This month we visit the Highlands and taste the Glendronach Revival 15 year old.
Originally founded by James Allardice, the Glendronach Distillery opened in 1826. It was only the second distillery in Scotland to be granted a license under the ‘Excise Act of 1823’ which was the act that allowed the whisky industry in Scotland to legitimize and become ‘mainstream’, legal, business. Changing hands a number of times since then, it was finally purchased by the Benriach Distillery Company in 2008. One of it’s more notable previous owners was William Teachers and Sons – and it remains one of the backbones of the Teachers blended scotch to this day. As we tasted in way back in 2011, the Benriach boys are passionate whisky makers. The Glendronach 12 YO stood out as a wonderful whisky, and this latest release is more evidence of committed and passionate distillers.
Interestingly, Glendronach is one of the few distilleries that still malts its own barley. That is the process of germinating barley by wetting it. The barley thinks, “ that must be rain, so I better grow”. To start growing, the seed needs energy, so it turns the tightly packed complex starches into simple sugars that it can use up to start to grow. Just then, along comes a master distiller and blows hot air through the floor and dries all the water out of the barley, so it has to stop growing, leaving the starches as simple sugars, ready to be fermented into alcohol. And that is malting your barley. If they use a peat fire to dry out the barley, then you get the intense peaty smell and flavour, but in this case, they use clean hot air resulting in a much ‘cleaner’ tasting malt.
Glendronach have reverted to using only Oloroso Sherry casks for the production of Glendronach Revival 15 year old, which is not only unusual, but very expensive these days compared to aging in American Oak barrels. American oak is a by product of the very popular Bourbon, where as Sherry is somewhat out of fashion. There is not too many barrels being used, so they tend to command a premium to whisky producers. Whiskies aged solely in Oloroso Casks are few and far between, so this new release from Glendronach is something of a find.
Glendronach Revival 15yo is a little closed on first nosing, but quickly opens up to reveal and intensity and richness rarely match in single malts. It is driven by sultanas and raisins, with plummy richness. There is delightful treacle and molasses with overtones of caramel and toffee on the palate.
The flavours are rich and intense, almost overwhelming, but either a drop of water, or some time in the glass softens the power to an approachable roundness.