Glendronach's single cask releases are very popular, and are becoming increasingly difficult to source for a reasonable price in Australia. But every now and then a few stores get their hands on some, and they usually don't last long. Each batch consists of around a dozen casks / releases that are hand-picked by master distiller Billy Walker, mostly consisting of Oloroso and PX sherry casks of varying sizes and ages, although there have also been a few other oddities released over the years. Also adding to their allure is the fact that they are always bottled at cask strength, non-chill filtered and naturally coloured, and of course are very limited as far as availability goes. I've been able to taste a few of these bottlings now, and while a couple have been exceptional, some have been less than spectacular. Still good, but not great. But that's always the risk of any single cask bottling from any distillery.
Prices vary depending on the age and cask type, ranging from whisky distilled in the same cask for 40+ years to younger whiskies that are married together and finished in a single sherry cask. But generally speaking, these are very good whiskies which are deserving of their cult status. It's important to note that a single cask release does not necessarily mean that the entire contents spent its entire life in that one cask, particularly where there was a cask finishing involved, which can be a little confusing. Some of these bottlings from Glendronach will state on the label that they were finished in a particular cask, or that they were fully matured in a single cask, or they may not specify at all. I'm thinking that this bottling came from a few different casks which were finished in a larger cask before bottling (so technically still a single cask bottling), because 702 bottles were released, which equates to 491 litres of whisky without any spillage. That would mean an angel's share of only around 9 litres over 11 years from what I assume was a 500-litre puncheon (the common size), which is far too low. You would expect that sort of evaporation within around two years at most. This doesn't really matter of course, they're still single casks technically, but it is something to be aware of.
This particular bottling, from cask number 5524, was the youngest whisky from batch 12, which first appeared on the Australian market in late 2015. It was finished in a single Pedro Ximenex (PX) Sherry puncheon, at a cask strength of 57.8%. Unfortunately we don't know which cask type/s it was / they were initially matured in, although I would assume ex-Oloroso sherry but it could also have been ex-bourbon casks. As I mentioned above, there may have been a few casks involved here (of at least 11 years of age of course) which were finished in this one puncheon, and subsequently bottled as a single cask release. This one sold for around $200 in Australia when it was available, but is now completely sold out. That may sound a little pricey for an 11-year old whisky (it was the youngest release in this batch), but really isn't too bad for a single cask bottling of this calibre and popularity. And considering that batch 13, which was released not long after this one, sky-rocketed in price in Australia and saw bottlings with roughly the same specs increase in price by around 50% (so a similar bottling to this for $320 and above), this one was a bargain.
Glendronach 11 yo Single Cask, 2004, 57.8%. Highlands, Scotland.
Cask 5524, from batch 12. Finished in a single PX sherry puncheon. Cask Strength, non-chill filtered, natural colour.
Colour: Dark copper with rusty red tinges. Very pretty.
Nose: Sweet & spicy, fresh & youthful. Lovely rich sherry notes - juicy, plump raisins in sweet spiced syrup, warm fresh & spicy oak. Fruit mince pies dusted with icing sugar, mixed fruit peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and some brown sugar. Beautiful.
Texture: Rich & syrupy, but not heavy. Light to medium weight, plenty of flavour and complexity.
Taste: Spicy, fruity & rich. A considerable amount of oak here for what is a young whisky, plus more raisins in syrup, baking spices, and blow-torched orange peel. Plenty of spice with soft clove, some white pepper, ground ginger and nutmeg.
Finish: Medium length. A little malty-ness initially, then more peppery oak, becoming dryer. More raisins, a little spice. Hint of brown sugar and cinnamon.
Score: 4 out of 5.
Notes: So good, in fact one of the best single cask Glendronachs I've had so far, especially if you factor in the price. And really a perfect way to see in Christmas! It's young & fresh, but still so flavourful & balanced. There's plenty of sherry influence, but it hasn't overwhelmed either. I'd say the original cask/s were ex-sherry as well, but they've been expertly selected and finished to come up with a result like this. Very impressive, and a great example of what my favourite mainland distillery can do. Some might have turned their noses up at the age statement on this one, but if so they really missed out here. Glad I was able to grab a bottle of this one before they all disappeared, and of course the very nice updated packaging also helps.
Love your work Mr. Walker & team, please keep it up!
Cheers, and merry Christmas!