Bought: World of Whisky, 1st November 2018
82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 75 member votes)
I’ve had this 1-litre ‘Travel Retail Exclusive’ bottle of Glendronach since it first appeared towards the end of 2018 but I’ve not blogged about it until now for a couple of reasons. Firstly I was hoping someone might add a good video review on YouTube but that’s not happened yet. Secondly rumour has it that Travel Retail ‘exclusives’ only remain exclusive for one year before other shops can start to sell them. This would help with more reviews, tasting notes, etc. Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to be the case with the Glendronach ‘Forgue’. It seems that, much like the Kilchoman ‘Coull Point’, Travel Retail have bought up all the stock of the Forgue and are keeping it to themselves.
When I started collecting whisky in 2013 Glendronach was one of the great recovery stories. The distillery was mothballed between 1996 and 2002 but in 2008 it was acquired by the BenRiach Distillery Company who rejuvenated it with some fantastic releases. The Glendronach 15yo ‘Revival’ distilled before 1996 will probably always be a classic. Sadly interest in the distillery among general whisky buyers maybe waning with only the single cask releases getting the limelight. I can’t say I’m surprised because the bottle presentation hasn’t changed in over 10 years and is looking tired and dated. Time for another revamp Glendronach!
I’ve sometimes referred to the Glendronach as the ‘poor man’s Macallan’ so it makes sense to compare this 10yo with the last example of the Macallan 10yo ‘Sherry Oak’. The Forgue fairs quite well with 82/100 on Whiskybase compared with the Macallan’s 83.2/100 (from 336 votes). The Glendronach gets comments of “fair in price…..a delicious dram”, “it’s perfectly alright” and “enjoyable dram, some nice aroma’s and flavours, though it’s not very mindblowing, just pretty subtle”. Hardly brilliant remarks but probably fair. It’s a 10-year-old after all.
Official tasting notes:
Nose: A dance of Seville blood orange and cherry, with ripe barley, roast chestnuts and winter-spiced cocoa.
Taste: Sweet Valencia orange and Morello cherries, with rolling waves of ripe barley. As the flavour deepens, savour dark currants, praline toffee and earthy brambles.
Finish: A richly satisfying, lingering finish of orange-laced tobacco and ground nutmeg.
Bought: Amazon, 6th April 2018
76/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
85/100 – Whiskyfun
89.58/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)
96/100 and 91/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (YouYube video below)
In the Whisky Bible 2016 author Jim Murray’s rating of the Glendronach 21yo was a fantastic 91.5/100 and ended with “Memorable stuff”. In the 2017 issue of the Bible the 21yo had disappeared and in 2018 Mr Murray introduces his thoughts on the 21yo ‘Parliament’. All around him the status of Glendronach has been rising but he gives the 21yo a lowly score of 76/100 and remarks, “myopically one dimensional, rambles on and on, sulphur-tongued, bitter and does its best to leave a bad taste in the mouth whilst misrepresenting its magnificent land.” It’s worth noting that the 2017 Bible contained reviews of 27 different bottles of Glendronach but in 2018 that’s shrunk by more than half to 13. Perhaps Mr Murray has fallen out of love with this up-and-coming Highland distillery, because of the whisky or maybe something else entirely.
I’m reminded of the old joke ‘opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one’. But arseholes are generally very similar, whereas opinions can vary greatly. Mr Murray’s thoughts about the Glendronach 21yo are like a square peg in a round hole of shared opinion, if you pardon the mental image. I’ve found it impossible to discover anyone else who dislikes this whisky as much as he does. Most people adore it, which makes me wonder if Mr Murray had a bad sample. There are certainly lots of different batches of the ‘Parliament’. Mine was bottled on the 29th January 2018 so after the Whisky Bible 2018 went into print. Although Mr Murray’s opinion about the 21yo is a bit strange I respect him enough to breath a sigh of relief that it wasn’t directed at my batch.
89.58/100 on Whiskybase for my particular release of the Parliament is a fantastic score but quite typical of all the batches of this 21yo. A comment about the flavour says “elegant, expensive leathery notes, more olorosso built up on palate for boldness, spicy sherry coat with ample of creamy sugar laden of fruits.” Whiskyfun score the Parliament 85/100 in August 2017 with the comment “rather fine, just not too complex. And quite easy on the fruits”.
Here’s the Scotch Test Dummies with their review about the Glendronach 21yo on YouTube (Feb 2018) both of whom love this dram:
Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 14th September 2017
82/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
82.53/100 – Whiskybase (from 242 member votes)
87/100 – Ralfy (his video review below)
The Hielan’ (meaning ‘highland’) is the Glendronach distillery’s entry-level malt with a youthful age of 8 years. It’s still possible to find it for under £30 but its price is creeping up. I bought a miniature in a ‘tri’ pack along with the 12yo and 18yo. I’ll probably regret not getting the 70cl when I taste it because it sounds delicious, and the rejuvenated Glendronach is one of my favourite distilleries.
The Hielan’ gets a very similar mark in both the Whisky Bible and on Whiskybase. The Bible author Jim Murray says, “intense malt. But doesn’t quite feel as happy with the oil on show as it might”. 82/100 classifies the Hielan’ as “good whisky worth trying”. Mr Murray scores the 12yo ‘Original’ 86.5/100.
82.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score with comments of “simple GlenDronach, not very interesting. In this price category the 12 ‘Original’ is a better choice.” It’s a fair point because there isn’t a big enough price difference between the 8yo and 12yo Glendronach in most shops. The 12yo scores 83.8/100 on Whiskybase but Ralfy (YouTube video below) gives 87/100 to both the 8yo Hielan’ and 12yo ‘Original’. Clearly there’s not much in it.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Honey’d malt, vanilla fudge and citrus peels. Slightly chocolate-y raisin notes and a little cinnamon.
Palate: More spice comes through on the palate, but the vanilla-rich buttery elements remain up front. Freshly baked biscuits topped with almonds and plump sultanas.
Finish: Quite long, with Sherried fruit and ginger lasting.
Ralfy’s review on YouTube (August 2017):
Bought: Auriol Wines, 1st September 2017
83.79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 906 member votes)
87/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
4/5 – Master of Malt (from 54 reviews)
The fact that the Glendronach 12yo has over 900 votes on Whiskybase is testament to how loved this dram is by whisky enthusiasts. Comments include “definitely worth recommending for those looking for a good introduction into the intense flavors of red fruits” and “this malt is a keeper of consistently high quality”. It may only be 12 years old and 43% but the maturation in both Pedro Ximénez & Oloroso casks bestows ‘sherry bomb’ qualities, all for a very reasonable price.
Scoring 4/5 on Master of Malt is very good and comments from 2017 include, “one of the best non cask-strength sherry casks I’ve ever had”, “smoother than Macallan 12 but with similar notes” and “good dram for the uninitiated to try”.
My exact bottle with code ‘LK11116’ isn’t on Whiskybase yet but I’ll add the link when it appears. The ‘LK’ part suggests it was bottled in 2016, which means it was distilled after Glendronach reopened in 2001. For those of you with Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible 2018’ his review of the Glendronach 12yo ‘Original’ was added in 2011 and refers to a bottle distilled before Glendronach closed in 1995. Hence why I haven’t included his score. If he updates his review I’ll be sure to come back and add his comments.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Rich cereals, struck match, raisin, cinnamon, caramelised sugar. Opens with some sweeter PX and lots of delicious raw ginger before becoming creamier with hazelnuts.
Palate: Fruits, peels, buttery. Pain au chocolat, a little marmalade on toast before becoming firmer and nuttier with spiced raisins.
Finish: Smoky toffee and nut brittle.
Here’s Ralfy on YouTube with his review of the Glendronach 12yo (June 2016):
Bought: CASC, Aberdeen, 28th June 2017
83.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
9.5/100 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
0/100 – Whiskybase (awaiting votes for my exact bottling)
It would be unfair to call the Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18yo the poor man’s Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry cask’, so I wont. But I just did. There are certainly several comparisons between the two floating around on the Internet but not recently. Not since the Macallan 18yo shot up to £300. Which leaves the Glendronach 18yo with the accolade ‘probably the best sherry cask 18yo for under £100’. It’s certainly a top contender.
You would think that gathering information about my Glendronach ‘Allardice’ would be easy until you realise that the distillery was closed in 1996 to 2001. If we assume that no whisky was produced in 1996 this means the distillery ran out of 18-year-old casks after 2013. It’s now a well documented fact that Glendronach have kept their core range going long after the age stated on the label such that bottles of Allardice contain 19yo whisky in 2014, 20yo in 2015, etc. My bottle of Allardice 18yo is dated 6th October 2016 so it’s most likely a 21yo. Perhaps reviews for the 21yo ‘Parliament’ would be more appropriate? Except the ‘Parliament’ is 48% and matured in Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks where as the ‘Allardice’ is 46% and matured purely in Oloroso casks. They’re two different beasts!
Jim Murray’s score of 83.5/100 in his Whisky Bible dates from 2010, back when the Allardice was a genuine 18yo. Although there are currently no ratings on Whiskybase for my exact bottle the previous release from May 2016 scores 89.44/100 from 11 votes and the following release in April 2017 scores 89/100 from 7 votes. I’m confident that my bottle would be 89/100. And for comparison, the Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry Cask’ 2016 scores 88.79/100 from 59 votes. Perhaps the ‘poor man’ is actually the person who spent the small fortune on the Macallan!
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18yo in May 2017, which is recent enough that it could relate to my exact bottle:
Bought: Whisky Galore, 6th March 2015
88.75/100 – Whiskybase (based on 10 member votes)
Having really enjoyed the Glendronach ‘Revival’, which I tasted in 2014, I was browsing on the ‘The Whisky Shop’ website when another Glendronach caught my eye. It was a cask strength, limited release of a 2003 11yo. Unfortunately it had sold out. Damn! But it was £60, so quite expensive. A few days later I got an email from Whisky Galore (also known as ‘The Green Welly Stop’), which mentioned their 50th Anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, they had a special bottling of Glendronach, 2003, 11yo. It was practically identical to the bottle on ‘The Whisky Shop’ with a similar limited release (649 bottles) and cask strength. But it was under £50 and came with a commemorative engraved Glencairn glass! A bargain I couldn’t resist.
Scoring 88.75/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score, especially when you consider that the legendary 15yo ‘Revival’ scores a point less. But saying that the standard 12yo ‘Matured in Sherry Casks’ scores a healthy 88.34/100. Looking at the whole Glendronach range from the distillery on Whiskybase clearly shows that scoring around 90/100 is very typical. The distillery clearly has its fans and my Whisky Galore example is a good one.
Bought: Whiskysite, Holland, 16th February 2015
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
90/100 – Ralfy – His review on You Tube here (April 2011)
I’d heard good things about the Glendronach ‘Revival’ so I was pleased to have a chance to sample it last year. I was in an excellent whisky bar back home in Scotland where I did a taste comparison between:
- Glendronach ‘Revival’ 15yo – best of the night by far!
- Glen Grant 10yo – a bit rough and young
- Highland Park G&M 2005 Cask Strength – like the Glen Grant
- Macallan Speymalt G&M 2005 – mellow, youthful and OK
(G&M = Gordon & MacPhail)
You might think that putting a 15yo up against whiskies 10yo or less was a bit unfair until you consider that the Whisky Bible scores the Glen Grant 10yo 96/100, 7.5 points ahead of the Glendronach. As a big fan of Highland Park and Macallan, I was disappointed with those two but, in isolation I’m sure they would have tasted OK. Unfortunately, the Glendronach was so good, everything thereafter had a lot to prove.
The Whisky Bible has only this to say about the ‘Revival’ – “unambiguously Scottish. A fantastically malty dram.” And 88.5/100 puts it in the category of “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. I’d agree with that!
Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 31st October 2013
86.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
89/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Glendronach 12yo Original – YouTube
Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 31st October 2013
One of the things about buying whisky at auction is that you can’t always be sure what you’re getting. I mean this in two senses, firstly that you rarely get all the details about the bottle’s age and origin, and secondly you might be getting a Wolfburn in Sheep Dip’s clothing. That is to say, you can’t be 100% certain that the whisky inside the bottle matches the label on the outside. Nevertheless, I thought if I bought wisely, and cheaply, an auction would be good fun.
I bought this miniature along with another 12yo Glendronach, the ‘Original’ version. Plenty of reviews exist for the Original but I struggled to find anything about this ‘matured in sherry casks’ edition. But I did find a ‘sold out’ 75cl bottle on Master of Malt’s website where they used to sell it for £148.50. Unfortunately there were no reviews but its description was “the 12yo expression of Glendronach is increasingly well-regarded by experts and like its 15yo older brother, this is a complex and involving whisky.” Unfortunately it’s also evaporating so I better drink it soon before it goes completely!