Living in India, it requires significant effort to source unique whiskies from around the world. Though our ‘Duty Free’ options have improved considerably in the last few years and local distributors are stocking a wider range, typically what you can readily find is both relatively standard fare and insanely expensive for what you get.
So when a chance to sample a few drops of a quartet of gorgeous Glendronach grand dames came knocking? I would have been an utter fool to pass up!
Until this night, the oldest whisky sampled was the Glenfarclas 40 year… It was also a unique opportunity to explore the subtle variation between a single cask and a single year…
All were aged exclusively in Pedro Ximénez Sherry puncheons with three laid in the same year – 1971. We were extremely fortunate that our whisky host was able to acquire over several years such a remarkable series of whiskies. While primarily intended for the Taiwan market, this quartet made its way to India…
What did we try? Here goes..
- Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask#2033 54.7% (Taiwan exclusive)
- Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask#1248 47.5% (Taiwan exclusive)
- Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask#1247 48.9% (UK Batch #6 – 529 bottles)
- Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask#1246 44.6% (UK Batch #8 – 432 bottles)
We started with the 39 year old, spent the most time distilling its character before moving on to each subsequent sample, contrasting, comparing and debating the similarities and nuanced differences.
Glendronach 39 year 1972/2011 Cask #2033 54.7%
- Nose – Instant deep dark burnt sugar, dry fruits bursting with raisins, dates, prunes, figs… mellowed into a rum soaked plum Christmas cake, then a waft of musty old antique furniture polish, a rancio element, well oiled leather, a ‘brown’ sauce of demera reduction blending with laguna custard, cinnamon, cloves…
- Palate – Sweet on the first sip then cigar smoke, green vegetables, the spices of cinnamon and cloves envelopes, rich, smooth, delicious chewy raisins
- Finish – Dry, remnants of plum-cake, a beautiful bonfire, pipe tobacco
- Water – Makes it much more creamy, burst of ripe sweetness, the nose becomes a bouquet of gorgeous dry fruits, a little bitter dry coconut… transformative!
- Overall – We absolutely loved it! It is very robust, pulling in all the PX sherry elements with a certain panache and majesty
Glendronach 40 year 1971/2011 Cask #1248 47.5%
- Nose – More approachable with all of the dry fruits like prunes, dates and figs still present and more yet restrained, more elegant, a whiff of temple agarbati, over time the prunes became the dominant dry fruit element
- Palate – Similar to the 39 year yet sweeter, softer, gentler with more pronounced cinnamon, cloves and a hint of bitterness, a bit ‘woody’ with wet chalk, some copper, completely decadent
- Finish – Drier than the 39 yet the finish holds even more
- Water – Again, while initially reluctant to add, it simply rounds out all the gorgeous sherry elements
- Overall – We found while clearly written by the same ‘author’, this ‘book’ had more refinement and grace than the 39 year
Glendronach 41 year 1971/2012 Cask #1247 48.9%
- Nose – Same but… going deeper into the same profile
- Palate – Of the four, this had the strongest ‘old leather’ quality, we compared it to a grandfather’s tobacco pouch, allspice added to the cinnamon and cloves, ripe dark cherries
- Finish – Dry as the others yet also quite warm and beautiful, prunes in the finish as well not just the nose
- Water – Yet again, not needed yet equally a few drops did enhance
- Overall – Sampled after the 42 year, this was our last note to savour…
Glendronach 42 year 1971/2013 Cask #1246 44.6%
- Nose – Varnish, aged cheese, unmistakable prunes, sweet, men’s cologne, all that we found before concentrated with even more to uncover
- Palate – Wild chokecherry jam with that bitterness from the skins, a tinge of black current jam, dry tobacco with the sense of it having been cured in cognac, the feel of being in a dark forest
- Finish – The driest of the four with an ashy quality
- Water – Adding a few drops was less transformative than we found with the 39 year yet still did help it open up beautifully
- Overall – The most masculine of the four, it had a richness and complexity that simply cannot be matched by younger whiskies
It was such a privilege to sip, savour and enjoy such rich mouthfuls of whisky maturity. In this case, age truly does matter… and while some have argued these PX whiskies are so deeply enriched by sherry that one could save money by simply going straight to drinking sherry, that’s utter nonsense!
What I’ve found indulgent and decadent in the younger Glendronach whiskies is in full force here! No luxury spared… imagine being in a lush velvet boudoir with a crackling fire, your every whim fulfilled… and when your hand reaches out for a sip of something rich, robust yet refined… this is what you want!
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