On face value, this one sounded excellent when it was first announced. Peated Glendronach? Where do I sign? But it's not quite that simple. Firstly, Glendronach are famous for their incredible sherry-matured whiskies, and this expression is way down on the sherry influence. It's matured in ex-bourbon casks, followed by a second maturation (finishing) in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.
But we don't know how long it spent in any of those casks, or if they were first-, second- or third-fill etc., and there's no age statement overall. This is not to say it isn't good whisky, but it won't be quite what we normally expect from a Glendronach. And secondly, adding a little extra hesitation on my part, was the pricing, which, in Australia at least, is considerably higher than the excellent 15- (which is currently on a 2-year hiatus), 18-year old and even the brilliant NAS cask strength bottlings, all of which are fully matured in ex-sherry casks.
Prior to the distillery's mothballing in 1996, Glendronach would have used some peat in their floor-maltings, in combination with other fuel/heat sources, so in a way this expression is a return to that practice. But after the distillery re-opened in 2002, the malt used at Glendronach has been sourced elsewhere, and has been un-peated. Until now!
Thanks to the typically excellent presentation of Glendronachs' whiskies, it's non-chill filtered, and bottled at 46%, without any added colouring. I've long felt that I can easily do without an age statement, which is largely inevitable these days anyway, so long as those three 'conditions' are met (or exceeded). I can't find any information on where the peated malt used in this one came from, or exactly what level of peat influence was chosen. But sister distillery Benriach make some excellent heavily-peated whiskies, so while this one will certainly be lightly-peated in comparison, there's still some anticipation on my part. Let's give it a go!
Matured in ex-bourbon casks, before second maturation / finishing in Oloroso and PX sherry casks. Non-chill filtered, natural colour.
Colour: Light gold.
Nose: Herbal, fresh and slightly grassy. Dry, herbal peat, quite soft though. Hint of ash, some stewed fruits. Spiced vanilla, and a little lemon zest.
Texture: Very nice. Medium weight, no heat, nicely drinkable. Typical Glendronach.
Taste: Nice dry, crumbly peat, and more of it than I expected. Some warming wood spices, and a little wood ash. Vanilla cream, and fresh malted barley.
Finish: Medium. Hint of soft smoke, some buttery oak and golden barley. Then some more of that dry, soft peat, and creamy vanilla.
Score: 3 out of 5.
Notes: Not bad at all. Not your typical Glendronach of course, I didn't get any clear sherry influence in this one. But that speaks to the quality of their spirit really, it can still hold it's own without the help of sherry casks. The peat helps as well though; this is certainly a young whisky, and the peat helps cover any harsh or strong spirit-y notes.
So is it worth more than Glendronachs' 18 yo and NAS cask strength expressions? In my opinion (and I'm a peat-head), definitely not. But if it were priced slightly under the 15 yo (based on the original pricing), or not-too-far above the 12 yo, it would be a winner, I think. As it currently stands though, sister distillery Benriachs' 10 yo heavily-peated 'Curiositas' (review coming soon) has this peated Glendronach beaten for me, especially once pricing is factored in.
Nonetheless, I quite enjoyed it, and I'm glad to have tried it. I'd like to see what Billy Walker & team do from here with peated Glendronach. Was this strictly a one-time thing? Or can we expect to see some older peated whisky in future single cask releases, or even some peated spirit integrated with a more-typical Glendronach sherry-cask whisky? Let's hope so.