This is the second in a series of four reviews and 97th review overall on this blog which will showcase some rather stellar drams which I have come across in recent times. These four reviews will lead up to the milestone which is the 100th review and that is scheduled for the first weekend of May.
As such, I have saved an expression which is rather close to my heart for this review and I believe that it is a firm favourite among many of the readers of this blog as well.
Glendronach is a distillery which has been getting a fair bit of attention and adulation (and rightly so) over the last few years and their commitment to producing high quality sherried whiskies is what makes them stand apart from the others at a time when sherried expressions have become less common when compared to their bourbon-matured counterparts.
As we have previously delved into the history of the distillery, we will not revisit it and more information can be found at the following link: Glendronach
As sherry consumption has declined over time, this, coupled with the decree in Spain that all bodegas are to bottle their sherry in the country before it is sold rather than selling it by the cask, has caused the price of good quality sherry casks to skyrocket over time.
While this has contributed to many distilleries maturing the majority of their stock in the much more affordable and widely available ex-bourbon casks from the US, some distilleries have had the foresight to build long-standing relationships with some of the bodegas in Spain in order to acquire the sherry casks they need for maturation purposes.
Glendronach’s sherry casks are predominantly of the Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez (PX) varieties and these casks are sourced from a number of bodegas in Spain.
The distillery’s parent company, BenRiach Distillery Company (which owns and operates the Benriach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries), was purchased by American spirits conglomerate, Brown Forman in 2016 and this purchase has also allowed the distilleries to have greater access to bourbon casks from Jack Daniel’s distillery, which is also owned by Brown Forman.
The hope, though, is that the acquisition by Brown Forman doesn’t result in the distillery forsaking its sherried heritage and the interim signs point towards things following the status quo, especially due to the continued presence of Billy Walker.
Walker is the man who was responsible for acquiring the Benriach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries from Allied Distillers (and by extension, Pernod Ricard) and resurrecting their fortunes as purveyors of fine whiskies. While he has ceded control of the company to Brown Forman, he retains an important role in overseeing the production at the distilleries.
This week’s review focuses on the Glendronach 18 Years Old “Allardice” expression, which was named after distillery founder, James Allardice (or Allardees) and forms a part of the core range of expressions offered by the distillery. It was matured predominantly in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at a standard abv of 46% without chill-filtration or the addition of colouring.
So, let’s dive right into the review!
Glendronach 18 Years Old “Allardice” (46% abv)
Nose: Initial entry presents a dense hit of rich sherry, demerara sugar, maraschino cherries soaked in kirsch, plums, apricots and some alcohol. Basically a veritable fruit basket of red fruits! With time, hints of Christmas cake, fudge and chocolate-coated oranges emerge and are complemented by cinnamon powder, allspice and some sage. (24/25)
Palate: Initial entry presents more of the dense, rich and buttery sherry hints coupled with some red wine, a melange of spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice come to mind) and the maraschino cherries soaked in kirsch. The alcohol hints are quite sprightly and adds some character to the mouthfeel.
Some warmth emerges with time due to the wood spices and it is complemented by oak, dark chocolate shavings, orange rind and juice as well as a distant hint of cigar leaves and smoke. (25/25)
Finish: Long, lingering and very memorable on the finish! The buttery sherry is the star of the show and it underpins the entire nosing and tasting experience. Fleeting orange hints which are more candied in nature emerge and complement the oak, wood spices and some cigar smoke. (24/25)
Balance: An extremely well-balanced and utterly enjoyable expression which is my favourite of the core range (yes, that includes the 15 Years Old “Revival” expression as well). The mouthfeel is oily with just a touch of dryness.
All in all, this is a very complex and well-presented expression which is a proper sherry bomb with immense character. (24/25)
This constitutes an extremely high rating and would put this in 3rd place in terms of my all time favourite drams. While I know that some of you would not afford this expression such a high rating, I will explain the reasons behind it.
- Character: The densely sherried nature of this expression brings back memories of the stellar Macallans of years gone by. It is also one of the few expressions which showcases a mouth-coating and buttery style of sherried whisky and the fact that they are able to do this consistently makes them stand out from the others.
- Strength: Most distilleries would choose to bottle their whiskies at lower alcohol strengths such as 40% or 43% in order to eke out a few more bottles from the batch. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, the distillery runs the risk of shedding some of the whisky’s complexity in its quest for volume. 46% seems ideal for this expression as it allows for there to be a nice balance between the sherry, fruit and spice elements. A cask strength version of this may also not work as the robust alcohol strength may cause some of the more subtle complexities to be lost.
- Availability: As it stands, this is still rather widely available and its status as a part of the core range is not threatened. While the 15 Years Old “Revival” expression has been discontinued until next year due to a shortage of aged stock, there is enough of it in the warehouses to ensure that the 18 Years Old is produced on a consistent basis. The replenishment of the stocks for the 15 will also aid the production of the 18 in the long run.
- Price: When you consider that this is a densely sherried whisky which has an age statement of 18 Years Old (and with some of the whiskies within it being much older than that), you would expect it to be somewhat pricey. However, a retail price of slightly under SG$200 is rather reasonable considering the provenance.
I would highly recommend this expression to all fans of sherried whiskies and would strongly urge you to give this expression a try if you haven’t already done so.
The Glendronach 18 Years Old “Allardice” is presently sold out on Master of Malt, but can be purchased at The Whisky Exchange for £77.55 (or £64.63 ex VAT).
Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.
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