GlenDronach 18 Year Allardice: 46% abv
Background: Here we are, back at GlenDronach distillery in the Highlands of Scotland. After the 12 and 15 Year core offerings is the 18 Year Allardice. The 18 Year is non-chill filtered, natural color, and bottled at a perfectly respectable 46% abv. It is aged in exclusively Oloroso Sherry butts. GlenDronach then, is giving you another option in the world of sherry malts, which seems to be growing in accessibility. The challenge is, can producers like GlenDronach keep up with the demand for sherry whiskies without the ability to obtain good sherry casks due to the reduction in demand for sherry.
Nose: In comes the sherry storm, with a torrent of deep, rich fruit aroma that overwhelms the senses. Red grape, raison and vanilla are big players in the nose right off the bat. Small spurts of malt smell become noticeable, but are really dominated by the other flavors. Dried fruits and cranberry are detectable in the nose, with the sense of old oak and floral notes of garden flowers. As the whisky starts to open up, more complexity of sweet honey, apples, and even slight amounts of caramel are present. The nose is definitely rich, but the initial alcohol intensity in the nose tempers down to a less brutish, complex blend of rich sherry malt flavors.
Arrival: As expected, sweet, syrupy arrival takes on the malt. The arrival doesn’t tend to last a long time, with some spiciness, malt, and sweet grapes noticeable. Sweet, candy like (maybe even bubblegum) sweetness is also ever present in the arrival, which makes for a bizarre transition into the intense palate of the whisky. There is an ample amount of vanilla in the arrival. In general, this arrival seems like it lacks the complexity expected, and could be described as sort of flat.
Body: Similar to the 15 Year, the 18 does have a nice, spicy body. The finish is fairly long and enjoyable. A quick dash of heat, with red wine and grapes makes the body more unique. There is something savory about the body, and despite its relative intensity, the fruit flavors are not as pronounced as we’d like.
Finish: Conclude with that semi-savory, scrumptious malty finish. Bitter, burnt oak will become noticeable as you sip on this whisky more. You’ll find a hot, almost thin grapy flavor that comes into the finish, almost in an artificial nature. There is more oak complexity, some slight pine-like flavors coming out in the finish, and just a tinge of cough medicine like flavor. You could argue there is a bit of saltiness in the finish as well, but it doesn’t at all define the whisky.
Nose: The nose is demonstrating much more floral and somewhat maltier. The sherry has subsided substantially, but some of the complexities are also not as prominent as before.
Arrival: The arrival shows off more complex, well rounded fruitiness, with apple and pear present. There is some soft spices and vegetal notes present. There is a dry woody flavor in the arrival that translates into the body.
Body: After adding water, a much more noticeable, succulent fruitiness is coming forward in the whisky. It isn’t hard to spot the tannins and grape sour flavor coming out of the body, plus allspice and nutmeg, but there is a strained emptiness halfway through the body.
Finish: There are much more manageable spices in this whisky now, with heavy tannins and bittersweet green tea notes. Unripened, tart fruit notes are easily found in the finish, which is sort of unique, but in some ways it actually detracts from the overall flavor of the whisky. There is still soft maltiness and some confectionary notes here. The finish ends up shorter and somewhat less pronounced than before, but does offer up more complexity with better flavors.
Final Comments: This is one interesting whisky. It seems to be battling to get the right things across, but never quite succeeds in doing it. I’m not sure exactly what holds this whisky back, but it just doesn’t have the complexity and balance it needs to be a true winner. The price doesn’t help the equation either. It is evident that there should be better flavors with better quality going on. It doesn’t make this bad by any means, but it does miss on a couple of key components. It seems as if better casks would make this a better whisky, but chances are that won’t be happening. There is something that makes this whisky really suffer, but I’m not sure what it is.
Why you’d buy it: You’re a patron of Glendronach
Why you wouldn’t: You can get their Single Cask whiskies for less, and with better quality and a higher proof.