Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Whisky Review: Duncan Taylor Glendronach 33 Year - Three Generations

This was a bottling put together to commemorate the three generations of the Shand family to work at Glendronach: Albert Shand was the distillery manager in 1975 when the spirit was distilled, Euan Shand (who now owns Duncan Taylor) was a trainee at the time and coopered the cask that the spirit was aged in, and his son Andrew Shand bottled the cask in 2008.

This whisky comes from a single ex-bourbon cask that was bottled at 51.4% without coloring or chill filtration.

Duncan Taylor Glendronach 33 Year 1975/2008 

Nose: beeswax/honeycomb, lots of clean malt, lightly floral (violets and roses), green fruits (apples, pears), jammy berries, mango, a sake/rice edge, caramel, dusty oak, whole milk dairy creaminess, musky vanilla bean, very mild peat in the background, green tea. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes darker - more jammy fruit, the oak becomes more pronounced and polished, some baking chocolate pops out, and the malts retreats,

Taste: honied barley and wood sugars up front, becoming floral, peppery, and tannic with berry and apple overtones around the middle, with a touch of peat and grainy bitterness plus increasing oak near the back. After dilution, the berry/fruit notes ride on top of everything, while the floral notes fade significantly and the oak becomes much more tannic.

Finish: mild oak, floral malt, beeswax, very mild peat, a touch of sandalwood incense

For having spent over three decades in oak, this whisky is surprisingly fresh. Yes, there is a fairly heavy dose of oak tannins to give it backbone, but the malt is very present and almost green, though that may have to do with the moderate level of peat (14 PPM) used in Glendronach's floor maltings. Overall I find this to be a really classic example of an older bourbon cask malt, with the combination of floral and fruit flavors one gets from alcohol and acids getting plenty of time to turn into esters. I'm glad that Duncan Taylor didn't leave it in the cask any longer as I suspect it might have become overly tannic after too many more years in oak - this is creeping up towards the edge but doesn't slip over. It's also an interesting contrast to the more common ex-sherry cask style that Glendronach is known for. I've tried most of their core range and enjoyed all of them, but all three are very sherry-driven, so this was a way to get to know the distillery's spirit in a more 'naked' form.

I was lucky enough to not only find this whisky on sale, but also split it with friends. I might not have taken a risk on it by myself and it's always interesting to get different angles on the same whisky. Both MAO and Michael enjoyed it quite a lot, with similar but not quite the same notes.

If you'd like to try this one, it's theoretically still available from Binny's for $200, which is a pretty significant chunk of change, but not absurd for a whisky of this age and vintage nowadays. I paid $170 and felt like I got a reasonable deal for a special occasion bottle, especially since I was able to split the cost.


  1. This was among top 3 whiskies I had last year - possibly the best! I know some of our friends got excited about the Black Bull 30yo , but for me this one stole the show. Textbook old-whisky bitterness (the tannins that you mention, I suppose). If Binny's still has it, it's a good deal!

    The only way someone would be underwhelmed by this (I'm looking at you MAO and Michael) is if they expected a sherry bomb, which, as everyone went a great length to point out, it isn't.

    1. Did I ever send you a sample of the DT Benriach 34? They have a lot of similar characteristics, though the Glendronach has more cask influence.

    2. No DTB34 from you - I've yet to enter the Circle of Trust I guess. I'll drink the Glendronach 33 even more jealously, Binny's has it no longer.

    3. I think I have enough left that I can send you some. The bottle's been open for a couple of years, but it's still good stuff.

  2. Hm, I might have to try and find a bottle here in MA. I've been wanted to treat myself to something for having survived a very hard year.

    Did you see the article in Wired about the guy engineering "aged" spirits?