The first wood finishes appeared in the mid to late 1980s (Glenmorangie’s Sherry Wood finished Vintage 1963 was released in 1987) and only became a regular feature in the mid 1990s. In fact, the very same year Glenmorangie made the wood finishes part of its core expressions – 1996 – the stills at Glendronach went silent.
After being taken over by Billy Walker’s BenRiach in 2008, wood management became the name of the game, and was actually the first opportunity the new ownership had to show its spirit (pun fully intended 🙂 ), since liquid distilled in 2008 won’t be hitting the markets en-mass before 2020. The extension of the core range included four wood finishes: 14 Year Old Sauternes Finish, 14 Year Old Virgin Oak Finish, 15 Year Old Moscatel Finish and a 20 Year Old Tawny Port Finish. The 20 Year Old Tawny Port was later replaced by a 15 Year old (which I’ll review next), and has just recently been replaced with an 18 Year old.
This is the most non-traditional of the four finishes, simply because the industry has long used ex wine casks (mostly sherry, but that’s merely reflective of the prevalent tastes of English drinking habits of the 19th century, yet there would have been relatively little use of virgin casks, simply for economic reasons. Sherry (and other wine) casks were the mere byproduct of getting wines to England, and the industry in its move from new make sales to aged whisky, simply used what was available. The finish is interesting, as the the whisky matured first in a re-charred sherry puncheon, and was then moved into virgin oak to be finished.
Thank you Ran for this lovely Dram!
GlenDronach 14 Virgin Oak Finish (46% ABV, NCF, NC)
Color: Gold with a reddish hue, long to gather thin legs.
Nose: Tropical fruit, butter pound cake with powdered sugar, pancakes with a little bit of maple syrup, notes of fennel, desert white wine and hazelnuts. After some time in the glass, floral notes develop.
Palate: Honey, lemon zest, allspice, vanilla and more gentle spices. Holding it in the mouth brings out a strong peppery spice.
Linger: long and tart, with notes of pepper and allspice. The sherry cask comes through, imparting a dryness in the mouth with a strong dose of tannins.
It’s different than anything else in the GlenDronach line, neither fish nor fowl. Good different, but different nonetheless.
As I expressed in my post on the Glenmorangie virgin oak expressions, I’m quite a fan of the genre and would absolutely LOVE to taste a Glendronach expression laid down in virgin American Oak, even if I’d only get to enjoy it in 15 years. In fact, I’ll use this podium to suggest to Mr. Billy Walker an experiment: lay down a batch to see how well the Glendronach new makes does in new oak, without the sherry influence. I’m pretty sure the results will be nothing short of spectacular.