One of the things I most enjoy about the scotch whisky industry is the degree of specialization that tends to be present in many distilleries. Unlike in say, the American whiskey market, it can’t quite be expected that any given distillery will probably produce a similar range of products. Although some do hold themselves to an archetypal standard—a core range of unadorned, age-stated single malts, and maybe a few special releases or finishes—others dedicate themselves entirely to single styles or processes. Add in the typical variance that comes from the various scotch whisky regions—check out our guide to whisky regions for more on that—and you get quite a degree of variation within “malt whisky.”
One of the most common types of specialist are those distilleries that focus exclusively on single malts matured in sherry casks, and among those prominent names (Aberlour, Dalmore, Glenrothes, etc.) one of my favorites has long be The GlenDronach. Their house style, to mature their malts in oloroso or PX sherry casks, tends to produce whiskies that are rich, fruity, somewhat decadent but also fairly balanced, and their core lineup is a thing of beauty, especially from the 15-Year-Old Revival and up. All are matured in sherry casks, but one area the distillery has never really touched until now is port wine. This, they’ve now rectified with the U.S. release of The GlenDronach Port Wood, a new single malt that matures first in PX and Oloroso sherry casks, and then undergoes a second maturation in port pipes (which are port casks) from the Douro Valley of Portugal.
The new expression carries no official age statement, although references to it as “GlenDronach Port Wood 10 Year” are all over online, which is likely to cause some confusion. Regardless, we can infer that it is almost certainly younger than any other entry in the GlenDronach lineup, whose core range begins with the 12-Year-Old Original. This Port Wood expression, meanwhile, is non-chill-filtered and bottled at the same decently robust 46% ABV (92 proof) as the 15-Year-Old Revival or 18-Year-Old Allardice. It carries a $90 MSRP, which might seem on the high side, but actually places it squarely between the typical prices of the 12-Year-Old Original and 15-Year-Old Revival. GlenDronach is … not the most affordable of single malt scotch whisky lineups, it must be noted.
With all that said, let’s get to tasting.
The GlenDronach Port Wood sports a fairly deep amber color despite the lack of an age statement, indicating that it’s certainly had no shortage of interaction with the port wood. On the nose, it’s quite fruit forward and enticing—I get milk chocolate and vinous dark fruit, but the fruitiness goes beyond the winey notes and sort of traipses all over the place, to the point that I’m also getting stone fruit, raisin and hints of something like banana. There’s also a biscuity malt, maple syrup, and hints of something more fresh and grassy underneath the barrel character.
On the palate, this malt is again fruit forward, but perhaps not quite as complex as the nose made me hope it might be. It’s heavy on the rich dark fruits and clover honey, with a warm, malty sweetness that segues into plenty of cinnamon and enough prickly alcohol to command respect. I get hints of that milk chocolate again—something like malted milk balls—but it feels perhaps like the maturity of the 15 or 18-year-old expressions is absent. The plummy or jammy dark fruit flavors are nice, but they paint in pretty broad strokes. Suffice to say, this is not the distillery’s most subtle creation, although it will likely be enjoyed by those seeking out rich fruit flavors. Personally, I’d be likely to still favor the core GlenDronach lineup.
Distillery: The GlenDronach (Brown-Forman)
City: Forgue, Scotland
Style: Single malt scotch whisky
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $90 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.