By Richard Thomas
GlenDronach is a Speyside distillery, located near the town of Huntly, and owned by BenRiach . It is one of the older distilleries in Scotland, having been founded by James Allardice in 1826. It passed through a number of hands in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Charles Grant’s (of the famed Grants family) in the 1920s, and was one of the last distilleries in Scotland to use coal fires to heat the stills. In modern times, the distillery was owned by Teachers between the 1960s and 2000, when the distillery was shut down. It flickered between being open and being mothballed (the coal burners were replaced with steam units in 2005, forcing one such closure) until BenRiach bought it, putting it back into regular operation again in 2008.
Today GlenDronach has three basic lines of single malt scotch. The main line consists of scotches ranging from 12 to 33 years of age, and the distillery also has a line of limited edition, single cask whiskey. Launched in 2011, the GlenDronach Port Finish 15 Year Old comes from the distillery’s Wood Finish line, which also includes moscatel, sauternes, and virgin oak finished whiskeys.
The GlenDronach Port Finish spends at least 15 years aging in old sherry casks made from European oak, and then finished for a spell in ex-tawny port barrels. This is an old style scotch, so it’s not chill-filtered and has no additives, and it is bottled at 46% abv.
In the glass, this port finish has a gold-amber coloring, but with a tinge of pink to it, something I thought gave the liquid a lighter, clearer appearance when viewed from certain angles. The nose has a certain dried fruits florality at its core, like a basket of basket plums and raisins with some rose petals thrown in for decoration. There is a little bitter graininess in there, as well as a little musty wood and a little peaty smoke.
The flavor follows from that scent, but with a few surprises. It’s a little wine-sweet, a little peaty and ashy, and a little woody, but there is also a note of ginger and cinnamon spice in there. The finish starts on the smoky, ashy flavor and winds down at a fairly quick pace with a moderate amount of warmth, ending with a chili-spice glaze covering the insides of your mouth.
In Europe, the GlenDronach Port Finish goes for about €55 or £45 ($75). That might seem like a lot, but it’s not when you consider that this is scotch has exactly the wine, wood and scotch flavors that one might to expect from a middle aged Speyside single malt finished in tawny casks, a highly specialized and narrow category to say the least. Good port-finished whiskey is a rare bird, it doesn’t come cheap, and it has aspects that make the price tag worth it.