Timeless Grandeur with GlenDronach


This is real. This is really happening. After two and a half years in which my voracious public consumption of high-end liquor has been decimated by the twin life-changers of COVID-19 and parenthood, we are back on.

I’ve scanned a ticket. A kindly lady has stuck a wristband on me without catching my arm hair. I’ve been handed a map and tasting glass. I’m in a room with perhaps 500 tipsy people, 480ish of whom are male. It must be a whisky trade show!

The delights of the floor here in Old Billingsgate are going to have to wait though. I put my reverse-whisky goggles on and keep my head down past an endless series of inviting booths, climbing some stairs and grabbing one of the last few seats for a masterclass with GlenDronach.

On the playlist in front of us we have six drams. Two of them haven’t even been released, and only one of them I’ve had before. Master Blender Dr. Rachel Barrie’s stewardship of GlenDronach has done nothing to diminish its reputation as an incubator of deeply classy sherry monsters, and today we have a fistful of them to contend with.

Easy money to start: the 19-year-old Madeira finish. Light gold in colour, treading lightly on the palette, and feeling lighter than a feather as it slides down. No time to ruminate on that – hot on its heels is the Oloroso-finished 20-year-old, coming in at a punchy 49.8%. Much more of a classic GlenDronach, and teeing up the big hitters to follow rather nicely. I’m stretched and ready.

Next up is the Boynsmill – 16 years old, 46%, robust and beefy. This little devil pops up in airports from time to time, recognisable for its deep red hue and defined by its maturation in port casks (alongside Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso) – well worth your duty-free dollars if you see it.

But this has all been a decadent prelude. The headliners are here. They’ve exited their trailers, sat through hair and makeup and soundchecks and they’re cantering out on stage to wild applause. The GlenDronach ‘Grandeur’ 28-year-old is released in batches – all a little different, all hellraisers in their own right. Batch 11 is sloshing about in a tasting glass in front of me. It’s cask-strength (48.9%), and those casks were a mixture of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez.

Should you buy this whisky? Well, obviously you should, if you like sherry monsters with a desperately long finish that’s drenched in walnut. It’s not one for tourists – you’ll need a thirst for dark tones, big kicks overwhelming strength, refined character and naughty sherry. But that’s what GlenDronach is all about – every bottle in the batch is wax-sealed and luxuriant, and every new batch in this series is outrageous in its own way.

How to top that? Well, the GlenDronach team has a couple of surprises left for us. First up is an unnamed prototype matured entirely in Pedro Ximénez casks which, if you can forgive the colloquialism, absolutely bangs. It’s precise and delicate at the same time as your taste buds are basically being hit by a train. Then to finish, there’s a 30-year-old prototype in which Rachel Barrie has gone absolutely bananas with a whole bunch of casks, including pinot noir, to create a monster that can barely contain itself in this tiny tasting glass.

After an hour of understated mayhem, it’s time to return to the floor, sip some water and hunt for dream drams amongst the tipsy tourists. Most of these people are blissfully unaware of the high-octane sherry madness GlenDronach are packing upstairs. Until their Christmas wishlists come out, at least…

Glendronach Grandeur is available at The Whisky Exchange and all good whisky stockists. For more information, including details of all Glendronach releases, please visit www.glendronachdistillery.com.