The Glendronach distillery in the Deveron (Speyside) area of Scotland was founded in 1826
by Glendronach Distillery Co., a partnership headed by one James Allardes (or Allardyce).
Just one decade after it was founded, Glendronach was destroyed by a fire - a fate that was
not that unusual for the whisky distilleries at the time.
After the disaster several people from the whisky industry became involved.
The group included Walter Scott (from Teaninich), Alexander Ross and 'Captain' Charles
Grant (younger son of William Grant of Glenfiddich distillery). Glendronach remained under
control of that branch of the Grant family until 1960, when George Grey Grant sold it.
The Glendronach distillery was sold to William Teacher & Sons Ltd. - who themselves
became part of Allied in 1976. Teacher's expanded the number of stills from two to four In
1966 and '67. The (almost) unique thing about those stills was the fact that they were all
coal fired - as opposed to the 'indirect' heating (often by steam) that is used
at most other malt whisky distilleries in Scotland these days.
In fact, together with the Glenfarclas and Springbank distilleries, Glendronach
was one of the very last coal fired distilleries that were operational in the third
millennium. That's quite amazing, if you think about it - well at least to a whisky
nerd like myself. Until recently coal was used for drying the malted barley on
Glendronach's own floor maltings as well (along with peat), but those floors
were decommissioned in 1996.
That was when the Glendronach distillery was mothballed for a while by owners Allied Distillers,
formerly known as Allied Breweries and Allied Domecq. Fortunately, the distillery went into full
production again in 2002. Initially they resumed the coal firing of the stills, but in 2005 the distillery
shut down for a few months to be converted from direct coal firing to internal steam heating.
So, one of the very last coal fired distilleries that was operational in the third millennium
didn't actually use the technique for more than three years after the re-opening in 2002.
Just when the first of the '2002' spirit turned into whisky Glendronach abandoned coal.
Another production change took place in 1996 when the floor maltings at Glendronach were
decommissioned. Because they used a combination of peat and coal to dry the malted barley,
spirit that was distilled before the distillery was mothballed was relatively peaty for a Speysider.
The Glendronach distillery is located in the ‘Deveron’
area of Speyside along the Glendronach Burn. Its closest
neighbours are Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Knockdhu.
It may be the only ‘Speyside’ distillery that is situated
in Aberdeenshire. The nearby hamlet is called Forgue
while the nearest proper towns are Huntly to the west
and Turriff to the east.
It is possible to book a guided tour of the Glendronach
distillery between 10:00 AM and 16:30 PM.
1) The name Glendronach is pronounced as ‘glenDRON-ak’.
2) The Glendronach distillery uses six warehouses - three
of the 'dunnage' and three of the 'racked' type.
7) In 2009 the new owners announced a total investment of 7 million GBP in the Glendronach distillery.
3) The wash stills at Glendronach are outfitted with heat
exchangers to... eh... exchange heat I suppose.
4) When Billy Walker & friends bought Glendronach,
9,000 casks of maturing whisky were included in the deal.
5) Glendronach uses nine washbacks made out of larch.
6) The Glendronach distillery aimed to produce over 1,000,000 litres of alcohol in 2010.
2002 - After Glendronach was mothballed in 1996 by
Allied Distillers, it was re-opened again on May 14, 2002.
2008 - Billy Walker and partners (owners of the
BenRiach distillery) acquire the Glendronach distillery.
2009 - The old core range of 12yo, 15yo and 18yo is relaunched, along with several single cask bottlings.
The release of these new Glendronach whiskies is very successful.
2012 - The owners of Benriach and Glendronach manage to get a loan of £27 million from Royal Bank of Scotland.
This puts them in the same league as large corporate players like Diageo and Pernod Ricard - and forces them to
realise the same kind of high profit margins to keep the investors happy. Ah, well - that's business I guess...
2005 - Pernod Ricard / Chivas Brothers buys Allied
Domecq and acquires the Glendronach distillery this way.
In the same year, Glendronach is the last malt whisky
distillery in Scotland to be converted from direct coal
firing to indirect steam heating. In the same year a new
33 years old official bottling is launched.
2013 - On March 22, Benriach sent a press release about their acquisition of the Glenglassaugh distillery.
Excellent news as far as I'm concerned - When Billy Walker & friends bought Benriach in 2004 they managed to
quickly re-establish the brand and build on that. Their acquisition of Glendronach was another success story.
So, I guess that Benriach put that capital they acquired in 2012 to good use.
2015 - The Glendronach portfolio is expanded at the ‘bottom’ end with the 8yo ‘Hielan’ bottling.
Glendronach 21yo 'Parliament' (48%, OB, Oloroso & PX Casks, Bottled 2011)
Nose: Deep, rich and sherried. Red fruits. A lovely balanced yet complex profile. Quite sulphury though...
The proof seems perfect. After a minute the spicy element becomes more pronounced. Nutmeg? Cinnamon?
Palate: I love the nose (despite the sulphury note), but it's a little too harsh & rough for me on the palate.
Score: 84 points - my kind of profile in the nose, but the palate doesn't fit an upper 80's malt whisky.
Glendronach 14yo American Virgin Oak Finish (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: A little milky. Clean and quite sweet. A little spicy after a few minutes. Relatively restrained overall.
Taste: Sweet and round. It doesn't feel very sherried, but there are quite some tannins in the finish.
Score: 78 points - an above average whisky, but I must admit that I wouldn't actively recommend it.
Glendronach 18yo Allardice (46%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Casks, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Heavy, round and fruity with sweet and smoky notes in the background. Some meaty notes too.
It starts off great, but doesn't develop after that. It is revived and shows much more wood after some water.
Taste: Mostly woody. Loads of lovely tannins in the dry finish, but a fresh hint of mint as well. Tar & organics.
Score: 87 points - which means that I either underscored it last year, or this batch is better than 2009's.
Glendronach 31yo 'Grandeur Batch 001' (45.8%, OB, Oloroso Sherry Casks, 1013 Bts., Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Oh, WOW!!! Exquisitely woody with organics and some smoke. A touch of dark tea. Lovely profile.
I love the bouquet, but it doesn't evolve over time. Still, based on the nose alone it could earn 91/92 points.
Taste: Woody and loads of tannins right away. It's so extreme that it almost pulls the score from the 90's.
Score: 90 points - but I should add that the nose warrants a higher score. Just a tad harsh on the palate.
Glendronach 38yo 1972/2010 (49.5%, OB, Taïwan Import, Oloroso Sherry butt C#700, 241 Bts.)
Nose: Bloody hell! Fantastic! Woody and sweet with gunpowder, organics and oriental spices.
Taste: Sweet and smoky - what a LOVELY balanced combination. Salt, tar and some liquorice as well.
This has the unique smoky taste that I haven't found in whiskies that were distilled after +/- 1975.
Score: 94 points - this Glendronach really almost hits all the right buttons for me.
Glendronach 12yo 'Original' (43%, OB, matured in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Wow! Classic with coal smoke and a good dose of fruits & sherry. Something slightly farmy. Spices.
Loads of character; reminds me of a whisky made in the 1980's. Some candied fruits in the background.
Bubblegum? Diesel? Quite complex. Whiff of rubber in the background? Not extremely sherried though...
Turkish delight. The oriental spices and tertiary fruits grow stronger over time. Beer? Organics. Some oil?
Taste: Fruity and powerful with a touch of smoke in the finish. Feels slightly chalky & gritty in the end.
Just like the nose, it resembles an 'antique' style of malt whisky. The smoke leans in a rubbery direction.
A very nice fruity balance. My kind of style, but the mouth feel betrays the relatively young age.
Score: 84 points - up from an initial score of 83. Quite good whisky, considering the 45 Euro's price tag.
Glendronach 15yo 'Revival' (46%, OB, matured in Oloroso casks, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: WOWEEE!!! Lovely fruits. Not unlike the 12yo when it comes to the 'classic' character. Sulphur?
Whiffs of rubber and mould - but in a good way. Sherry like the old 15yo, but less fruits & sweetness.
A serious sherried malt with loads of character. Quite complex too, revealing layer after layer. Meaty?
A faint whiff of lemon grass in the background. Tertiary fruits emerge after a few minutes. Soy Sauce.
Some spices in the background. Heavily sherried. Hints of horse radish and rubber? A hint of pepper, perhaps?
Taste: Rich and fruity; not overly sweet. Grows much woodier in the hot centre. Even a little smoky...
Like the 12yo this has a dry, chalky character. It has more 'body' than the 12yo though. Smoke?
Just like the nose, it shows a more serious side of sherry than the fruitier '100% sherry' predecessor.
Loads of tannins in the fairly dry, woody finish. Feels just a tad harsh though...
Score: 89 points - I think this is more complex than the earlier version ever was. Good job!
Glendronach 18yo 'Allardice' (46%, OB, matured in Oloroso casks, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Polished. This seems a little sweeter and fruitier than the 12yo and 15yo. More old stocks?
Shows a strong grassy episode after a few minutes. A little sharper and not as expressive as the 15yo.
Sherried, fruity and quite well balanced. Hints of oil and perhaps sulphur? Great development over time.
Taste: Sweet. Woody and quite smoky - surprisingly so for a Speyside whisky. Smooth mouth feel at first.
Marmelade. Sublimated fruits; like candied oranges without the sweetness. Chalky, gritty finish.
Gentle, fruity start. More smoke, wood and sherry effect in the centre. Toffee too. Cool and quite harsh.
Score: 85 points - a good whisky, but I would personally invest in the Glendronach 15yo instead.
At circa 75 Euro's a bottle it's not hideously expensive, but not the best value malt available I think.
Glendronach 37yo 1972/2009 (53.3%, OB for LMdW, Oloroso Sherry Butt, Cask#705, 275 Bts.)
Nose: Wow!!! A whiff of cinnamon when I poured it. Heavy wood. The heavily sherried profile I usually like.
Very expressive; it jumps at you. I also like this, but it's just a tad too extreme to go for a score in the 90's.
Loads of 'antiquity'. The subtle spices in the background are almost overpowered. A brilliant malt whisky.
Taste: Starts off sweetish with evolved fruits and wood, growing much smokier in the centre.
Very strong Earl Grey tea. Quite extreme, but for me it stays on the right side of the tracks.
Lots of smoke in the finish, with a whiff or menthol and quite some tannins. Brilliant tannins, by the way!
Score: 88 points - a fabulous whisky, although I personally liked last year's 33yo OB even more...
Glendronach 33yo (40%, OB, Oloroso Sherry, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Big, smoky, woody and fruity. Raisins. Some lighter notes emerge over time, remaining in the background.
Comes very close to gold after fifteen minutes, but doesn't arrive during round 1. Also some antiquity.
Speculaas (a Dutch kind of cookie with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove. Dry sherry. Lovely complexity.
Taste: Fruits and smoke just like the nose suggests - just a tad harsh on the palate. Lapsang Souchong tea.
Strong woody notes. Good mouth feel, though - smooth despite the powerful notes. Really excellent stuff.
Touch of liquorice in the finish, in between the fruits, wood, tannins and smoke. A wonderful comeback!
Score: 89 points - one of the very best 'regular' bottles at the MM Awards 2008. And it became even better!
This one responds VERY well to breathing; after almost a year of oxidation it would have reached the 90's.
Glendronach 25yo 1968/1993 (43%, OB, 100% Sherry)
Nose: Aaaaaah... This is MUCH more like it. Kiwi fruits. Deep sherry. Good wood. Unique.
It has a 'light' and subtle fruitiness, despite the fact that it's obviously from a sherry cask.
This is really something - it has a combination of features I never found in any other malt.
Taste: Surprisingly soft start, developing into something medicinal with smoke and liquorice.
You can taste the age. Pink bubblegum. Dry, woody and distinctively 'winey' finish.
That might have lost it some points if this Glendronach didn't keep surprising me at every corner.
Score: 97 points - it earns one or two extra points for uniqueness. Simply stunning.
Glendronach 20yo 1970/1990 (56%, Signatory, C#513-518, Distilled 2/70, Bottled 7/90, 3800 Bottles)
Nose: Very rich with sherry, organics, furniture wax, leather, prunes, plums, gravy and bouillon.
Cow stable, Shezuan sweet & sour sauce and even some rock salt. An absolutely stunning Glendronach.
Taste: The palate wasn't quite as overwhelming, but after a relatively flat start it opened up.
Over time it developed into a long sherried centre. Woody finish. Great but not 'the greatest'.
Score: 91 points - but I should point out that I would have scored it a little higher if I tried it more recently.
When I tried it with some other maniacs in Scotland in 2003 I didn't fully realise how special it really was.
Glendronach 1959-1960/1986 (40%, Gordon & MacPhail, Royal Wedding of Andrew & Sarah)
Nose: Ah! Rich and surprisingly 'winey'. Definitely some 'old bottle effect here, lovely, lovely, lovely...
Very fragrant; the aroma jumps at you as soon as you pour the dram. Some 'OBE', but not too much.
Light Spring fruits and a touch of smoke. Brilliant evolution over time. Some subtle spices too. Hint of mint.
Taste: Surprisingly smoky. A surprisingly powerful centre - this is just wonderful. Lots of OBE here as well.
Cool wood in the finish with some tannins. Dry. Hey, and there's a touch of liquorice in the finish as well.
Score: 90 points - this really is an excellent example of the way single malt whiskies used to be.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glendronach malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glendronach I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glendronach.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
At a peating level of up to 14 PPM Glendronach wasn't a 'peat monster' like Laphroaig
or Lagavulin, but the whisky was a little more potent than the stuff they produced
at nearby distilleries like Knockdhu. Nowadays Glendronach buys unpeated malt.
2005 was an important year for Glendronch in another respect as well.
Their owners Allied Domecq were acquired by the Pernod Ricard conglomerate.
With this transaction the French company Pernod became Scotland's second
largest whisky producer in one fell swoop. They are hardly threatening Diageo's
position as Scotland's largest malt whisky producer, but they managed to produce
2/3 of Diageo's output with less than half the number of distilleries (12 versus 27).
But in that respect, the #3 malt whisky producer was doing an even better job around
the year 2010. With only three distilleries (Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie), family
owned company William Grant & Sons managed to produce roughly half of the malt
whisky that Pernod Ricard made with its dozen distilleries. I guess that with business
acumen like that it’s hardly surprising the family is one of the richest of Scotland.
But now I'm getting side-tracked again - the topic was Glendronach...
The distillery has been on my purely personal distillery Top 10 for quite a few years, thanks to the
excellent yet affordable Glendronach 15yo '100% Sherry' malt whisky that was available in the 1990's.
However, most official releases from the early noughties were vattings of sherry and bourbon casks,
that didn't tickle my fancy quite as vigourously.
Pernod Ricard has only used bourbon casks since they re-opened the distillery in 2005, but
fortunately Glendronach was purchased by The Benriach Distillery Company Ltd. in 2008. Based
on the great job they did when they put BenRiach on the map again, I had high hopes for some
exciting new releases after the take-over - and I was right. In 2009 the Glendronach distillery
released a new 'core range' of three different expressions; 12yo, 15yo and 18yo.
I'm a sucker for a heavily sherried or peated single malt whisky with lots of character. The often
subtle differences between the hundreds of different single malt whiskies from ex-bourbon casks
that are released every year don't excite me quite as much as they once did. So, after the
take-over of the Glendronach distillery by Pernod Ricard it soon disappeared from my top 10.
However, after Billy Walker and his gang took control of Glendronach in 2008, they soon
released three new standard OB's that were all matured in sherry casks. The release of these
beauties brought the Glendronach distillery right back in my personal distillery top 10 - and on
one of the top positions. And as long as they have sufficient stocks of ex-sherry casks to keep
releasing these sherried whiskies at fair prices, they could very well stay on that top 10 forever...