Random whisky tasting at KODE

When we started our different whisky tasting clubs in Mumbai it was at a time where the offerings readily available beyond whiskies personally brought into the country were rather limited. Fast forward and today it is possible to have a respectable flight… right here in the city… for a price.

That shared, we likely won’t see many single casks entering anytime soon… in part because to import requires donating a “sample” for testing purposes. When a product has only say 100 bottles in the world and to sell at best a handful in a particular state, it becomes impossible to justify such a “donation”.

So while the more unusual limited edition specimens likely won’t show up anytime soon,  the overall range is sufficient for those curious to be inducted into the world of single malts and whiskies in general.

Which is exactly what we sat down to accomplish one fine evening at KODE in Mumbai early April.

My sampling companions and I warned the waiter that we would be requesting different bottles, sniffing then selecting so to be patient with us. And they were.

We began with a clear progression from light to distinctive profiles…

I’d initially thought to start with Compass Box Hedonism as it is such an unusual yet light whisky. They were just out of stock, so shifted instead to a readily accessible “appetizer”:

Our palates now acclimated, our real journey began with:

I then wanted to shift gears to start to discern more subtle complex flavours… It was wishful thinking to hope Glendronach 18 year might be available however did have a choice between the 12, 15 and 21 year... We went with:

  • Scotland – Glendronach – Glendronach 15 year “Revival” 46%*

Then split into the following to cater to the emerging different palate preferences of my sampling companions:

As conversation veered towards talk of casks and the difference between a Scottish single malt and Bourbon, I thought it would be good to do a wee detour to the US to contrast what we sampled so far with Bourbon & Rye:

Then proceeded to compare the nuances between very similar whiskies from Glenmorangie that have different finishes:

  • Scotland – Highland – Glenorangie Lasanta 12 year 46% – Olorosso & PX Sherrry finish
  • Scotland – Highland – Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 year 46% – Port finish

And finally we closed with a split between revisiting whiskies that “stood” out for my companions:

*Just in case you were wondering what all the “asterisk” mean… each of these bottles were brought into India thanks to Keshav Prakash with The Vault Fine Spirits. I’m incredibly proud of what Keshav and his team have achieved and have made a huge impact on the range now available in Mumbai. Thank you!

KODE – Freestyle Bar and Kitchen

Ground Floor – 11, Oasis City, Kamala Mills – Entrance #2, Lower Parel,, Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013. Tel: 077188 82924

PS It may seem like an insane quantity of whisky but keep in mind we were splitting 30 ml singles – focusing more on sniffing, swishing and savouring.

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GlenDronach 21 year (1993/2014) 58.1%

Glendronach is known for its rich deep sherry character. Over the years we have enjoyed many a marvellous malt from this distillery.

So in our relaxed evening exploring samples we were delighted to have a GlenDronach in the mix… well-timed after just having the Dutch Zuidam’s Millstone sherry dram.

And what did we think?

GlenDronach 21 year (1.1993/9.2014) Olorosso Sherry No 35 58.1%, Official Bottling for Beija-Flor and Silver Seal, bottle 523 of 605

  • Nose – Sheeeerrrryy!! Rich, wet prunes, gigs, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark chocolate, spice, wine soaked Christmas cake
  • Palate – Full, rich, intense, dark chocolate and tobacco, such full on sherry, quite dry and astringent, betel nut, red wine tannins, with pepper that morphs into chilli chocolate
  • Finish – Fabulous finish, long warm spice, stays and stays
  • Water – Makes it super spicy, not needed

One of those whiskies which can go on and on and on… where a little goes a very long way. However not one you could have much of… however fabulous for that moment.

Here is the point we had to admit, as marvellous as the Zuidam Millstone dram was, GlenDronach is in a different class completely.

While this was an official bottling, there are no notes available… It was last found auctioned for £240 at Whisky Auctioneer.

Some other fine GlenDronach drams:

What else did we try in our “Sinful Samples” evening?

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Sinful Samples – Bunnahabhan, Tullibardine, Millstone, Glendronach, Wolfburn

Tis the season to be jolly… and all that jazz! Yet before all the mad social rounds of the season kicked off, we snuck in a completely chilled out informal sampling of samples…

Call it a “Pajama Drams” night, it had no formality just a few folks, more than a few samples to put side by side to provoke some interesting tasting experiences…

What did we try?

It may seem like a prodigious amount for one sitting but we were a disciplined lot… some sniffing, swishing and spitting went on plus a few swallows, discarding the balance. Sacralige to some but sensible for us.

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Whisky Archives – Singleton, GlenDronach, All Malt, The Belgian Owl

Here’s another from our whisky archives… this time from May 2013…

Following our standard format, we blind tasted samples before revealing the whisky. This month featured: Singleton, GlenDronach, All Malt and the Belgian Owl.

The Singleton – We found it tasted better when chilled otherwise a fairly ‘standard’ whisky. A Speyside offering from the Auchroisk distillery.

The Singleton (Photo: The Singleton Website)


GlenDronach 12 year – Unique on the nose and on the palate. Another Speyside worth revisiting.

GlenDronach (Photo: GlenDronach website)


Nikka’s All Malt – A beautiful offering that which was quickly categorised as a `woman’s whisky’ for its delicate, nuanced character. Refreshing to sample a whisky from Japan!

All Malt (Photo: Nikka website)


The Belgian Owl – Nothing exceptional and not even up to our regular standards. Perhaps it needs to perch itself longer in the cask maybe? Sigh… or maybe our Belgian friends should stick to beer? Pity this eco-friendly, colouring free whisky isn’t…. well… better…

The Belgian Owl (Photo: United International)


Our favourite of the evening? It was a toss-up between the All Malt and GlenDronach – both delightful in their own way.

For more posts on our tasting sessions and whisky explorations…

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Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18 year vs ‘Parliament’ 21 year

I first tried GlenDronach years ago and my subsequent encounters re-inforced the impression of a rich sherry spice and everything nice range.

Then along came the exceptional experience of sampling the Glendronach grand dames – 39 / 40 / 41 / 42 years old – extraordinary whiskies well beyond the reach of most malty mortals!

For the rest of us though, the core range is in our reach and well worth enjoying. I’ve tried both the 18 & 21 year separately so couldn’t wait to compare them side-by-side!


GlenDronach Allardice 18 year 46%

Here is what we found:

  • Nose – Sherry, salty briney, sea water, sooooo nicely balanced! Candy brittle – like a salty peanut brittle, toffee apple
  • Palate – Full and chewy, cinnamon apple, dry, like soaked cedar plank to smoke salmon,
  • Finish – Fabulous finish! Some star anise sweetness, refreshing

Overall it is an exceedingly drinkable dram. A lovely well balanced tipple to enjoy with others, merrily sipping away while engaging in desultory conversation. Enough going on with the whisky to prompt comments but not distract from a convivial evening either.

Here’s what the folks at GlenDronach have to say:

The GlenDronach 18 years old has been named after the renowned founder of the distillery, James Allardice. This exceptional sherried single malt is non chill filtered and of natural colour. Matured in the finest Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 46%, this sublime richly sherried malt is truly unforgettable.

  • Nose – Sweet aromatics of fudge and Muscovado sugar. Fruit compote and glacier morello cherries provide added complexity.
  • Palate – Rich dark and seductive. Remarkable flavours of stewed fruits and all-spice marry together with classic aged Oloroso sherry and toasted walnut bread combined with chocolate orange.
  • Conclusion – Tremendously complex and long.

We quite enjoyed the 18 year and were primed for further delights with the 21 year…

GlenDronach Parliament 21 year 46%

glendronach-21-yearHere is what we found:

  • Nose – Chocolate banana milkshake, lots of sherry elements yet more subtle, dry sherry, chilli chocolate warmth, a dash of spicy perfume, cloves in oranges. As it aired took on a musky quality, a bit of vegetable compost, rum raisins
  • Palate – Initially quite dry, bitter and much more forceful than the 18 year. Lots of rum raisins
  • Finish – Spice, bitter with a hint of rosemary

One serious dram. No mistaking its sherry character. Commands attention and to be reserved for those times when in the mood for a truly indulgent whisky.

Here is what the folks over at GlenDronach have to say:

Matured in a combination of the finest Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for a minimum of 21 years, the ‘Parliament’ continues the great GlenDronach tradition of offering fruit-laden intensity in its single malts. This rich expression has been named ‘Parliament’ after the colony, or ‘parliament’, of rooks that have been nesting in the trees that overlook the GlenDronach distillery for almost 200 years. Bottled at 48%, the ‘Parliament’ is non chill filtered and of natural colour.

  • Nose – A delicate mix of ripe autumnal fruits – notably blackberries and red plums. Rich Oloroso sherry and candied orange segments. Spiced oatmeal biscuits and toasted oak fragrances bring excellent weight and balance.
  • Palate – Resolute flavours of fine Oloroso sherry and bitter chocolate sauce, which has been spread liberally over homemade plum pudding. This is all infused with fabulous spicy notes – cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. Full bodied with smooth tannins.
  • Conclusion – Long and lingering.

One small confusion… the bottle we sampled was labeled as 46% and yet from the GlenDronach website, it seems they bottle Parliament at 48%, so there could be some variation.


So… how did they compare? Both were superb! Wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to either but would select based on mood, context and company.

My companions were of the firm opinion that if buying to share with others, would opt for the more affordable and affable Allardice 18 year. Not that the Parliament 21 year isn’t fantastic, far from it! Just that it is a little heavier on the wallet and equally delivers a rich, heavy dram that need focused attention – not for everyone or every mood – but what a whisky!

When I re-read my earlier posts, I had thought Allardice a little pale next to my memory of the Parliament. Side by side it fully holds its own. They are clearly from the same family and I found so much more in the newly opened 18 year!

I equally absolutely loved how the 21 year mellowed, softened yet made more intense many of the enjoyable elements found in the 19 year. The complexity of the Parliament stands out, however completely agree with my fellow samplers that if thinking of a dram for others, would introduce GlenDronach with the 18 year (or the 15 year Revival… but that is another matter!).

More good news for India – you can buy GlenDronach through The Vault or Delhi duty free!

Related previous GlenDronach tasting encounters:

Other miniatures sampled:

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Glendronach Grand Dames – Age DOES matter!

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!

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

Glendronach 42 year 1971 Cask 1246 (Master of Malt)

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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GlenDronach 18 year Allardice 46%

Sometimes you just want a little indulgence! And why not?

A few months ago we sampled the GlenDronach 21 year Parliament… it was sherry berry desert in a bottle without being cloyingly sweet.

So naturally when given a chance to sample the GlenDronach 18 year Allardice, who could resist?

GlenDronach 18 year (Whisky Lady)

GlenDronach Allardice 18 year (Whisky Lady)

GlenDronach 18 year Allardice 46%

  • Colour – Bright copper
  • Nose – Fudge, berries, bread pudding with sherry soaked raisins… oh my!
  • Taste – Stewed fruits, then dries out into a woody allspice and nutmeg, after a bit more found a curl of chocolate smoke… above all, it is clearly unmistakably sherry!!
  • Finish – Complex and long… delicious yet a bit dry

Much like the GlenDronach Parliament, it is bursting with sherry character. However did it fully meet the ‘indulgent’ desire? Hmm…

Either I’ve become a rather picky lady over the years or… this was an example where there were absolutely delightful elements, completely on the right track in so many ways yet didn’t quite whisk me away to that divine whisky heaven! Nearly but not quite!

Don’t get me wrong – this is an excellent whisky and, in fairness, it was sampled as a ‘after thought’ so did not have exclusive attention. Which is exactly why I prefer to try a whisky more than once in different settings to confirm impressions.

I would certainly try it again – ideally next to the 21 year Parliament. My memory of the Parliament is that if you want something a bit indulgent? That’s your whisky from the GlenDronach stable!

GlenDronach up close (Whisky Lady)

GlenDronach Allardice up close (Whisky Lady)

A bit more info:

  • “Allardice” is apparently named after James Allardes (referred to as Allardice) who led the investors that founded GlenDronach distillery in 1826
  • It was the second distillery to apply for a license to produce whisky in Scotland under the Excise Act of 1823
  • One of their ‘hallmarks’ is to mature their whiskies only in sherry casks. (yeah I mentioned that before with the 21 but it bears repeating!)

What others say:

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GlenDronach 21 Year Parliament

Our January 2015 tasting session offered three new whiskies to sample: Bailie Nicole JarviePaul John Single Malt Edited and GlenDronach 21 Year Parliament.

This session was definitely one where the best was saved til last! As usual, we first sampled blind then revealed the whisky.

GlenDronach 21 year Parliament 48%

  • 20150115-GlenDronach 21 year ParliamentColour – Dark deep amber, almost ruby in colour
  • Nose – Instant sherry, bold, can immediately make out it is a complex and rounded whisky, a delight of berries, black cherry, toffee, banana, just bursting with character and not in the least linear
  • Taste – Raisins, plum cake soaked for long time before devouring, dry like rum, as robust as the nose suggested, earthy and rich
  • Finish – Plum finish like a dry sherry

For an all-nighter – one of those wonderful whiskies where a little goes a long way!

We also tried a small experiment:

  • Our host and partner sampled in Tulip glasses from a bottle previously opened
  • Myself and other club member tried in our standard Glencairn glasses

What was the difference?

Well…. We had a bit of debate over which was ‘sharper’ or ‘more mellow’ however it seemed the newly opened bottle was much more pronounced, rounder and more complex whereas the opened one slightly ‘cut’ but still a marvellous malt.

Confession time? Our host sez it is his current favourite! And I will admit to draining the last drop from the opened bottle… sorry folks!


More info:

  • Again one of those interesting distilleries, founded in 1826, that was quietly producing, neglected from 1996 to 2001 and then re-opened but only more recently catching attention for their single malts
  • Matured only in sherry cask – combination of oloroso and pedro ximinez – making it quite distinct from the typical ‘sherry’ cask finish approach
  • Released in 2011 and named ‘Parliament’ for the parliament of rooks that live in the trees near the distillery

In short – not to be missed!


20150115-GlenDronach Close up

Since sampling this, there have been more GlenDronach adventures:

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