Review: Glendronach, 12-year

March 30th, 2012 by Darin

Fig. 1: The Glendronach 12-year

The first single-malt I ever tried was the Glendronach 15-year. On my 21st birthday, a good friend offered to take me to the liquor store to select a bottle, and I didn’t know the first thing about good whisky. So I grabbed the Glendronach based on aesthetics alone, and I’ve never been sorry. These days, it’s very difficult to find the 15-year anymore (which saddens me, as it is my most beloved malt)—indeed, I haven’t seen it in years. Just so, the 12-year is great in its own right.

The bottle, as you can see, comes smartly dressed in swathes of crimson, gold, and wheat—the lifted capital signature makes quite a label. The whisky itself, behind a Speyside malt’s traditionally clear glass, is russet bronze, highlighted, in places, by quick orange. It wears, in my opinion, the most quintessential of the Speyside rouges.

The Glendronach 12’s nose is smooth and only mildly phenolic. Sweet and dark, it smells predominantly of old, dry paper. Its secondary attributes suggest cinnamon and hints of dill.

Fig. 2: The Glendronach Distillery. Photo © Anne Burgess

The palate is robust: coffee, maple, roasted almonds. These make for quite the alchemical dance, yielding, ultimately, a tonic of aged heather and wet loam.

The finish is very bright and gone in a heated flash—spiced, effervescent, and suddenly cool.

The 12’s aftertaste, while being dark and toffeed, is surprisingly gentle. It offers a lingering, barley punch and the slightly medicinal, malted tang characteristic of most sweet whiskies. In the end, the Glendronach 12 contents itself with soft caramel in a modest denouement. The aftertaste is long but not steep.

On a scale of 1-5, I rate the Glendronach 12-year a 4. It’s no 15, after all.

From the packaging tin:

“We know Allardice was on to a good thing. And so did he! Indeed he called his malt (in his Aberdeenshire brogue) ‘The Guid Glendronach’ and the first people he convinced of this were the ladies of the night who haunted Edinburgh’s Canongate. Breaking into the market was proving difficult for Glendronach in 1826, so Allardice took matters into his own hands, shipped a barrel to Edinburgh and went out himself to canvass every outlet in the city he could find. But everyone was stocked up. The fate dealt a hand and Allardice was canny enough to play it for all its worth. Returning downhearted to his hotel he was accosted by two young women who asked him to buy them a dram. “Buy ye a dram?” he exclaimed, “I’ll gie ye a dram.” And so he did. And they liked it. And told their friends how ‘guid’ the Glendronach was. Soon everyone was demanding ‘The Guid Glendronach’. And we’ve never looked back since.”

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