Glendronach 15 – Is it the Best Buy in the World of Whisky?

After Jun Nunez’s head-to-head review of the Glendronach 18 and the Macallan Sherry Oak 18 yesterday, I thought I’d make it a series on the Glendronach core range.  I’ll mention that my own conclusion on yesterday’s contest, would have been different – as I prefer the Glendronach 18, and not only on the value for money rational.

I’ll state this right out of the gate, I’m probably not too objective on this one. I’m a Glendronach fan. I appreciate the craft with which they practice, their commitment to not coloring their products, to refraining from chill filtration and minimal ABV of 43% for the 12 but 46+ for the other expressions in the core range, but most of all, their commitment to their place in the market. You see, Glendronach was mothballed from 1996 to May 2002. What that means is that there’s a a six year gap of production, making bottled expressions older than they’re stated to be, sometimes by up to 50%. My colleague Thijs Klaverstijn published a post based on Bert Rutkowski’s article in Dutch on this in his Words of Whisky blog, and you can read it here. In short, it means that any Glendronach you buy will, at specific times, be up to six years older than the label states. For instance, If your 12 year old was bottled before 14 May 2014, you’re actually getting a 17-18 year old whisky. My current bottle of the 15 year old Revival was bottled on November 27, 2013 making it a 17-18 year old, very much like my current bottle of the 12 year old original (bottled on June 26th 2013). At the end of this arc, in 2022, you’ll be buying 27 year old Parliament as a 21 year old.

Graphic: ©Bert Rutkowski, used with the author's kind permission

Graphic: ©Bert Rutkowski, used with the author’s kind permission

Now, Glendronach could have taken the NAS route, either hiking prices up or selling their stocks mixed with younger whiskys, or both. But keeping true to their credo, chose to keep the basic age statements (12-15-18-21), even if it means “underselling” their stock for 6 years on each expression.  Billy Walker, who owns BenRiach together with two funding partners, bought Glendronach in 2008, and is highly committed to age statement core expressions, as we see with BenRiach. This, to me, is true integrity.

Photo Credit: Colin Smith geograph.org.uk

Photo Credit: Colin Smith geograph.org.uk

 

Photo Credit: lovingwhisky.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: lovingwhisky.blogspot.com

Glendronach 15 Revival (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Color: Deep bronze with thin and slow legs.

Nose: Dried fruit (dried figs and apricot with notes of prune sweetness), sugared pecans, cloves, sweet sherry, malt, milk chocolate and cinnamon.

Palate: Spices – freshly ground pepper and allspice, with a dry and tangy sweetness in a full body.

Linger: Spicy sweetness, tartness well pronounces in the linger. The spice remains long on the tongue.

Conclusion

From now until May 2017, your 15 year old Revival is actually 18-21 years old. I’ve seen bottles in Dutch stores for €40 (and I bought my current bottle for €45). I have a hard time thinking of a better value than this anywhere in the world of whisky.

But this expression is a worthy buy not merely on its value for money, in fact, that’s only the bonus. In my opinion, Glendronach has one of the best lines of core expressions in the industry. Now, I’m not saying that EVERY one of them is top of its class, rather, that taken as a whole, this distillery offers consistent value and excellent whisky, no matter which bottle you reach for.

Of course, if sherry matured whisky isn’t your thing, keep your distance. There will just be more around for the rest of us 🙂

 

 

14 comments on “Glendronach 15 – Is it the Best Buy in the World of Whisky?
  1. Colin says:

    How do you identify the year it was bottled?

    • Colin,
      The bottling date is on the back of the bottle on the bottom.
      You can’t see it because of the color of the whisky, so you need to hold it up against a light source or turn the bottle upside down.
      Michael

  2. Glen D. says:

    Does anyone with inside information know if this will actually happen? (bottling continuously through the 6 year gap period all the way up until the end of it ) Is it possible that they would choose (especially with the 18 and 21yr expressions) to just bottle these in bulk not long after reaching their age statement and store them in bottle rather than taking up space in barrels?

  3. Yori says:

    naturally, the best value in the whisky world is not Glendronach, but the highly localised, and no gone, sale of Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin for $45 by the state owned “Fine Wine & Good Spirits” Pennsylvania chain. while I believe it was great value at the $70 I paid for a case, $45 beats it… But you had to have someone in PA…

  4. Matt says:

    Thank you, a very interesting read.

  5. Julius says:

    Great article on one of the last true bargains on the single-malt market… Sláinte!

  6. Erik says:

    OK, today I have found this post with the chart and the exact dates. I have one 12yo glendronach, bottled (believe it or not) 13th may 2014. If the dates named are fact, I should have the oldest 12yo batch that exists in my cabinet!

  7. Vlad says:

    Do you know how to read the entire bottling code? Top line is date and time, obviously, what is the bottom line?

  8. Matthew W. says:

    Wow, thanks to this article and a local liquor store, i just score 2 12-year olds bottled on “2014/02/18”, bottled almost 4 years ago and, according to this article, are nearly as old as Erik’s … and for $65 each !! I may not have won the lottery last night, but i scored with this today 🙂

  9. Why would Billy Walker intentionally label a 17/18 YO single malt as 12 YO? Why not label it as 17 Year Old and 21 Year Old?

    What possible advantage could this serve to mislabel the bottles?

    In addition to this, the practice might very well be illegal.

    Michael, you are a lawyer. Read the regulations and please give me your opinion.

    The Scotch Whisky Association Regulations (backed by UK Law) 2009 states:
    http://www.scotch-whisky.org.uk/media/12744/scotchwhiskyregguidance2009.pdf

    Regulation 10.1

    “The SWR maintain the longstanding rule regarding the use of age statements, namely that the only age which may be stated in the labelling, packaging or advertising of a Scotch Whisky is the age of the youngest Scotch Whisky in the product. In other words, if a Scotch Whisky contains a blend of 8, 12, and 15 year old Scotch Whiskies, the only age claim which may be made for that product is “8 years old”. (Similar statements such as “aged 8 years” may also be used, as long as the stated age is in years).”

    Read carefully. It states that the ONLY age statement in years allowed on a bottle of Scotch whisky, must refer to the YOUNGEST whisky in that product.

    Unlike you, I am not a lawyer but I am a native English speaker with a high level of English comprehension skills and It would seem to me that if the youngest whisky in a bottle marked 12 Years Old was in fact 17 Years Old then they would be in breach of the regulations, even though the regulations were set up to actually protect consumers against whisky younger than stated, presumably because no one thought anyone in their right minds would mark an older whisky as younger than it actually was!.

    Nevertheless, the wording of the regulations still seem quite clear to me and it would seem to be illegal to falsely state “youngest whisky” which it is actually older than stated.

    Again, I ask anyone, considering that the practice could well be illegal, what possible advantage could this serve to mislabel the bottles like this?

    I have as yet not found any article from a reliable source which discusses this subject. It seems strange that no one has interviewed Billy Walker about this or asked the Scotch Whisky Association for their opinion.

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