Thursday, February 25, 2016

Whisky Review: Whisky Galore Glendronach 13 Year 1990/2003

Glendronach is rightly famous for its sherry cask matured whisky. But when Allied owned the distillery they filled a fair amount of the spirit into ex-bourbon casks, likely destined for blends. While most of them were used for their intended purpose, a small number were picked up by independent bottlers and released as single malts. This particular cask is important for two reasons - it was made from Glendronach's moderately peated (14 PPM) floor malt and with coal-fired stills. The malting floors were closed in 1996 and the stills changed to steam coils in 2005, so what is currently being distilled should be noticeably different.

Whisky Galore was a line from Duncan Taylor roughly analogous to their current NC2 line - most were bottled at 46% and all were bottled without coloring or chill filtration.

Thanks to Michael Kravitz for the sample.

Whisky Galore Glendronach 13 Year 1990/2003

Nose: Starburst candy, bubblegum, something vinous, vaguely floral, very light herbal peat, a touch of coastal influence, clean malt, oak in the background. After adding a few drops of water, everything pulls together and becomes more integrated, while the malt shows up more clearly and the fruit is a little bit more subdued.

Taste: moderately sweet up front with strong fruit (grape, apples, berries, banana?) esters on top, herbal peat and light bourbon cask character sneak into the background and hang around throughout the palate, becomes maltier around the middle, there's a bump of peat near the back, then it shifts back to malt. After dilution, there is more integration, the apple notes are amplified, and the oak provides more backbone.

Finish: clean malt, more floral, apple/pear esters in the background, herbal/vegetal peat, chocolate oak

This is the type of whisky that is, sadly, rather difficult to find anymore. With most distilleries chasing increasingly intense flavors, whether that be oak, sherry, or peat, the middle ground has been largely hollowed out. Glendronach is best known and celebrated for its intensely sherried whiskies and they are without a doubt very good, but I'm now two for two on bourbon cask releases from the distillery. This hits all of the classic Highland notes of fruit and malt with just enough peat to add complexity and with the cask speaking but not overwhelming the spirit. It's not mind-blowing, but it is very good, especially for something relatively young.

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