Friday, March 12, 2021

The GlenDronach 18th Batch Cask Bottling Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


I've come to respect Dr. Rachel Barrie. She's the Master Blender of The GlenDronach, The BenRiach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries. I've been blessed with some amazing opportunities to taste selections from the first two - I've yet to try the latter. Regardless, Dr. Barrie has proven to me she knows what she is doing and doesn't fool around when it comes to whisky.


The GlenDronach is a distillery in Scottland's Highland region. Established in 1826, it is one of the oldest licensed distilleries. The distillery concentrates heavily on aging its whiskies in former sherry casks as well as craft casks.


The most recent release is their Cask Bottling Series, called The 18th Batch. The release is comprised of eighteen casks selected by Dr. Barrie for their unique character and representations of what the distillery has to offer. Four of those casks have been released in the United States:  2008 Cask #3017, aged 12 years, 2005 Cask #1928, aged 14 years, 1994 Cask #5287, aged 26 years, and 1993 Cask #7102, aged 27 years.


The GlenDronach Cask Bottling Batch 18 is a celebration of the distillery’s time-honored mastery and a showcase of the finest of what this richly-sherried Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has to offer.


This long-standing, much-loved release is a focal point to each year, demonstrating the exquisite character of our whiskies, through these exceptional casks which I have carefully hand-selected. Each cask individually explores the sophistication, powerful intricacy, and rich layers of Spanish sherry cask maturation found in every expression of The GlenDronach." - Dr. Barrie

The four are all naturally-colored and non-chill filtered. I've had a chance to try each, and am combining them into a single, four-part review. Before I get started, I'd like to thank The GlenDronach for providing the samples in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious.



2008 Cask #3017





This single malt has been aged 12 years in a former Olorosso sherry cask, filled in the late summer to take advantage of the peak interaction of the newmake and sherry.  It is bottled at 59.8% ABV (119.6°). There was a yield of 628 bottles with a suggested retail price of $120.00.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, 1994 presented as a golden amber color. It offered a thinner rim, but thick, slow legs that fell back to the pool. 


Nose:  Aromas of raisin, nutmeg, caramel, and nuts were easy to pick out. Beneath those were plum and dark chocolate. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, sherry notes were evident.


Palate:  Full-bodied and oily, I tasted thick honey, orange marmalade, and raisin on the front. At mid-palate, I discovered a blend of nutmeg and chocolate. On the back, the chocolate continued and was joined with fig and oak.


Finish:  Long, sweet, and dry, the finish consisted of mint, raisin, candied orange slices, fig, oak, and dry sherry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  For about $120, we're scratching the ceiling of 12-year Scotch. But, not when you take into account the proof. Sherry notes abound, Cask #3017 does nothing to mask it and, in fact, shines a spotlight on it. Folks that crave sherry-bombs are going to drool. Folks who are new to Highland Scotch might as well.  I left happy, and this snags my Bottle rating.



2005 Cask #1928






Aged 14 years in a former Pedro Ximénex cask before being dumped and bottled, Dr. Barrie suggests the PX sherry influences both the light and dark aspects of the whisky. Packaged at 58% ABV (116°), there are 612 bottles available for about $150.00 each.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this single-malt had the color of golden honey. It formed a medium-thick rim with sticky drops. Those eventually gave way to heavy, slow legs.


Nose:  As if there was a theme, honey was the first thing picked up by my nose. The smells of blackberry, cinnamon, raisin, dried cherry, ginger, and dark chocolate were unmistakable. When I inhaled through my lips, black cherry rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  Despite the only two-year difference between this and the 2008 cask, the mouthfeel was incredibly thick.  On the front, flavors of cherry, plum, and molasses hit hard. The middle was milder with raisin, honey, and mint. Then, on the back, blackberry danced with dark chocolate and vanilla cream.


Finish:  Long and dry, Cask #1928 featured oak, dark chocolate, mint, raisin, and cherry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  PX sherry cask Scotch is generally easy to appreciate as it is big on the sweet fruits.  Cask #1928 goes a step beyond that with its finish, adding a whole new dimension to what's expected. I was shocked at how easy this was to sip despite its high ABV.  Dry did not equal burn. Priced fairly for its age and proof, I find no barricade for a Bottle recommendation.



1994 Cask #5287





This cask was a former Ruby Port pipe sourced from the Douro Valley region of Portugal. 1994 was a small distillation year for The GlenDronach, making this cask even more limited. Only 638 bottles are available at 51.3% ABV (102.6°), with a suggested retail of $415.00.


Appearance:  Presenting as the color of golden chestnut, the rim was broad with slow, plump legs that crawled back to the whisky. 


Nose:  The Port wine influence was indisputable. Plum and cherry jam blended with coffee, truffle, and molasses. Beneath those was butterscotch.  When I pulled the fumes across my palate, the earthy notes of truffle continued.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thick, jammy, and luxurious. On the front, I tasted cherry, raisin, and plum. The middle offered dark chocolate, caramel, and roasted walnuts. Then, on the back, flavors of coffee, truffles, and dry oak rounded things out.


Finish:  If you like freight-train finishes, this doesn't disappoint. Several minutes afterward, it kept chugging along. There were earthy truffles, smoky oak, deep, dark chocolate, and nuts.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  One of the cool things is when a whisky doesn't give you a chance to forget about it. The finish never ends. There's no getting distracted and struggling to recall what you've poured. Cask #5287 is like a Vulcan mind-meld. You're stuck with it. Thankfully, it is delicious. The palate wasn't overly complicated which, again, allowed me to relish this whisky. It scores a Bottle rating. 



1993 Cask #7102




Aged for a whopping 27 years in an Oloroso sherry cask, this single malt is the obvious oldest of the bunch. At 51.4% ABV (102.8°), there is a premium for the additional year - it will set you back about $600.00. There are only 633 bottles produced.


Appearance:  After forming a very heavy rim on my Glencairn glass, husky legs raced back to the whiskey.  The color was deep and dark, almost like maple syrup.


Nose:  There was so much that went on here. Molasses, chocolate-covered cherries, cinnamon, ginger, strawberry jam, orange marmalade, raisin, and spiced rum... have you ever had good fruitcake? That's what came to mind as I got lost in the aroma. I also encountered berry cobbler. When I breathed in through my mouth, orange marmalade and plum tangoed across the palate.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was full-bodied and weighty. Date, molasses, and honey mead hit the front. The middle ponied up dark chocolate, black cherry, and raisin. On the back, I tasted oak, dark chocolate, and honey.


Finish:  The finish simply would not quit. Dark chocolate, date, dry oak, black cherry, and spiced plum stuck around with smoke intermingling between each sensation. By smoke, I want to be clear this was not peat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I'll be frank. There is absolutely nothing not to like about Cask #7102. Flavors were bold but didn't trample over one another. I fell in love with the mouthfeel, and, oh, that nose! This one's just a fantastic, beautiful whisky that I can't say enough good things about, earning it a Bottle recommendation.


Final Thoughts:  While all four were special, I believe the two stand-outs were the 2005 and 1993 casks. The two youngest casks I considered value against what I was tasting. But, once you start getting into the 26- and 27-year Scotches, the prices get steep, but remember, you're also paying for something that is rare. This helped me get past my usual value statement that I do with most others and it became less of a consideration.


None of these whiskies are peated, and none had that astringent (Band-Aid) quality that some folks find unappealing. Despite their higher proofs, they were all easy sippers and while I tried them with water to satisfy my curiosity, it wasn't necessary and my tasting notes are based on all-neat pours.


I'm not sure where you could go wrong with any of the four, but my order top to bottom would be 1993, 2005, 1994, then 2008.  Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

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