GlenDronach Core Range Review - 15yr, 18yr 21yr
Something I’ve been looking forward to doing for a quite a long time was a revisit and a review of the latest vattings from the core range - namely the 15, 18, and 21 (the 12 will be done at a later date when I can get my hands on an up-to-date bottle)
Let’s face it - GlenDronach still has one the best core ranges out there. Going from an 8 year to a 21 year, with some no-age statements and some peat thrown in, there’s enough of a selection to put a smile on most people’s faces. Admittedly, they have some very stiff competition now (especially from 29.1 miles to the East), but this brand still pulls in a huge fanbase and a faithful consumer following.
For me, it was the 18 year Allardice that started me on my GlenDronach journey of discovery and in the years since my first bottle, I’ve amassed a serious collection ranging from very old Bourbon casks to limited edition single casks – including a cask I picked for this group, and have been fortunate enough to taste many hundreds of different expressions from the distillery – each one unique. The hook for me then was probably the same as it is for many other GlenDronach fans now; big, bold and explosive flavours suspended in a beautifully crafted spirit. The whisky was like no other for me, and from that day forward I was hooked and obsessed with the distillery. I’ve also spent a shit-ton of money on the brand, but as my wife will be reading this, I plead the fifth.
As always, I did this review like my others - over the space of a week with multiple visits and at different times of the day. The same glasses were used and for once, I didn’t add water.
(bottling date: 2020/06/18)
Appearance: Medium amber. Long, thin legs.
Nose: Fruity and malty – almost like a fruit shortcake biscuit. Soft, clean sherry with an element of buttery caramel are swimming around in the glass. Another deeper nose into the glass and I pick up sweet & sour sauce, wine gums, green banana, and Highland Toffee. The overall impression is that it’s very clean and refined.
Palate: A gentle white pepper fizz appears first of all that is then followed by a flash of sweetness and some woody tannins. There’s now a nuttiness that mixes with the sherry-sweetness. It’s quite alcohol-forward on first contact with a sweet spirit-tingle that prods the tongue and roof of the mouth, but on the second sip, it’s much calmer and balanced.
Finish: Long with a generous amount of oily sweetness. The white pepper continues to warm the tip of the tongue, whilst some gentle tannins and fruit-sweetness stay to coat the back of the tongue and roof of the mouth.
Conclusion: I think this is far superior to the re-leased version back in 2018. There seems to be more complexity now, and everything is in better harmony and a bit softer. It does now feel like it is akin to a true 15yr now without the additional backbone of much older stock.
Like I’ll say elsewhere in this review though, gone are the damp and funky dunnage notes that were present in the older (original), versions of this whisky. But this one does get a thumbs up from me as it’s a proper sipper.
(bottling date: 2020/06/02)
Appearance: Dark amber, verging on dark cherry-wood. Slow & thin oily legs.
Nose: Dried chopped fruit-mix and sour cherries. Maple syrup candy drops, fruity cereal, caramel sauce, grapes, and flambéed banana. The sherry influence is much deeper and darker in this particular bottle compared other recent Allardices I’ve had, and it noses really well.
Palate: Rich brown sugar sweetness that delivers an immediate hint of tobacco leaf. The official distillery tasting notes say “sultana bread” and this is absolutely bang on the money. It’s there. I’m also picking up warm dairy fudge, caramelised figs, nutty chocolate, gentle cracked pepper, and some oaky-dryness. It delivers sweetness and dryness in equal measures. Good old Oloroso.
Finish: Long and sweet with a gentle peppery crackle, gentle dry tannins and more sweetness. The tobacco leaf and the nutty chocolate picked up on the palate flows through into the finish.
Conclusion: Deeper than I was expecting (thank goodness). Again, the damp, chewy and meaty dunnage element that was found in older bottles of the Allardice that created such a cult following isn’t there anymore. And I really miss that. It used to give the whisky a unique dimension that epitomised GlenDronach and was part of the reason for its cult following. However that being said, this particular vatting is not to be overlooked as it’s still very good and delivers an enjoyable experience. It just seems to tell me that the distillery is moving to a cleaner and fruitier profile.
(bottling date: 2020/06/10)
Appearance: Golden Oak. Slow & thin oily legs.
Nose: Tart fruit, apples, burnt sugar, dry sherry. Nutty. ‘Nairns oatmill biscuits’. Slightly sour. Held to the nose for longer, and an older, waxen sherry-ness appears with some macerated black cherries. But the alcohol is quite strong and pinches the nose.
Palate: The mouth is immediately met with a dark muscovado sugar sweetness. Tobacco leaf, dried nuts and the faintest wisp of mint follow up behind. It’s alcohol forward though and delivers a smattering of chopped chilli heat. Another sip and the nuts become more pronounced. Now an ashen element comes forward with some buttery oiliness. It’s still quite hot though with the alcohol prickling and studding the tongue. I can’t say I’m fond of his one.
Finish: Long. Saccharinity mixed with a tart woodiness that lingers for a good while before tapering off to reveal that ashen element. Sweet roasted nuts finish the scene.
Conclusion: This is a different Parliament to older 2014-2017 bottles (notice a pattern emerging here?) Just like the 15yr & 18yr, this 2020 vatting is cleaner and noticeably more refined, but with certain elements stripped. I’d say out of the three bottles in this review, this is my least favourite by far and I’m actually struggling with it little.
Overall conclusion across the three bottles…
15yr Revival – works well and is a step above the previous batch I tried. It’s clean and refined with more complexity & balance. Not to be confused with, or compared to the “Old” Revival that was discontinued in 2015.
18yr Allardice – Definitely the best of the bunch. Deeper, darker, and fuller of flavour, but lacks the original dunnage and damp ‘chewy’ element of 'Allardices of old. However, this is still a phenomenal whisky at the current price point and blows most of the competition out of the water.
21yr Parliament – I’m not sure what happened here. It’s just not what I was expecting it to be and has lost its original personality. The depth that it should be commanding isn’t there for me anymore. An easy last place position against the younger 15yr & 18yr.
Final thoughts… all three whiskies are cleaner with the old-style recognisable damp & chewy dunnage air element removed. It feels like the distillery has taken a decided change in direction for the GlenDronach profile.