GlenDronach – Batch 16 Review – By Sean Russell
We’re now 8 months down the road since the furore and stampede for batch #15 – which was possibly the quickest selling batch release I’ve ever seen. Many suppliers couldn’t keep up with the demand, and many consumers missed the boat on getting a bottle at all because the tiny window of opportunity was missed. Hopefully enough of us across the globe were able to buy a bottle to pop the cork (and not to flip) – or at least get a taster.
So what’s happened in the past 8 months since batch #15? Christmas came and went – where I wasn’t trusted to BBQ the turkey even though it was a great success in 2016 and the house stayed intact.
A constant stream of news giving us blow-by-blow stories of country Leaders comparing the size of their guns. Elon Musk not only threw a car into space, but also gave his rocket the best.name.ever – ‘Falcon Heavy’
Princes William and Harry dressed up as Stormtroopers and swore their allegiance to Kylo Ren.
The world of behind-the-scenes Hollywood was turned upside-down. And Philadelphia Eagles won the 2018 Super Bowl. Phew.
And whilst all these events were happening, GlenDronach’s Whisky Maker, Rachel Barrie, was tending to, and nurturing the casks of whisky slumbering in the dark and silent warehouse. Here, she worked tirelessly tasting, deliberating, and selecting what whiskies were ready to be transferred from the cask-womb to bottle. Not only for these single cask releases, but also for the vatted core range and some other special releases.
Since June 2017, voices have been speculating and waiting patiently for batch #16. Some said it would be small. Well, small it is not – It’s huge at almost 3 times the size of batch #15, and the biggest single cask batch release to-date. All 15 bottles of it. (The original batch #1 back in 2009 was only 5 bottles!)
Some said it might not happen. Well, it did – read this review. And some said we would start to see a sneaky introduction of Bourbon-cask whiskies and other strange wood finishes. Well, there’s not a single one in there. OK, there’s a Port Pipe in the mix, but that’s quite a clever and brave curveball, and I like that. The other 14 bottles are pure and unadulterated sherrybombs. Did I just release a spoiler? Sorry.
Also on their whisky-delivery-front, three significant appearances materialised from GlenDronach.
The biggest one was a GlenDronach whisky that appeared in the film ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle” It was a first for the distillery inasmuch as a very visible partnership with the film industry and some confident product placement. The whisky itself adopted the same name; “Kingsman Edition” and was limited to just 2k bottles. Needless to say, it sold out in the blink of an eye. And then it started appearing on auction in the same amount of time. For those who bought to drink – it’s really good.
Another limited edition that appeared from the warehouse-stables was the “Peated Port Wood” – this brought a bit of variety, diversity, and something different to the range. And finally, the latest Grandeur appeared (batch #9), and it’s a beauty. All three of these special releases have been reviewed on the GAS.
Whiskies included in Batch #16
- 2006 / Cask #1979 / 11 years / PX sherry puncheon / 57.2%
- 2005 / Cask #1451 / 12 years / PX sherry puncheon / 56.1%
- 2004 / Cask #3342 / 13 years / Port Pipe / 55.4%
- 2002 / Cask #4648 / 15 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 54.7%
- 1995 / Cask #4038 / 22 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 55.1%
- 1995 / Cask #3311 / 22 years / PX Puncheon / 50.3%
- 1993 / Cask #445 / 24 years / Sherry Butt 52.4%
- 1993 / Cask #55 / 24 years / Sherry Butt / 56.7%
- 1992 / Cask #334 / 25 years / Sherry Butt / 58.5%
- 1992 / Cask #127 / 25 years / Sherry Butt / 50.9%
- 1992 / Cask #103 / 25 years / Sherry Butt / 56.7%
- 1990 / Cask #7902 / 27 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 52.1%
- 1990 / Cask #7003 / 27 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 55.3%
- 1990 / Cask 1014 / 27 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 50.9%
- 1989 / Cask #5476 / 28 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 49.9%
Starting the review with the youngest whisky in this batch release…
2006 / Cask #1979 / 11 years / PX sherry puncheon / 57.2%
Appearance: Golden polished pine. Long thin, and speedy viscous legs
Nose: The first up in this latest batch and the youngest in the line-up, and even for such a young age it’s big on the nose. Lots of sweet dessert wine, and fruit jellies is the first impression. Yes, it does smell youthful, but it’s already showing signs of what the distillate from this year and decent casks will
be like. Tangy-scented wood and sticky toffee sauce are also there.
It’s is a nice start to this big 15-bottle review.
Palate: Peppery toffee-sweetness with a herbal and faintly soured woody tone.
The wood-tone quickly dries the palate and allows the delivery of a spicy & mild-pepper
dry crackle on the tongue. Holding it in the mouth for a short while then reveals a lovely
Bakewell Tart note and more sweetness.
Finish: Medium to long with a bitter-sweetness just like you get with an 80% dark
chocolate. There’s also a timid sourness at the end.
Water adds… increased sweet wine and toffee on the nose, more dryness and
wood-tannins on the palate. The finish presents more dryness.
Conclusion: It’s young and feisty alright, but that sherry is there and its stamping
its mark on the nose and dancing around in the mouth.
This is the first 2006 I’ve had, but as I touched on at the beginning, the quality
of this ‘06 distillate could be the start of something brilliant.
2005 / Cask #1451 / 12 years / PX sherry puncheon / 56.1%
Appearance: Golden polished pine. Long thin, and speedy viscous legs
Nose: Another youngster to appear, this one is also initially quite spirity on the nose but sweet sherry is also at the forefront. It’s is backed-up by lots of candied dried & perfumed fruit with signs of
chocolaty-nuttiness as well – Nutella. The nose on this is lovely.
Palate: A gentle sweet delivery that is more toned-down than I expected. However, it’s a
lovely arrival of sherry and honey with nuts (creamy hazelnut or macadamia) compliment
Finish: Long with a great balance of sweetness supported by a gentle and forgiving
dry pepper-bite. Almonds, warm sticky caramel, and faint stewed mango are
there at the end.
Water adds… more toffee & now stewed tropical fruit on the nose. The sweetness
is toned down a notch, but now there’s runny honey in the viscosity.
The finish delivers a chocolate-covered fruit lolly.
Conclusion: This 12-year old is really lovely. The younger spirit does present a more
active prod of youth and alcohol, but it’s sweet, well behaved, and already showing
signs of an early maturity.
2004 / Cask #3342 / 13 years / Port Pipe 55.4%
Appearance: You know it’s from a port pipe as soon as you see it – Deep Rose wine and rose gold. Long, oily legs.
Nose: Burnt caramel and freshly sawn wood mingle over raisins and over-ripe black cherries. Allow the nose to revisit a few times and blackcurrant jelly appears.
Palate: As detected on the nose, black berries are there, but more restrained. Letting it sit
on tongue rewards you with moist spiced cake. The port pipe has influenced the whisky to
also give it a warm sweet buttery-pastry note.
And then a total childhood memory – “Fruit Salad” sweets.
Finish: Long with dark berry-sweetness and a caramelised sugar ‘twang’ on the tongue.
Water adds… more floral and chocolate notes on the nose, nuts and thickness of body
on the palate. The finish is oilier and mouth-coating
Conclusion: For me this is improved with a few drops of water. I’m on the fence
with Port Pipe whiskies generally, but I could happily sit down and drink this one.
It’s a nice and surprising cask selection.
2002 / Cask #4648 / 15 years / PX Sherry Puncheon
Appearance: Antique polished oak / medium ginger Long medium-speed oily legs.
Nose: liquid caramel & resinous oils. Apples and pears slowly simmering in sweet sherry with a pinch of mixed-spice. Let it breathe for a short while and allow it to change minute-on-minute. Now the nose thins out and gives more delicate notes of sweetness with tart cherries, raspberry ice cream,
baked apples, and vanilla. Phworrr.
Palate: Boom. This is superb. Thick and rich sweetness with an absolutely beautiful
balance of sherry-reduction and spice-studded toffee. The pepper tickle that follows is
so well behaved, it knows exactly when to roll on its back and submit to the sherried
Finish: Long and very rewarding with a sweet linger.
Water adds… More sourness on the nose, increased pepper and dryness on the
palate. The finish is long but with more dryness and tannin action.
Conclusion: It’s only 15 years old, but if this is any relation to the DNA that’s being
pumped into the Revival’s replacement, then we are all going to be a very happy
And it only seems like yesterday that the 2002 bottles were running around
in their whisky-nappies. Time’s moving quickly. This is fantastic.
1995 / Cask #4038 / 22 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 55.1%
Appearance: Golden Oak. Thick & slow oily legs.
Nose: Sherry and muscovado sugar. A sweet Christmassy stollen bread & nutty aroma arrives, waxen polish & lacquer. Then a warming caramelised banana fritter. (I’m really hungry now) So it’s a bit of a mixed bag of aromas, but it seems to slot together and works. After a few minutes, some new and unexpected
scents rise up, such as a drained glass of ale left on the bar, and peanut brittle.
Palate: Rich and sweet peanut brittle – it was there on the nose. A very gentle peppery
smokiness walks in hand-in-hand with sweet oil and covers the tongue and mouth.
There’s a big sweet-nuttiness in this one.
Finish: Long and medium sweet with a faint tobacco/cigar linger.
Water adds… The sweetness of the sherry turns on more dark sugar with some
aromatic wood. The finish is drier.
Conclusion: Stop the bus – It’s a 1995 I actually like!
1995 Cask #3311 22 years PX Puncheon 50.3%
Appearance: Mahogany. Thick & slow oily legs.
Nose: Wine-laced gentle alcohol vapours fill the nose, but then graciously admit defeat to allow a wave of sticky warm & runny caramel drizzled over vanilla sponge cake to appear. Now the sherry is there, but is more tart rather than sweet. And then a freshly opened pack of Maynards Wine Gums is presented.
This one’s quite confusing.
Palate: The flavour belies the nose, as I was expecting more of a sour note but it’s actually
quite restrained and on the sweeter side. And all of a sudden a very faint spent matchstick
note that mixes with a dry and bitter element appears. Orange bitters fleetingly appear
before the bitterness and matchstick note come back in fuller-force.
Finish: Long, but that sour and bitter element combined with the sulphurous tone is
hanging around. And it’s out of balance and not to my liking.
Water adds… More wine on the nose and the addition of a greater fruit-tone.
The dilution seems to tone down the sulphur, but is still there and remains prominent
in the linger.
Conclusion: I’m not a fan of this and am struggling.
And unfortunately, it’s another 1995 that’s in this position. The balance between
sweetness, tartness and body don’t seem to sit in harmony in my mouth. And the
matchstick, sulphurous element (which, when in balance is great), is not helping
bind it all together. Start that bus again.
1993 Cask / #445 / 24 years / Sherry Butt / 52.4%
Appearance: Mahogany. Long & unhurried medium-thick legs
Nose: Beautiful sharp sweetness and gentle floral woody tannins. The sherry imparts an almost cloudy apple juice sweetness – something I picked up in an earlier batch ’93 (cask #42) It’s a sniffer!
Palate: Warming, sweet, and oily in consistency. The 24 years of captivity in the sherry cask
now flows around the mouth and ignites certain zones with warmed cracked and aromatic
pepper. The sweetness also holds milk chocolate, dates and liquorice. And right at the end
there’s a timid cigar tobacco linger.
Finish: Long with unhurried alternating waves of sweet sherry, drying dark chocolate,
and tart liquorice.
Water adds… more wood, but now peanuts on the nose, increased sweetness and
chilli-tingle on the tongue, with a mid-bitter dark sugar finish.
Conclusion: Really lovely and definitely one you can sit down with and explore.
If you know your WWII planes, then this isn’t a heavy B-29 Superfortress of a 1993,
but more a medium B-25 Mitchell.
I’ll get my coat…
1993 / Cask #55 / 24 years / Sherry Butt / 56.7%
Appearance: Deep Mahogany. Long & slow oily legs
Nose: Heaps of rich and aromatic sherry is the first and obvious thing to hit you. And the other (and anticipated), usual suspects to arrive are heady antique furniture polish, chocolate-rich fondant, dark & sticky dates, fig rolls, juicy raisins, dark cherry jam. And way off in the distance is the faintest wiggle of a feinty and sulphurous element. This is an “ohh emm gee” nose-moment for the classic
Palate: Thick, rich and sweet with a spiced-sherry reduction. There’s an element of vanilla
thrown in for good measure. But then a bitter dryness appears out of nowhere and
shoulder-barges the sweetness out of the way. What’s happening? Now the faint
sulphurous tone detected on the nose jumps in and makes itself known, but it’s not too
strong and is at the level similar to another favourite cask from an earlier batch (#1020),
and it’s a friendly handshake. I’m starting to feel like the word “sulphur” & “Voldemort”
are both words that are taboo and must not be named. However, another sip and
that dryness does now appear to be getting a little overpowering. It’s no longer the
delicate, warming, and sweet whisky I had on the nose but more woody, tart and
dry. I’m a bit disappointed to be brutally honest.
Finish: Long with a flow from crisp and toffee-like sweetness that moves to a
bitter-bite and dryness with a feinty-head.
Water adds… More toffee, stewed fruits, custard on the nose. Increased wood,
pepper, and drying oakiness on the palate with a greater influence on the
dryness. The finish is still very long, but now with more astringency.
Conclusion: The nose was a total winner for me, and the prospect of another
stunning 1993 had me all revved up. However, as lovely as the nose is on this,
the level of dry-bitterness was on the wrong side of the fence.
1992 / Cask #334 / 25 years / Sherry Butt / 58.5%
Appearance: Polished Walnut. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: Chocolate mousse & black cherry sauce – and those dark cherries are really apparent. Huge sherry dripping in sticky sweetness. There’s a roasted element as well like chestnuts that have just been whipped of the open fire. Now the sweetness becomes dark and warm maple syrup that’s partnered by heady and fumy wooden floor polish. It’s a fantastic array of deep and decedent heady-scents.
Palate: A muted sherry sweetness flows over the tongue with a lovely oily mead-sweet
consistency. Then the layers of sherry really start to unravel to present a more complex
and refined sweet oiliness. Lots more rich and sticky fruits and thick slab toffee.
It’s a total delight.
Finish: Long, complex, and lingering. There are heaps of different layers of sweetness
and richness to this whisky. All the while, light pepper gently massages the tongue.
It then tapers off with leaving rich & warming sweetness – enveloping the whole
mouth in an extremely gentle velvety dryness. A miniscule tobacco linger is there
right at the end.
Water adds… More sweet fruit on the nose with increase of toffee-sweetness on the
palate. The finish is presented with more dryness with a little bigger hint of tobacco.
Conclusion: This is absolutely beautiful, and is a cask that presents the drinker
with a big fat “I am what GlenDronach is all about” statement. An absolute cracker.
1992 / Cask #127 / 25 years / Sherry Butt / 50.9%
Appearance: Polished Walnut. Long and slow oily legs.
Nose: An plethora of aromas. Boozy sherry-soaked fruit & juicy raisins… and then creamy hazelnuts… and then warming cake spice… and just when you can’t take anymore, a surprise delivery of crème anglaise.
Once again, I’ve found a whisky that I can just nose for ages as all the different aromas and fragrances float to the surface and dance around. Drinking it is secondary (yeah right) Absolutely Glorious.
Palate: If the nose gave a decadent treat, the palate doesn’t disappoint either. It’s beautifully
balanced with a deep sweetness from the sherry-soaked oak staves. Warm buttery toffee
with light oiliness spread across the tongue and carefully pulls at the taste buds. Creamy
milk chocolate also appears, but fleetingly. The sweetness really stays for an age – even
when gentle woody tannins appear, and they sit quite happily side-by-side.
Finish: Gloriously long and lingering. The slightest note of smoke leaves the mouth
in a gentle dry wake whilst the whole palate is coated in a beautifully dark and
complex sweetness. Gentle dryness stays.
Water adds… I honestly didn’t want to add any water to this as it’s outstanding.
But… increased fruit on the nose that takes up a slight sourness and also a
resinous & woody tone. The palate is very much drier with a smoked nuttiness.
The finish is dry with a pepper-fizz.
Conclusion: Rich and vibrant. It’s bursting with flavour. An absolutely beautiful
cask selection. And the years in the cask have had quite a big impact on the ABV,
but that’s absolutely fine.
1992 / Cask #103 / 25 year Sherry Butt / 56.7%
Appearance: Dark Cherry wood. Slow and unhurried oily legs.
Nose: Another really big and bold nose. Rich & old sherry-laced alcohol fumes waft in and then sidestep to reveal warm pear tart, sour cherries, marzipan, Teriyaki sauce, more sherry, and lots of boozy-stewed fruit.
Palate: Big sherry and buttery toffee is there at the forefront. Then caramelised sugar,
dates, and baked figs materialise. It’s totally decadent, and again, a true extraction of
GlenDronach DNA distilled into a glass.
Finish: Long and refined with a warming rich and thick sherried sweetness. The mouth
is left to cope with wave after wave of warming rich bitter-sweetness.
Water adds… oakiness and pastry on the nose, pepper-studded cinder-toffee on
the tongue, and a gentle fizzy dryness on the finish
Conclusion: Absolutely lovely. It’s fantastically thick, sweet and very rude.
What’s going on with the sherry casks from 1992 in this batch?
They’re nothing short of astonishing.
1990 / Cask #7902 / 27 Years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 52.1%
Appearance: Medium Cherry wood. Very slow oily legs
Nose: Lots of wood and varnish hit the nose followed by memories of Highland Toffee (I remember getting the small ones for 5p and the big ones for 10p – and that makes me feel really old). Now a creamy milk pudding element comes in followed by sweet warm pie-pastry. Spoonful’s of thick and pungent sherry all combine into a vaporous & fumy alcoholic mist. What a nasal roller-coaster of a ride.
Palate: Thick and oily sweetness rush to every corner of the mouth. Soft chilli-infused dark
sherry then begins to gently drill into the tongue before leaving more oiliness in its wake.
Dryness paired with a medium woody bitterness decides to hang around.
Finish: Long and sweet with peppery woodiness laying itself down on the sides and tip
of the tongue. A mild warming bite stays, leaving the mouth slightly dry.
Water adds… More fruity-caramel fumes to the nose, tapered sweetness and
increased sour/bitter notes to the palate. Water does this one no favours.
Conclusion: A powerful and flavoursome whisky, but I’m finding it a little too
aggressive and fiery (even with water) It does open up in the glass, but it’s up
against some real competition in this batch release.
The nose was far more exciting than the palate.
1990 / Cask #7003 / 27 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 55.3
Appearance: Medium Cherry wood. Very slow waxy legs
Nose: Beautifully refined with deep and aromatic sherry. Like some others in the line-up, it’s a heady rush of decadent fumes such as antique furniture polish (which is a delightful and common trait across many of these bottles), that’s then mixed with moist Dundee cake. With some air the real sticky
sweetness starts to rise. Dates, warm tinned prunes, more cake spice. And there’s another
wave of thick PX sherry and warmed caramel sauce. It’s another explosion of gorgeous
scents and sensations on and in the nose.
Palate: Nectar-like sweetness with a gentle fizzy and oily consistency. The sherry has had
a huge impact on the wood, and in-turn the wood has imparted its soaked-in treasure.
Burnt toffee crawls around the tongue with dark stewed fruit. A slight dryness is there
now, as well as a roasted coffee bean bitterness.
Finish: Very long. Sweet sherry, buttery oiliness with a light nuttiness. Pepper wakes
the tongue whilst a hint of polish and tobacco dryness leaves its mark.
Water adds…. Maple syrup dipped apples on the nose. The sweetness on the palate
is just as rich, but has an oiler body now. The finish is dryer with more peppery
Conclusion: A proper and hugely rewarding sherried whisky. And again, everything
that this distillery stands for in a nutshell.
1990 / Cask 1014 / 27 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 50.9%
Appearance: Dark Cherry wood. Long and lazy thick oily legs.
Nose: This is an amazing deep-heady pond of rich aromas. Bucket-loads of dark & decadent sherry followed by aromatic sweet cherries in syrupy juice. A scent of wood varnish makes you dizzy and
then your nose is served warm rhubarb crumble, vanilla custard, pear drops and new
Palate: Pure indulgence. Warm caramel sauce, thick and dark PX sherry. The sweetness
delivered is every bit as smooth as honey. Dark muscovado sugar, dates and dark sticky
fruit are all over the playing field. And then a small spoonful of chocolate ice cream
and cashew nuts. Yikes.
Finish: Very long with a never ending rich sweetness that sits on the sides and
middle of the tongue for what seems like hours. Absolutely incredible richness
and construction of the different layers of flavour that build up one-by-one and
stay in the mouth.
Water adds… Total sacrilege. However, if you must, a few drops of it offer up
more fruit & wine on the nose. Sweetness takes on a more bitter tone.
The finish is just as long, but somewhat drier.
Conclusion: Incredible. Don’t let a drop of water near this.
1989 / Cask #5476 / 28 years / PX Sherry Puncheon / 49.9%
Appearance: Medium Walnut with a slight copper tinge. Incredibly slow oily legs.
Nose: Sherry trifle and toffee sauce. Now a slight dark balsamic vinegar and woody note appears which then dissolves into Maraschino cherries. An ever so slight meatiness arrives accompanied by sun-baked dry earth.
Palate: Rich, sweet and never-ending. The oak has been so well behaved and hasn’t taken
over. It must have held some amazing sherry in those stave fibres. The sweetness allows a
faint meatiness (almost a gentle wisp of smoked-bacon?) But it’s very faint. The body
continues with honeyed-nuts, dried dates, fruitcake that’s been left out for a few hours
and has started to dry around the edges. Pepper crackling is there but it’s on the sidelines.
Finish: Extremely long and thick. The sweetness now turns to a more caramelised
crème brûlée bite.
Water adds… No. Can’t do it. But if I must… Heady & lighter fruitcake on the nose.
More pepper on the palate (but not much) Still ridiculously long on the finish.
Conclusion: Joyful from the moment it enters the nose and flows over the tongue.
This is a whisky that you don’t want to end. However, give it some air to let it
open up and take your time as the pepper crackle can try to take over a little
if you rush it.
The batch #16 winners…
Before I say anything else, I should acknowledge The GlenDronach’s Whisky Maker, Rachel Barrie and her expertise in cask selection for this batch. Not only must it have been difficult, extremely time consuming, and high pressure, I also think it was a brave move to present the consumer with a jaw-dropping 15 bottles in one hit. It’s a seriously big list to choose from. And the results, variance & diversity across the bottles is testament to the product, its owners, and the nurturing.
Reviewing batch #16 was nothing short of exciting, rewarding, and educational. It was also quite difficult as there were fifteen bottles to work through and their calibre on offer was stratospheric.
So choosing a winner was not as easy as I thought it would be. Tasting the whiskies in this batch – like every other batch – was done by sampling each whisky at least three times over multiple days and at different times. They were scored on merit across nose, palate and finish.
So here are my top three from batch #16:
1st: 1992 – Cask #334
2nd: 1992 – Cask #103
3rd: 1990 – Cask #1014
I also think the 15yr old (cask #4648) is worth a mention. If the essence of this is anything like what’s going into the new 15 Revival replacement, then we’re in for a huge treat.