Whisky tasting day arrives.

After breakfast on the farm, we headed for Glendronach. We arrived just after one of the tours started, and needed to wait for the next one. Hungry again, we headed into the nearby town for sustinance.

We flew back to the distillary after grabbing a utility meal at Tesco's nearby. A couple of sandwiches would soak up the whisky. Their strawberries were irresistable and also made the car smell great.

To start the tour, we watched a DVD covering the distilling process and the history of Glendronach. Then we started walking around. 

For an idea of scale, they go through 75 tonnes of malted barley a week. By comparison, Macallen processes around 500 tonnes per week. 

Benriach owns Glendronach. Both names are a bit hard to find, but well worth seeking out. The original building dates back to 1826. We saw an employee cross the parking lot. with the distinct gait of someone working the malt. Monkey shoulder, the overdveloping of a shoulder muscle, causes it to droop. At 80 years old, he is a living legend in this town.

Their mill, a Robert Boby mill, was purchased for 5.60 pounds. It has been used every 6 hours ever since. I think they got their money's worth from it. 

We walked through the active distillary and saw the whole start to finish process. But that's not the important part. 

Tasting time:

Our tasting commenced with the Glendronach 18 year old. All sherry casks, 46% pure oloroso only.

This is a serious whisky. Definitely sherried, with nicely rounded fruit. Not apples or pears, just a little citrus. Only a tiny bit of smokiness and not at all peated. Mild bitterness evaporated to a finish of oak and golden raisins. Very smooth at full strength, I needed a few drops of water to bring out the rounded fruit and oak flavors. 

Next up, a 21 year old Parliment. This one aged in 48% oloroso and pedro jimenez casts.

This is your classic sherried whisky, with a finish for days. None of the stewed fruits from the 18, it reminded me of taking a walk through the woods. Specifically an old growth forrest with ferns and even a magnificent stag wondering by. A touch of smoke and subtle dark caramel flavors gave way to a touch of unrefined complex chocolate notes in the finish. 

Finally, the Managers cask. 21 year aged, handfilled, and incredible. 

Truly, I can't offer complete tasting notes on this one. My pallate was happy to be dulled by this point. It started off quite firey, since it was very literally cask-strength. We saw her draw it straight from the cask! During the aging process, they taste each cask, and decide where it will end its days. Most end up in the age-stamped bottlings, some get blended. They no longer sell any of their production run to the major distillers for blending. The few, the happy few, which are deemed worthy will end up as a Managers Cask selection. Never mixed with another batch, these are deemed worth preserving and bottling on their own. This was one of those casks. 

The Managers Cask ended our tasting, and then the purchasing began. 

4 Swedish guys made up a substantial part of our group. Each of them visited multiple times before today. Apparently the tax on booze in Sweden is so high, it's worth making a quick trip to Scotland. There's an easy ferry between Gothenburg to Newcastle. They already knew which bottles they wanted, so they went first. We took our time selecting the bottles we were going to bring home with us. (After carting them with us through England and France.) 

We were looking at their wine-cask aged series, but coudln't decide. Our tour guide steered us away from the Muscat-finished series, and towards the port-barrel aged line. Apparently the muscat was not a very successful experiment. We brought back a bottle of the port-aged series, as well as a 11-year old special reserve. Their special reserve isn't sold outside the distillery. We also picked up several tasting nip sampler packs as gifts for friends back in the states. 


Topics: Travelogue