviously based on our drinking habits) of these single cask releases due to the number of international enquiries we receive when these are available through our website.

The releases available here range from a 12-year-old distilled in 2005 through to a pair of 27-year olds distilled in 1990.  The limited nature of these means we don’t often get to open these to sample and review, though I managed to hide one away from Batch 15 for our World Whisky Day tasting in May which caused a bit of a stampede.  But as you may have noticed, I am a bit of a sucker for this distillery so have already pre-purchased (sorry you had to find out this way Boss!) Cask 3311, a 22-year-old PX cask sold on its notes of treacle toffee and fruitcake drizzled with acacia honey bottled at 50.3%, and Cask 4648 a 15-year-old PX cask bottled at a heart-warming 54.7%, in the hope that this is some insight into how the standard 15-year-old release will look upon its return to the market in the next year or 2 (fingers crossed).

Our bean counter tells me the boat carrying this wealth of golden liquid is in NZ waters, so that was enough for me to make them available online. First in first served!  View the official tasting notes to see which one tickles your fancy.

I’ll share mine if you share yours! Slainte.

Anthony Sorensen