Sean Russell runs the GlenDronach Appreciation Society on Facebook, and has been reviewing GlenDronach releases on Malt and Oak for the past few years.
Here’s his take on Batch 17:
It’s been 18 months since I reviewed batch 16 – and it feels more like 18 years. Time has gone very slowly between the two batch releases with everyone asking the same question over and over again: “is it here yet? is it here yet?” And then it did appear! and then it was gone! Great for the distillery, not so great for the consumers that missed out.
The supply, demand, and eventual availability of these releases is crazy…
That aside though… other exciting announcements have happened over the past year-and-a-half:
- 15yr Revival was re-released
- Forgue release
- Boynsmill release
- Port Wood release
- Grandeur batch 10 release
- 1993 Master Vintage release
- Lots of country and shop exclusive single cask releases
So there’s been a few things happening. And there’s more in the pipeline.
Also, Brexit is still making the headlines. The UK has a new PM. Prince Harry married a Paralegal from Suits, the US Government saw 2 shutdowns, I wrote-off my car, The UK hit 38.9 degrees. I also broke my toe playing footie. And Elon Musk’s Tesla is still cruising around our solar system on an elliptical path around the Sun.
And during all this, Rachel Barrie appeared to be tirelessly visiting every corner of the globe flying the flag for 3 distilleries, whilst simultaneously creating our whisky, tending to the casks, and planning the future. Multi-tasking time traveler?
And just like batch #16, batch #17 is an absolute behemoth – 14 casks in total. All are sherry casks bar 2, which are Port Pipes.
But this time the bottle quantities are really tight, and the batch has been split into 2 strict allocations: 7 casks for the European market, and 7 for Asia Pacific & Canada. This means that you probably won’t see half of the bottles unless you have contacts. And even if you do see the bottles and have contacts, you’re likely to miss the boat on a lot of them as they’re in super-limited supply more-so than ever and likely to sell out in record time. I haven’t even managed to get hold of a single bottle. If they had sold any quicker, it would create a rift in the space-time continuum and we’ll all implode, meet Elvis, and regress into apes.
It’s gone beyond crazy. But enough of my rambling and let’s get on with the review.
14 casks in total: 7 allocated to Europe, 7 allocated to Asia Pacific & Canada.
- 1990 / Cask #7905 / 28 years / PX sherry puncheon / 7%
- 1992 / Cask #221 / 26 years / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 56.5%
- 1992 / Cask #847 / 26 years / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 59.8%
- 1993 / Cask #5976 / 25 years / Port Pipe /
- 1994 / Cask #325 / PX sherry puncheon / 24 years / 51.9%
- 2005 / Cask #887 / 13 years / Oloroso Sherry Puncheon /
- 2007 / Cask #6769 / 12 years / PX sherry puncheon / 60.9%
Asia Pacific & Canada allocation:
- 1990 / Cask #2623 / 28 years / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 50.1%
- 1992 / Cask #113 / 26 years / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 56.5%
- 1992 / Cask #5896 / 26 Years / Port Pipe / 49.3%
- 1993 / Cask #416 / 25 years / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 51.2%
- 1995 / Cask #3040 / 23 years / PX sherry puncheon / 52.5%
- 2006 / Cask #3343 / 13 years / PX sherry puncheon / 56.3%
- 2006 / Cask 3359 / 13 years / Oloroso Sherry Puncheon / 56.7%
Part 1 – European Allocation
Appearance: Dark Mahogany. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: Heady, heavy, and rich. Thick & classic sherrybomb fumes waft out of the glass and attack the senses immediately. Dark berries appear followed by nutty toffee, warm cooked banana, and sponge cake. Sweet milky coffee then finishes the assault on the olfactory system.
Palate: Surprisingly dry & tart at the off. And then whoosh… sweetness, nuts, oil, soft grape
skins, light woodiness, and white pepper ride in on a big wave.
Gentle sourness appears before the sweet oiliness returns.
Finish: Long, sweet, spiced, and oily. Mild cinnamon is present.
Water adds… More sweet wine & caramel on the nose. Increased spice on the palate.
Very drinkable. This one is much lighter in appearance to a lot of other bottles from similar casks from 1990, but it holds an obscene amount of flavour.
Appearance: Deep Chestnut. Long, slow oily legs.
Nose: Pastry, warm cherry pie, and a nutty element hit the nose on first contact. Then the door is thrown open to sherry, furniture polish, buttery toffee, banoffee pie, toffee apple, and wine. There’s a bit of a kick-back from the spirit.
Palate: Deep, sweet sherry (as expected) There’s now a drier, woody bite and some burnt caramel. It’s all glued together with a gentle peppery bite.
Finish: Very long. Bitter dryness moves to sweet & sour. There’s also the faintest hint of cigar
ash, before the dryness comes back.
Water adds… More drying nuttiness on the nose, and an increased woody bite on the palate.
Slightly too dry and spicy with a spirit kick-back that’s a little too harsh for me.
Appearance: Dark Mahogany. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: Aromatic with strong notes of bubbling caramel mixed with big glugs of sherry, soft raisins that have been sweating, stewed plums, spiced fruit cake, milk chocolate, and lots of old furniture polish fumes. It also has a dusty and damp dunnage element to it – just to reinforce the maturity.
Palate: Hello. Big and complex. Cooked dark cherry juice washes over the palate.
It’s sweet and thick – almost verging on a Cognac. The dustiness on the nose is carried over to the palate, along with some gentle peppercorn crackle that livens things up and wakes up the mouth – which is hardly surprising given its heavyweight strength of 59.5%. Sherry and burnt sugar start to appear
now, supported by an oily and flinty/gravelly consistency.
Finish: Very, very long with lots of black coffee and boozed-up maple syrup.
Water adds… More coffee (espresso), sponge cake, and a “new plastic wrapping” on
the nose (a pleasant aroma in this case) Increased dry woody-bite on the palate.
This is a fabulous whisky. A proper fireside dram that wakes you up and
then gives your senses a soothing massage.
But be careful with the water – too much can ruin it. It only needs a drop or two, but
is perfectly understandable if you don’t have any.
Appearance: Dark Amber. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: Jammy-sweetness with some freshly baked bread. A lovely soft sour note comes to the fore and then swaps with a mouth-watering sweetness. A gentle peppery hit is there to prickle the nose. As expected, the longer it sits in the glass the more aromas present themselves – frangipane, marzipan, dried cherries. This seems more like a thick-sherrybomb than Port Pipe. But I guess this is exactly what you do get when it’s done at this level.
Palate: Oily with a gentle nutty-sweetness that isn’t over-powering. Gentle dryness moves
around in perfect harmony with the sweetness. Now there are dried cherries and raisins,
cake spice and cooked banana. It’s just lovely and sweet with nuts and oil.
Finish: Very long with a lovely balance of sweet/bitter/sourness. There’s a very faint
element of ash on the exhale.
Water adds… A new hit of wine and nutty caramel on the nose. Slight increase of
burnt sugar on the palate with extra roasted almonds and hazelnuts.
The finish is slightly thinner with less oil.
Fabulous and extremely decadent. Not to ever be confused with other,
lower ABV Port cask whiskies you’ve had from the distillery. This (and cask 5896),
are on another level. I wouldn’t add any water to this. It’s perfect as it is.
Appearance: Golden polished pine. Long thin oily legs.
Nose: Sour wine, cooked plums, damp rainy days, raisins, warmed caramel, more sweetness. It’s quite heady.
Palate: Sweet, thick, and bold. It’s quite explosive in fact. Liquorice root mingles with aromatic spice and dark chocolate. Like some others in the batch, this one also has what I can only describe as having a gravelly, flinty, minerally dimension to it as well. It’s very direct and in-your-face.
Finish: Long, oily, and warming. The Liquorice and bitter sweetness play on the tongue for
an age. There is also the gentlest hint of tobacco on the exhale. Very rewarding.
Water adds… Fruit and toffee on the nose. Shortcrust pastry and more bitterness on
Really, really good. A proper old school and ‘demolishable’ sherried whisky. I found that no water was needed to enjoy it to the max. Lovely.
Appearance: Medium amber. Thin and fast oily legs.
Nose: Sour plums and light maltiness. Apple crumble, red grape juice, raw fruitcake mix and a freshly opened packet of Haribo fruit jellies. And there’s absolutely no spirit kick from this 55.1% whisky – no matter how deep you shove your hooter in.
Palate: A big mouthful of caramel sauce with some mild chilli. Lots and lots of fruit with a big chunk of fruit & nut chocolate. There’s a little oiliness that’s highlighted with a gentle woody-bite.
Nutty sweetness finishes it all off.
Finish: Long & oily with a crème brûlée caramelised sugar bitter-sweet bite.
Water adds… Sweet maltiness and used coffee grounds on the nose. The palate gets
more toned down and subdued fruit.
Absolutely delightful. Again, it’s a total superstar of a young cask.
Appearance: Medium polished pine/Amber. Fast and thin oily legs.
Nose: Lots of sherry and muscovado sugar. Grapes, thick maltiness, and straight out if the oven pan au raisins fill the nose. In fact, the official notes from the distillery mention pan au raisins and they’re bang on the money.
Palate: At 60.9% ABV, I was expecting my tongue to burst into flames, my gums to melt, and my earlobes swell – but this didn’t happen. It’s sweet and oily, with bucket-loads of flavour. Buttery pastry, boozy sherry trifle, singed chocolate brioche, all with a freshly chopped mild red chilli tingle. I’m astonished that it’s at the ABV printed on the label. This is dangerously drinkable – undiluted.
Finish: Long, oily, and sweet. The mouth is finally left with a gentle bitter-sweet coating.
Water adds… More cake and toffee on the nose. More bitter tannins on the palate.
I actually preferred this without any water. It’s quite fantastic and is a
perfect example of a stunning young cask-selection.
Part 2 – Asia Pacific & Canadian Allocation
Appearance: Deep Amber with a golden hue. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: Very fruity. Lots of berries, cherries, vanilla, warmed dessert wine, grapes and raisins. Soggy soaked sponge from a sherry trifle.
Palate: Dry from the start. Not an awful lot of sweetness that I would expect from this type of cask. Quite nutty, then there’s an unpleasant adhesive element that is a sort of ‘chemical’ in flavour (not in a good way) The faint sweetness that was there disappears quickly, leaving a sharp chilli-bite.
Finish: Medium-long. Slightly bitter with a strange aftertaste and some gunpowder.
Water adds… Coffee and toffee on the nose. Unpleasant plastic on the palate.
Not a fan of this one at all. There are too many unexpected and conflicting flavours. It’s quite spirity and out of balance for me. The flavour is all wrong.
Appearance: Golden polished pine. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: Fruit simmered in bubbling butter. The archetypal glass of “Grandma’s sherry”, drying hay, milk chocolate, raisins and a whiff of cider.
Palate: Sweet and light. Almost delicate – initially. Then pepper, sherry, and cake spice-infused chocolate appear that wash over the tongue. The dryness is notched up and cleans the palate.
Finish: Long, with a tart-dryness.
Water adds… What I can only identify as plasticine on the nose (in a good way)
Less bitterness on the palate with an increased nuttiness.
I’m constantly amazed at how whiskies from the same year and cask-type can differ so much. This one is a bit too light and biting for me.
Appearance: Dark Amber. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: Beautiful nose. Sweet and soft with gentle soft fruits and melted demerara sugar. Simmering soft plums, pears and apples in sugar. Crushed black peppercorns, warm vanilla custard and a the slightest hint of Cornish salted caramel ice cream.
Palate: High quality milk chocolate with a sprinkling of white pepper. Maple syrup with chopped nuts, and thick oily sweetness. This is a port cask that is right up my street and is like no other
GlenDronach Port Pipe expression I’ve had before. The nuttiness takes on a more bitter
edge, but is still in perfect harmony with the sweetness. There’s the gentle ashen flavour left in the mouth after you’ve had a cigar, supported by an oily coating. Wow.
Finish: Long and oily. lots of flavours taking their turn to step forward and then step back.
Gentle ashen taste on the exhale with a warming pepper glow.
Water adds… Masses of sweating raisins and an old wooden drawer that hasn’t been
opened for a while on the nose. Raspberries on burnt toast on the palate.
I really love this and I’m astonished that it’s from a Port Pipe. It’s more akin to an aged sherry cask. The closest I’ve come to this style of thick and chewy
port cask whisky is from another distillery (Kavalan’s Solist Port Cask) This maybe one of the nicest port pipe single cask whiskies I’ve ever had.
Appearance: Dark, polished Oak. Slow and unhurried oily legs.
Nose: Cherries and vanilla custard. Sherry, wax polish fumes, acetone (pear drops), moist raisins, rhubarb & custard sweets, treacle tart. A Heavenly aroma for someone with a sweet tooth. A worrying aroma if you’re a diabetic.
Palate: Drier and more bitter than expected. The nose really does bely the palate here. A lovely biting sourness appears that’s followed up by thick and syrupy sherried sweetness with some gentle peppered toffee. The oily mouthfeel leaves everything nicely coated.
Finish: Long and oily, with a bitter-sweetness.
Water adds… Fruit gums on the nose. Burnt sugar on the palate. More peppery heat on
Fabulous. It’s not the usual dark and heavy sherrybomb you get from the school of ’93. It’s slightly lighter with lots of viscosity. And it most certainly works
just great without the addition of water.
Appearance: Deep polished oak. Long and quite fast oily legs
Nose: Lots of chewy malt, sour raisins, toffee sauce, sherry, and vanilla custard.
Palate: Sweet, with a studding of crackling pepper. A lovely balance of warming sherry and gentle dryness. The sour fruit that was on the nose comes through to the mouth with some nicely balanced support from some drying tannins, oakiness, and dark muscovado sugar.
Water adds… More fruit on the nose. Nuts and woodiness on the palate.
Very good indeed. It’s also really nice to try a ’95 that I really like!
There’s a good balance of sweetness, sourness, and strength in alcohol.
I wouldn’t add water to this one as it’s juuust right – a very good & balanced drinker.
Appearance: Medium polished pine/Amber. Long and speedy oily legs
Nose: Very aromatic – almost verging on an aromatherapy oil. Fruit gums, acetone, orange marmalade, dried orange peel, apple crumble, vanilla ice cream, and lots of fruity-sweetness. And then there’s a really chewy corn-heavy Bourbon. And it’s this vanilla-corn Bourbon aroma that I find quite fascinating here.
Palate: And there it is again – a Bourbon or Rye taste in the clothes of a sherrybomb.
I’m double taking myself here to confirm I’m really picking this up. It’s quite feisty with a good amount of warming pepper, but is calmed down by vanilla and soft fruit (plum/apricot/un-ripe peach)
Finish: Long, warm, and sweet.
Water adds…. Even more corn-sweetness. Playdough on the nose.
The palate is presented with more pepper and spiced marmalade.
Really nice, but really confusing! It’s almost verging on a deep and rich
Rye or Bourbon with certain elements that come to the fore.
This one is definitely worth a buy in my books as it’s quite unique.
Appearance: Medium Amber with a golden hue.
Nose: Sherry headiness and pear drop fumes. Malted bread, juicy raisins, wine gums, and gentle warming pepper. Absolutely no alcohol-burn at this quite high ABV.
Palate: Sweet, heady, and bold. This really delivers a fantastic myriad of flavours.
Spiced & stewed fruit, raisin bread, roasted nuts, and chocolate.
Finish: Long, oily and sweet. The sides of the tongue get a gentle massage with some lovely
tartness. A soft ashen note on the exhale.
Water adds… Total sacrilege! Leave it as it is!
Incredible. I am loving these new younger whiskies coming out since
Rachel Barrie has taken control. They are beautiful and thoroughly delightful.
Full of flavour, fun and brilliantly selected.
Batch 17 Winners
Firstly, The GlenDronach’s Whisky Maker, Rachel Barrie needs a big mention. Her expertise in cask selection for this latest batch (and all the other releases that have appeared), needs highlighting. This batch #17 is, yet again, a huge release that undoubtedly required a lot of time and effort to select and deliberate over – whilst being on-top of the day job, dealing with the Sister distilleries, and everything else. I’d also like to thank the team at SPEY for arranging the samples (I know it was not easy for you!)
As usual this review took a lot of return visits, re-tastes, head-scratching, crossing outs and re-writes. So choosing a winner wasn’t completely straight forward!
Tasting the whiskies in this batch, like other batch releases, was done by sampling each whisky at least three times over multiple days and at different times of the day. They were scored on merit across nose, palate and finish (and not on colour or strength).
So here are my GAS top three casks from batch #17:
1st: 1992 – Cask #847
2nd: 2006 – Cask #3359
3rd: 1992 – Cask #5896
What I did take away from this particular batch is that 1992 rocks (as I’ve been saying for years), and the younger casks that are now appearing out of the distillery from 2006 onwards are nothing short of bloody amazing. The labels may indicate high ABV, youth, and lightness of colour, but the actual delivery of the liquid inside the bottles is something stunning and very exciting. I’d start paying a lot more attention to bottles coming from 2006, 2007 and beyond. With these younger expressions, you can really taste the true character of GlenDronach’s distillate. It just shines through.
And if you did manage to get any bottles from this batch, congratulations. If you didn’t, don’t despair, as there are a number of shop-exclusive bottlings that are quite unbelievable (my GAS reviews out soon)