I knew about the GlenDronach 25 Master Vintage last year, but was sworn to secrecy, and I’ve been biting my lip for nearly 5 months. I’ve deliberately delayed my review to see how this new bottle went down in the wider community as I guessed it would create a Brexit-like split (also my holiday got in the way).
The GlenDronach 25 Master Vintage is a vatted whisky of both Oloroso and PX casks, has been diluted down to 48.2%, given an age statement, and holds a specific year of vintage – namely 1993. And it’s limited run. It’s not (to my knowledge), part of the standard core range.
How can it be? There are only so many 1993 casks in storage, and to be honest, some of them should be held back for single cask bottlings and never be vatted.
GlenDronach 1993 “Master Vintage” 25 yrs (48.2% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Medium amber. Thin & oily legs cling to the inside of the glass and meander down at their own unhurried pace.
Nose: Oats & cereal smothered in caramel sauce. There’s quite a ‘winey’ element as well that brings on a bit of a tart & sour note. Sherry is most definitely there as you’d hope – almost like it’s been soaked in those sponge fingers you get in the bottom of a trifle. Dried cherries and moist raisins with a subtle citrus note. Candied orange peel perhaps? And finally a rounding scent of boiled barley sweets. No alcohol-burn whatsoever.
Palate: Immediate sweetness coupled with a nutty dryness appears and washes over the tongue. Good levels of sherry shine through and that GlenDronach distillate DNA is unmistakable in the flavour. It then moves to a creamy oiliness with some soft white pepper that prickles the sides of the tongue. Dryness creeps from the front of the tongue and slowly
advances to the sides, and around the palate. The residual flavour now turns to a creamy caramelised sugar bite with some roasted nuts, and (dare I say it), fruitcake. The flavour doesn’t disappoint and offers up a full & flavoursome delivery.
Finish: Long with that sweet oiliness that was detected on the palate. Although, over the 4 separate tastings I’ve done with this I’ve noticed more of a saccharine sweetness on the finish, and something seem to be amiss. The oiliness clings to the palate and promotes that lingering sweetness. There’s the faintest sign of a whiff of tobacco on the exhale.
Water adds…. It doesn’t need water but adding a drop or two increases the woody-bite on the palate.
And this is where I am in 2 camps and have a dilemma.
Let’s start with the positives. I think this is a lovely whisky – absolutely no doubt about that in my mind. It’s very much an enjoyable and decadent dram that I would enjoy over and over again and get a lot of pleasure from. If you are a fan of the 18yr Allardice, then you’ll absolutely love this one. It’s like an Allardice that’s grown up, gone to college and landed a fancy job working for its Uncle Grandeur. It has more maturity and a roundness that smooths out any jagged edges.
The lower ABV hasn’t stripped any flavour away and there’s a very agreeable body and oiliness. But something is missing and I can’t put my finger on it. Complexity? Something else?
And now for the price. £250 for this vatted whisky is a lot of money. It’s not even a single cask.
But hang on!! Let’s step back for a minute and look at the 1992 “Mace Windu” as a benchmark. That was over £200 a bottle. Then “The Kingsman” appeared that was a vatted 1992 vintage at exactly the same 48.2% ABV – and that was north of £500 a bottle. The Grandeur bottles are also of a similar ABV and again, are more expensive (granted you get a shiny wooden veneer box and fancy lining) So is this really that out-of-line on the pricing? Mentioning the three other vatted bottles just now, plus the general recent price hikes across the whole whisky industry and add to the fact that it’s in-line with Glengoyne’s 25yr, I start to think probably not.
And a super-minor niggle is the actual name: “Master Vintage”. It sounds tacky to me. Although it shouldn’t detract from the actual quality of the contents of the bottle, I was wondering why it was given such a name. Personally, I would have given it a name that has a tangible and fitting connection with the actual distillery. But that’s just me.
And finally… Would I pay £250 for this bottle? No.