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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

December 22, 2013


Hair-splitting Sunday special,
official heavy sherry by Glendronach

From an educated consumer's point of view, there's a lot of averagely good news wrt Scotch. Higher prices, oak-doped bottlings, storytelling gone mad, the ravages of 'me-too!' branding, hot air... But there's also great news, and one of them, in my humble opinion, is named Glendronach. So let's do another infernal verticale (S., short alliterations are so last century!) and we'll even do it in a rough-and-ready way. No water! But I think we'll stop around 1990, because we have so many yet to taste at WF Towers. I feel like I'm Evel Knievel now... Let's start with this new apéro...

Glendronach ‘Cask Strength’ (54.9%, OB, batch 3, 2013)

Glendronach ‘Cask Strength’ (54.9%, OB, batch 3, 2013) Four stars and a half I liked batch 1 (WF 91) a little better than batch 2 (WF 89). Colour: dark gold. Nose: I'll only say this works. It seems that it's a little more honeyed and raisiny (juicy golden ones) than earlier batches, and a little less on heavy sherry, but I truly enjoy all the tobacco, the new leather, the beef bouillon (or is that Tai chicken soup?) and the bitter oranges. They must have a secret recipe. Mouth: embarrassingly to my liking. A mix of grandma's world-famous bouillons with orange liqueur and ginger. There must have been some re-racking going on. Speculoos, nutmeg, Seville oranges. Finish: long, spicy, gingery, peppery. The oranges are still there and keep it balanced and even kind of fresh despite the heaviness. Comments: I don't want to insist too much, but they must be doing something - now when it's that good, I don't care. You have to like ginger, though, a little less ginger would have allowed it to fetch 90+ in my humble book. SGP:562 - 89 points.

And now, the single cask vintage versions, let's see how far we'll manage to go...

Glendronach 11 yo 2002/2013 (57.2%, OB, for Whiskybase, oloroso sherry butt, cask #2751, 701 bottles)

Glendronach 11 yo 2002/2013 (57.2%, OB, for Whiskybase, oloroso sherry butt, cask #2751, 701 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: amber (quite pale for ex-oloroso). Nose: there's a little porridge at very first sniffing, as well as quite some soot and maybe saltpetre. Also gunflints and whiffs of clay and mud, then old Pu-erh tea and a few mushrooms. I really enjoy this kind of earthy side, it's rather unusual in ex-oloroso whiskies, I think. Mouth: this is completely different, it's much more straightforward and there's a feeling of newish oak, between coconut liqueur and orange zests. It's even a wee-tad bourbony, which comes unexpected from a sherry butt. Having said that, it's very excellent ;-). Love the citrusy side as welll. Finish: long, more around lime, ginger and lemon balm. Fresh juicy raisins. Comments: a big sherried one that's... quite far from most big sherried Glendronachs. Say it's more... fresh and fruity, perhaps? Feels like ex-bourbon oloroso ;-). SGP:651 - 89 points.

Glendronach 11 yo 2002/2013 (52.1%, OB for The Whisky Agency, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon, cask #712, 624 bottles) Five stars This one's following this year's 2002 cask #710 for The Whisky Fair (WF 89). Colour: dark amber. Nose: let's be quick, it's the new CS with less ginger and more molassy tones. That's what gives it a 'Demeraraness'. I like that. Mouth: this is syrup. Or rich armagnac, or Demerara rum once again, or prune juice. It just works, even if there are touches of spicy oak in the background that could be a notch too loud. Nitpicking again and again. Finish: very long. Rich honey, ginger liqueur, armagnac, Seville oranges. Comments: implacable. To put in your cellar until the roughish notes have completely vanished and you'll have a star bottle. SGP:651 - 90 points.

Glendronach 13 yo 1996/2009 (59.4%, OB, oloroso, cask #193, 399 bottles)

Glendronach 13 yo 1996/2009 (59.4%, OB, oloroso, cask #193, 399 bottles) Four stars I think this was batch 1. Colour: mahogany. Nose: full oloroso, on coffee, chocolate and prunes plus these wee flinty notes that hint at struck matches but never scream 'sulphur!' Also love all the cassis jam. Mouth: it is a total sherry monster, with truckloads or prunes and wheelbarrows of raisins. Pretty smooth despite the high strength. I also find some cranberry juice and blackberry jam. Finish: very long, maybe a littler sweetish? Jelly beans and cassis bonbons. Comments: a massive sherry monster, maybe a notch inelegant, in a way, especially since there's all this sweetness on the palate. Right, sugar. Remains a great dram in any case. SGP:741 - 86 points.

Glendronach 1996/2011 (54.7%, OB for 25th Anniversary Wein & Whisky Berlin, PX sherry puncheon, cask #1372, 401 bottles) Four stars This one came my way several times but I think I've never tried it. Colour: red coffee ;-). Nose: we're in the style of cask #193, of course, but this one has more floral notes (peonies and roses, as often) as well as more tertiary notes, such as herb liqueurs, tobaccos, oils... All that is great news if you ask me. Mouth: yup, it's all better mingled, more complex, more lively, less monolithic... well it's still very sweet (PX oblige) but it's kind of more profound. A bit fizzy too, lemonade, Fanta... That's its dark side ;-). Finish: long, sweet, very Xmascaky. How convenient! Having said that it may be a little too sweet again... Comments: much to my liking. A not less sweetish, which is great. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Glendronach 18 yo 1995/2013 (53.7%, OB, batch 9, PX sherry puncheon, cask #3302, 677 bottles)

Glendronach 18 yo 1995/2013 (53.7%, OB, batch 9, PX sherry puncheon, cask #3302, 677 bottles) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: I like this nose a lot, it's all on hay, grass and various dried fruits including raisins, of course. Quite some cinnamon and cardamom at the spice department. A muscaty side never stops growing after a few seconds, together with some rose petals, patchouli... More fragrant than others for sure. Mouth: very sweet and syrupy, so very different from the nose. Orange syrup and blossom water with touches of ginger plus some pretty strong honey. Finish: long, even more on orange and ginger liqueurs. Cointreau and Canton! Comments: a very nice variation but you have to like them thick and liqueury on the palate. SGP:641 - 87 points.

Glendronach 16 yo 1994/2011 (56%, OB for K&L Wine Merchants USA, Pedro Ximenez Puncheon, cask #3186, 606 bottles)

Glendronach 16 yo 1994/2011 (56%, OB for K&L Wine Merchants USA, Pedro Ximenez Puncheon, cask #3186, 606 bottles) Four stars and a half Another PX. PX is great but it can also work as... well, make-up. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one's more restrained, less wham-bam, less 'bull in a chine shop' if you see what I mean. Earthier, more on tobacco and other leaves, old cellar... This, I like. Mouth: power and balance. And, above all, no excessive sweetness. I've read somewhere that folks tend to like sweetness better when getting older - well, that doesn't seem to be my case. Love the huge notes of blood oranges in this one, as well as the pepper. Finish: long, 'nervous', peppery and tarty. Comments: this baby's got quite some freshness left, which is quite an achievement for such a sherry monster. SGP:651 - 88 points.

Sure I'm eager to tackle a few 1993s now but you see, there's this intriguing 'light' 1994...

Glendronach 14 yo 1994/2009 (58.5%, OB, oloroso sherry puncheon, cask #2311, 602 bottles) Two starsColour: pale gold (so remarkably pale). Nose: the distillate is talking, not the wood, and neither the wine. It does remind of some very old 'light' Glendronachs, and I find this superb. Some kind of sweet oil, maybe argan? Or very sweet olive oil, Provence style? We're touching the heart of the distillery, which is always moving. A touch of coal smoke. Mouth: no, I was wrong. This doesn't work, there's something chemical, I don't know, as if the spirit and the cask had clashed. It works at times, but some soap and some burnt plastic keep being some kind of spoilsports. Fail, for once. Finish: long, interestingly salty at times, but otherwise too plasticky. Is that a word? Comments: I don't know what to think. It's an odd cask. They may have added seawater... Or was it a Tupperware cask? SGP:472 - 72 points (for the nose).

Glendronach 19 yo 1994/2013 (56.3%, OB for Monnier & Trachsel, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1098, 690 bottles) Four stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one's really on the orangey side, it's like some Cointreau with some chocolate liqueur, only better. Behind that, some rocks and gravel, flints, leather and touches of cigar tobacco. Maybe a tad narrow but what it does it does it well. Mouth: nothing to do with the other 1994. This time we're having a lot of black tea and cocoa, some flints again, a curious feeling of mint drops (rather Chlorophyll chewing-gum) and then a heavy, thick blackberry jam. Highly concentrated tonic water. Finish: long, maybe a bit acrid and tannic but otherwise it's all fine. Bitter oranges and pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine indeed, but you have to like this 'green bitterness'. SGP:572 - 85 points.

And now (obligatory drum roll)... 1993!

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (52,6%, OB for The Whisky Fair, oloroso sherry butt, cask #13, 668 bottles)

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (52,6%, OB for The Whisky Fair, oloroso sherry butt, cask #13, 668 bottles) Five stars Colour: deep amber. Nose: yes. A blend of the best rums (Jamaica and Guyana) with the best armagnacs. Everything is perfect, it's a Rolls-Royce cruising at 90 kmph. I feel I don't need to add anything. Let's move on. Mouth: there are a few pencil shavings coming through, it feels a little more 'engineered' than on the nose, but it remains very excellent. Bags of toffee. Love the notes of freshly squeezed oranges. Finish: long and spicier. Nutmeg first, then cinnamon. Oh, and ginger. Comments: feels a bit like a finishing at times, but quality's high. Extremely high. SGP:561 - 90 points.

Glendronach 19 yo 1993/2012 (54.2%, OB, UK, oloroso sherry butt, cask #487, 673 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: dark amber. Nose: rich chocolaty sherry. Mars bar? (not deep fried, no worries). Also a lot of coffee and roasted chestnuts, then some honeydew - quite sappy - and raisins, and leather. Only two or three used matches. Mouth: perfect, strong and well balanced between some dry leather and tobacco, an intriguing saltiness, bitter oranges and even more chocolate and coffee. Finish: very long but a little drying (Van Houten's cocoa). Loses one or two points here. Nice touches of maraschino, though. Comments: classic ultra-oloroso-ish Glendronach. Much to my liking. SGP:561 - 89 points.

Glendronach 20 yo 1993/2013 (54.7%, OB, oloroso sherry butt, cask #16, 669 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: deep amber. Nose: rather a clean and zesty one, all on blood oranges, Demerara sugar, putty and a little olive oil. Some aspects make me think of Guyana rum - it does actually hint at some great aged rum. Very nice and very interesting. And clean. Mouth: not quite rum anymore - although I do find a wee molassy side - rather a big, nervous, orangey sherry with plenty of herbs and green spices. It's not a fat one. Also nice touches of cherries and bitters as well as a little lemonade. So, yeah, rather a 'nervous' sherry. Finish: long and even more citrusy and herbal. Lemon balm. Comments: a very pleasant variation on sherry, with grasses and herbs. SGP:661 - 88 points.

Glendronach 16 yo 1993/2009 (60.4%, OB, oloroso sherry, cask #523, 634 bottles) Four stars Colour: coffee. Nose: this one starts on fruit eaux-de-vie and jams, and yet there's also a lot of chocolate again. Maybe also a little more matchsticky notes this time, as well as more meaty touches. Cured ham. Mouth: ultra-thick sherry, you almost need a spoon to get it out of your glass. Also bags of dried dates as well as something slightly prickly, between pepper and cinchona. Bitters. Very heavy mouth feel. Finish: very long, this one's almost a session killer but we'll survive, I'm sure. A wee bit too tannic too. Comments: really on the heavy side. I like a lot but it's not my all-favourite style. SGP:661 - 87 points.

Glendronach 16 yo 1992/2009 (57.2%, OB, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1140, 598 bottles)

Glendronach 16 yo 1992/2009 (57.2%, OB, oloroso sherry butt, cask #1140, 598 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark amber. Nose: perfect dry, slightly flinty sherry, old style and new pleasures. One just cannot not think of old Macallan. There. And I love these wee whiffs of old toolbox, tobacco and humidor. Mouth: jams and spices in a perfect order. Oranges, figs, papayas, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, milk chocolate, glazed chestnuts... All perfect. Finish: long, unexpectedly fresh, balanced. Some mulled wine made with Chambertin from a great vintage. Oh forget... Funny hints of 'silver spoon' in the aftertaste. Comments: a classic, very, very old-Macallanian. SGP:651 - 91 points.

Glendronach 21 yo 1992/2013 (59,8%, OB, batch 9, oloroso sherry butt, cask #195, 566 bottles) Five stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: ah yes, perfect tarry sherry, on the best coffees, cigars and old balsamic vinegars. Enough said. Mouth: instant pleasure. Prunes, sultanas and figs, then a few herbs with a good small rubber and lastly, a whole fruitcake. That would be a Christmas cake, of course. Almost forgot the coffee-schnapps feeling. Finish: very long, precise and yet very rich. Spicier aftertaste. Comments: simply another perfect sherry monster by Glendronach. SGP:662 - 90 points.

Glendronach 19 yo 1991/2011 (50.4%, OB for The Nectar, Belgium, PX sherry puncheon,cask #3181, 624 bottles)

Glendronach 19 yo 1991/2011 (50.4%, OB for The Nectar, Belgium, PX sherry puncheon,cask #3181, 624 bottles) Four stars Colour: very dark amber. Nose: this time it's a rather mentholated sherry we're having - and a big sherry of course - that also comes with notes of metal polish, old coins and then quite some ham, bacon and soot. After a few minutes, it's more balsamic vinegar that comes out, and bit time. And game. Well-hung pheasant ;-). Mouth: really unusual. Pepper and coins, grappa, rubber bands and cooked coffee, then plasticine and maple syrup. Really different, really fun. Finish: long, with some green spices coming out. Cardamom, green tea... Comments: lots of fun in this one, even - or because - it's totally unorthodox. SGP:472 - 86 points.

Glendronach 21 yo 1991/2013 (49,9%, OB, batch 9, PX sherry puncheon, cask #5405, 702 bottles) Three stars Colour: mahogany. Nose: a prune-y one again, geared towards old armagnac, with bags of raisins again and a slight, quite superb earthy side. Mushrooms cooked with sultanas - have to try that one day. Mouth: just like the 1991 for the Nectar, it starts a notch unlikely, with a feeling of tamarind juice with a lot of pepper and mustard. That won't go away, in fact, despite the PX's sweetness. Not my favourite. Finish: long, very peppery and sweet at the same time. Comments: there's something spectacular in this one, and I really liked the nose a lot, but I find the palate a little too peppery. Yes, to each his own. SGP:562 - 80 points.

All right, a last one. I think eighteen will do. Oh, please note that I've done this session in two parts and not in one go, that would have been too much for me.

Glendronach 23 yo 1990/2013 (50,6%, OB, batch 9, PX sherry puncheon, cask #1243, 379 bottles)

Glendronach 23 yo 1990/2013 (50,6%, OB, batch 9, PX sherry puncheon, cask #1243, 379 bottles) Four stars and a half Colour: coffee. Nose: hurray! Perfect clean waxy and nutty sherry. Raisins, toasted brioche, warm beeswax and old Sauternes. I have to say it's got something of a great old cognac, not quite armagnac this time. Mouth: cognac indeed. Sure the PX made it very sweet, but not quite sickly so. I also like the leather and the tobacco, as well as the earthiness again. And the bitter oranges. Finish: long, maybe a wee tad drying and astringent, but that's nothing. More pepper and tea in the aftertaste, but also a lot of sultanas. Pepper tea, does that exist? Comments: maybe it hasn't got the obvious fullness of the 1991s, but it's still a great one IMHO. SGP:662 - 88 points.

(And thanks Franco, Herbert, Konstantin, Tomislav)







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