Whisky Review #50: Glendronach 1978 31 Years Old (Cask #1040)

And so here we are, the second big milestone for this blog: The 50th review. I know that I promised something spectacular to commemorate this achievement, and I reckon that I have definitely fulfilled that aspect with the whisky that I have selected.

How can you not love Glendronach? It is, according to many people (and including myself), what a Macallan used to taste like. Densely sherried, rich fruits, malty and with a complex nose and mouthfeel, the whiskies from Glendronach sound perfect as digestifs (although we all know that it is absolutely perfect anytime of the day).

Now, rather than delve into the history of the distillery as I always do, I’m going to focus more on my rather limited experience with the brand for a change. I believe that it would be safe for me to say that most people within the Asia Pacific region would not have heard much about the Glendronach brand until 2010-2011, but they will surely know it very well by now.

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Glendronach 12 Years Old “Original”

My first experience with the Glendronach was back in early 2010, when I was at the airport waiting for my flight to Melbourne and on my way to see my newborn niece for the first time.

After checking in, I headed to the airport branch of Harry’s Bar and was browsing the menu for whisky when a particular brand caught my eye: Glendronach. Having never sampled the whisky from the distillery prior to that moment, I decided to give it a try.

I placed an order for a dram of Glendronach 12 Years Old “Original” (which cost me $18 per dram and was inclusive of taxes and service charge) and took a sip when it arrived. The rich sherried and woody character of the 12 Years Old expression took me by surprise and I was hooked.

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Glendronach 18 Years Old “Allardice”

Over the next few years, I furthered my whisky education and set out to try as many different expressions from as many different distilleries as I could. In that process, I forgot about that first Glendronach experience and only revisited it in 2012, when I was at the Auld Alliance whisky bar in Singapore.

While perusing the menu, I came across the Glendronach 18 Years Old “Allardice”. Now, I had heard some really good things about this particular expression and decided to check it out for myself. Rich, intense sherry coupled with dark chocolate, hints of orange, sweet malt and just a hint of smoke. From that moment on, this became one of my top 5 favourite whiskies.

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Glendronach 21 Years Old “Parliament”

The next expression from Glendronach that I tried was the 21 Years Old “Parliament”, which was at the Pot Still bar in Glasgow and just after my trip to Islay (when my friends and I were staying the night in the city before making our way to Dublin the following day).

At £8.45 for a 45ml pour, it was a bloody steal! Considering the same amount of whisky would cost upwards of $40++ in Singapore, I knew I was dealing with a bargain and happily obliged. It’s a rich and densely sherried whisky, but somewhat different from the Allardice expression which I absolutely adored.

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Glendronach 15 Years Old “Revival”, served for some reason in a cognac snifter

Funnily enough, the Glendronach 15 Years Old “Revival” expression was the last of the core range that I had the pleasure of trying. I was at a restaurant for dinner on my birthday last year and came across this beauty on the menu. Having heard rave reviews and knowing that it was about to become difficult to acquire due to a lack of stock in the warehouses for the next 3 years, it was a no brainer.

Once again, it was a different beast from the “Allardice” expression, but there were definite similarities there which made me enjoy it immensely. It also served as a great accompaniment to what was an exceptional birthday dinner.

So, this brings me to where we are for this review: the Glendronach 1978 31 Years Old, drawn from a single Oloroso sherry puncheon and something that I tried without doing any prior research. I basically went with the notion that I had never previously been subjected to an adverse expression of Glendronach and so the expectation that this was going to be as exceptional as the rest.

I found this beauty at the Auld Alliance (them again) and it was definitely on the pricey side as it cost me about $56 for a half dram (20ml pour). That being said, I didn’t mind spending that much on what I perceived to be a good dram. However, nothing could prepare me for just how good a dram it was.

So, let’s dive right into the review!

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Glendronach 1978 31 Years Old (Cask #1040)

Glendronach 1978 31 Years Old (51.2% abv, Cask #1040)

Colour: Dark rosewood

Nose: Inital entry is densely sherried, with raisins, apricots and hints on orange to the fore. With time, espresso beans and cocoa powder augment what is an amazingly complex nose. Sweet malt, cinnamon, berry compote and just a hint of oakiness makes this an utterly enjoyable nosing experience! (24/25)

Palate: Mellow, sherried and fruity upon initial entry and keeping in character with the elements detected on the nose. There is a sophisticated sherry note on the palate, coupled with red fruits, raisins, oranges dipped in dark chocolate, apricots, espresso beans, cocoa powder and a distance whiff of smoke.

Unbelievably smooth and coats the palate well. Just a hint of cinnamon and oak on the palate and definitely much more understated than on the nose. Not a whisper of malt in sight, but the stellar nose is followed up with a magnificent experience on the palate. (25/25)

Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with elegantly dense sherry, red fruits, whisps of wood spice, dark chocolate shavings, ripe oranges and sherried raisins. Sumptuous blackcurrants make an appearance towards the very end along with a generous helping of berry compote.

Becomes increasingly oaky towards the end, but that just adds on the the stellar character of this dram. (25/25)

Balance: An exceptionally well balanced dram and definitely one of the very best whiskies that I have ever had the pleasure of savouring. Mellow and intensely sherried and the mouthfeel is wonderfully oily. Unbelievably good stuff! (24/25)

Rating: 98/100

Yes, it is definitely worthy of such a high rating and it is the second highest rating I have ever given a whisky that I have had the pleasure of savouring. This particular Glendronach encapsulates everything that is great about the distillery and it is a testament to the amazing work that Billy Walker and his team have done.

I spent an entire hour savouring my precious 20ml sample of this beauty and the changes that it underwent over the course of that hour due to oxidation and opening up added a number of complex dimensions to the dram. It truly was an unforgettable moment and I am very tempted to head back to the bar and acquire a sample for my private collection!

The Glendronach 1978 31 Years Old can be found at the Auld Alliance whisky bar and I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is familiar with old Macallans as well as the other Glendronach releases within the range (and especially the 18 Years Old Allardice).

I highly doubt that this whisky will be overtaken anytime soon (or if at all) and it rests firmly in 2nd spot within my Top 5 whiskies. For the record, the top spot belongs to an utterly mindblowing Bruichladdich 1985 29 Years Old cask sample which was given to me to taste my Mr Jim McEwan himself.

That one has a rating of 99/100, so this Glendronach is definitely within exalted company!

To all my readers, both old and new, thank you for the support and feedback that I have received since I first started this blog and I look forward to celebrating the next big milestone sometime in the near future, which would be the big 100.

Until the next post, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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