The GlenDronach Revival 15yo - when whisky is like busses!
The GlenDronach Revival 15yo is a little like a London bus to me: I have waited almost 40 years to hear it’s name and then it crops up twice in a couple of weeks! And now I have found that it is potentially my local whisky - almost!
I am very new to whisky blogging and there is no possible way that I would know all the distillery names (the Glen… ones are particularly hard to remember!) at this stage - especially with so many new and liberated ones coming on-stream. By liberated I mean distilleries that have been mothballed for years and, in response to the demand for spirits from smaller, craft distilleries, are being brought back into action. The BenRiach Distillery Co Ltd is a relatively new player in the Scotch whisky world. It has two brands, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, and both have been rescued from redundancy and put right back to work with great results.
On a happy November afternoon in Glasgow I was led from a really fun and delicious tasting at The Pot Still whisky pub and just around the corner to a new specialist bottle shop called The Good Spirits Company. After almost an hour of banter and tastings with director Mathew McFadyen (no, not the actor, but a deliciously affable namesake) I asked him what the hidden gem on his shelves was that I should take away with me? There was no hesitation: he was straight to the GlenDronach shelf and then specifically to the 15 year old (yo) Revival expression. At that point I would probably have bought anything that Mathew had recommended, but I had suggested the MoonShine £50 price tag and so we exercised some financial caution in our merriness!
The whisky world has gone sherry crazy. Not that whisky matured or finished in sherry casks is anything new but as our palettes are generally moving towards slightly sweeter tastes the whisky world is marketing sherry finishes - and especially those from oloroso casks or barrels - as the New Whisky. Look at (taste) how much sweeter and nuttier well matured Cheddars are now than a few years ago, both farmhouse cheeses and the widely available block cheeses like Cornish Quartz from Davidstow. Whiskies matured in sherry barrels are perfect with these sweeter, strong cheeses.
The GlenDronach Revival is, in a whisky way, all about sherry. I am a little confused as some references are occasionally made by people who know loads more than I do about whisky to ex-Bourbon barrels being used here but my chats with the distillery have underlined that the whiskies from GlenDronach are matured solely in sherry barrels. (That was a big learning curve for me as I had wrongly believed that whisky had to have some time in bourbon or American oak. Still learning...) The resulting colour, especially in the 15yo, is a deeply golden brown, like looking into a can of golden syrup. It has a full aroma, the fire of the spirit being tamed by the honeyed richness of the sherry wood with a slightly citric note. Without water it is very slightly oily, quite fiery, very warming and full of spicy pepper on the side of the tongue. With a drop of water more coffee and chocolate notes, richer flavours from the malting of the barley, are obvious and there are hints of vanilla too.
This is a whisky that would go wonderfully with salami and cured meats, with hard ewe’s milk cheeses or with smoked venison or rich game casseroles. But it would be just as at home with rich fruit or chocolate cakes. It has been voted The Whisky Exchange’s Whisky of the Year for 2015, a worthy winner. Like a warm jumper, this is a winter whisky for my Wardrobe: perfect for cold, miserable weather in front of the fire. It’s a dram for teatime as well as dinner time. Smart-casual, comforting.
More information than you need to know
GlenDronach is a Highland whisky, produced at Forgue by Huntly in Aberdeenshire.
As a food writer I know Huntly as the home of Dean’s bakery, famed for their shortbreads and biscuits. As neither business seemed to have made contact with the other I thought that I would try to match them up. Dean’s make a fabulous Crème Caramel biscuit that I felt would stand up to the strength of the GlenDronach Revival. It does. It is a perfect match. Dean’s biscuits (which I highly recommend) are available mail-order here.
I live just by Goodwood, the home of the Duke of Richmond & Gordon. The estate here is famous for its horse and motor racing tracks and events, but I started wondering about the Gordon estates: where they are and what they are famous for? Sure enough, the Laird of the Huntley area is - the Duke of Gordon. Which must make this my local whisky. Right?
This is a whisky with hidden depths. A whisky to loose yourself in for a while. A whisky for Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, or for Pat Metheny’s As Wichita Falls, So Falls Wichita Falls.
The GlenDronach Revival 15yo is on offer in November 2014 at The Whisky Exchange.