The future of GlenDronach is still very much up in the air, as far as I am concerned. The sale to Brown-Forman may be history now, but like all big events, there are always echoes through time that are going to have an impact on all that follows. Here in Canada, Calgary in particular, we are still struggling to keep decent stocks of BF’s inherited portfolio on our shelves. Especially as relates to the more interesting SKUs (15, 18, 21, batch releases, etc). And the elephant in the room, of course, is pricing. I don’t really care to delve into that debate at the moment, but trust me when I say it has not been a transition that has benefited the consumer.
Back in 2012, when Bruichladdich sold to Remy Cointreau, we were all nervous that there would be a ‘dumbing down’ of the range. Assurances were made from on high that this was a non-issue, and that Remy was keen on the Laddie model as it stood. Said model, in fact, was one of the considerations that led to such an easy decision for Remy to purchase the brand in the first place. And while Bruichladdich seems, on the surface, to be continuing status quo all these years later, there are simply no two ways about it: there are far less facings of the Islay renegade’s product available now than there have been in years. Remember those glory days of entire shelf sections virtually groaning under the weight of the Bruichladdich tin? Sadly…those days are gone. But…Laddie does get a pass from me. Because quality remains uniformly high and pricing has been held in the sphere of relative sanity. Having said that…we’ll be watching the brands Billy Walker made famous (BenRiach, GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh) very closely in the coming years.
Last night my mate Dave cracked open this 22 year old ‘Dronach for a privileged few at my place. It followed on the heels of a 2009 Brora 30 year old I’d poured and, while it couldn’t compete in terms of quality (hey…it’s Brora. What could?), it certainly stole the show in terms of absolute gargantuan personality. This malt is a sticky, syrupy and utterly singular expression of something that, again, is barely whisky. But oh so cool for it.
50.8% abv. Distilled in 1990, bottled in 2013. This PX Puncheon yielded 604 bottles. Part of ‘Dronach’s Batch 8 release.
Nose: No real suggestion of sulfur, fortunately. Notes of charred raspberry, with some cherry jam. Cold coffee. Chocolate. Molasses. Hoisin sauce bringing some deep savoury Asian flavours. Licorice. Bovril or OXO. Fig and dry cocoa. Furniture polish.
Palate: Maybe a faint touch of Sulphur now? Maybe? But honestly, I’m not convinced. And if there is, it’s certainly not enough to spoil. Deep stewed fruits, black lollipops and cold coffee. Charred orange rinds. Licorice. Prune juice. Burnt pastry. More coffee. Tiger Tiger! ice cream. A deep earthiness. Green candied walnuts.
Finish: Stewy and mince-y. Burnt caramel. Everlasting.
Thoughts: Burnt notes, but no…no sulphur here, I think. Beyond big. Fun as hell, but waaaay too much cask influence. The ‘GlenDronach’ is lost.
86/100 (I have a feeling others would score this higher than me due to the novelty of Coca-Cola blackness and near opacity.)