The thought that whisky is really about people popped into my head as I walked through the GlenDronach distillery with Alan McConnochie, the Distillery Manager. Because as we walked and talked and met the various distillery workers at this small, out-of-the-way factory, I could not help but notice the pride that everybody put into their job. It was heartening to see so many people really enjoying their work (could it have been the heady aroma of maturing spirit?). Indeed, we chose GlenDronach as the source for our next single cask because this distillery and its people are producing what can honestly be described as some of the best whisky in all of Scotland.
The distillery was originally founded in 1826 by James Allardice, although the Glen House which sits adjacent to the distillery was built in 1771. It was the second distillery in Scotland to apply for a legal license to distill under the Excise Act of 1823. The distillery has a long and storied history with various owners through the ages. In the 1960’s, the Teachers Blending Company purchased the distillery. The distillery was subsequently mothballed (closed) in 1996 due to a surplus of aging stocks. It was re-opened again for business in 2001 where it worked under the limelight for many years. In 2008 the distillery was purchased by the independent Benriach Distillery Company under the watchful eye of whisky industry veteran Billy Walker. Since then, Billy and his team have set about to put GlenDronach back on the map, producing a classic, richly-sherried whisky, a style which is unfortunately becoming more difficult to find as cheaper bourbon barrels replace the more expensive sherry butts, hogsheads and puncheons.
We had a great tour of the distillery with Alan McConnochie, GlenDronach’s Distillery Manager. It was fascinating to see the distillery in all its glory and through the eyes of the man who is putting GlenDronach on the map. Of course tasting some of these magnificent whiskies with Alan in the dunnage warehouse was an experience in itself!
Everywhere you look, tradition is prized and maintained. For instance the Malt Mill, also known as a Bobby Mill, was built in 1913 for the princely sum of 5 pounds and ten shillings. 100 years later it is still going strong!
You would think that after nearly 200 years of whisky distillation the buildings and it’s equipment would be tired, old and needing replacement. However that is not the case. The still room was absolutely beautiful, copper and glass shimmering in the warm sunlight which flooded into the room through floor to ceiling windows. Note the four bulbous onion shaped stills which create reflux, leading to more copper contact with the spirit which in turn creates a full bodied malt perfect for ageing in rich fruity sherry casks.
Casks waiting in line to be filled.
The filling station.
Loading full casks of fresh spirit which will probably not see the light of day for a decade or two!
Walking back to the main part of the distillery. The distillery is dissected by both stream and public road.
Cask samples waiting for us.
And now the serious work begins. Tasting blind, with only cask numbers, nose and palate. Taking notes, comparing notes, scores and all the while looking for that elusive needle in a haystack!
Finally after many hours, the moment of truth. Cask No. 2645, an 11 year old Oloroso sherry puncheon. The hours of sampling and comparing notes paid off, because we picked what I think is a truly exceptional malt.
This whisky is like a rich Christmas fruit cake in a glass. It is gently sweet on the nose with citrus, apple and warm fruit pie, with a nice touch of oak spice. The palate is delicately spicy; ginger, white pepper and warm stewed fruits mingle with barley sugar and gentle toffee which culminates into an incredibly long finish. And that’s without water! Add a few drops and the whisky opens to reveal an incredibly warm and luscious mouth feel.
To say that I am excited about this cask would be an understatement, I am ecstatic. This is the style of whisky which I had hoped to find, a style that all my whisky customers would enjoy. It is extremely approachable yet has bags of complexity. It is bottled at cask strength and without chill-filtration and caramel color, because I want you to taste and enjoy it the same way that I found it and enjoyed it at the distillery.
If there is one bottle that you buy for you or for someone special, then it should be GlenDronach Cask No. 2645. This is a special one off bottling which is exclusive to Vine & Table, when it is gone then it will be gone for good.