Aug 252014

This sweet, desert-y port gets its name from its tawny (reddish-brown) color, a hue you’re sure to recognize when you see a whisky aged in tawny port casks. I know there are many people who aren’t all that fond of port cask matured whisky, and it has definitely played second fiddle to sherry maturation over the years, but I’m personally quite fond of the way the sweeter ports interact with whisky, and tawny port does that quite well.

The GlenDronach story with Tawny Port is a bit unusual, as the original release of this finish was a 20 year old, then it shifted to a 15 year old (reviewed here) and is now shifting to an 18 year old. I’m glad to report that I have secured a sample of the 20 year old, for a three way comparison of the 15-18-20 Tawny Port finishes, to be done once I get hold of a sample (or bottle) of the new 18 year old finish. While there has been no official reason given for the change, Alistair Walker, sales director for Glendronach, said in the press release announcing the expression: “We launched our wood finishes range four years ago and the response worldwide has been excellent. We’ve carefully selected whisky that has been gently maturing in lighter casks so that aficionados experience the full impact of the tawny port cask. The very pleasing result contributes extra depth and concentrated stewed fruit flavours. It’s another outstanding whisky that we’re delighted to add to our portfolio.”

This dram, like the 14 Virgin Oak and tomorrow’s Cask Strength (batch 2), were shared with me by Ran Latovicz of the Baron Resto-Bar.

Tawny Port  Barrels. Photo Credit:

Tawny Port Barrels. Photo Credit:

GlenDronach 15 Year Old Tawny Port Finish (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Appearance: Rosé tinged gold, best described as pinkish. Small droplets remain on the glass for a long time running in very viscous legs.

Nose: Roses in a flower shop, clove, oranges, cinnamon, espresso, milk chocolate, light maltiness. There are very faint notes of cordite and fruity notes including peaches and fresh apricots and touches of balsamic vinegar and chocolate cake.

Palate: Semi-dry wine-y notes, sweet on the tongue with light lemon zest, chocolate pralines, instant coffee with milk. spices then red and black pepper come to the back of the tongue and are noticeable going down the gullet. The whisky is thick and full bodied.

Linger: Medium with cinnamon and clove, some aniseed and tannins leaving a tartness on the tongue.


This is a delightfully complex whisky, mixing sherry notes with the port for an excellent effect. This expression is very layered and rewarding, while remaining light and very easily drinkable. I wonder how the extra three years of maturation will effect the soon to be available 18 year old.

Aug 232014

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.

Photo Credit:

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!


Picture Credit:

Picture Credit:

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.