On the same day that the oldest Scotch whisky ever was announced, I received an interesting package in the post. Nope, nothing to do with that gaudy Macallan, but instead a sample of a release from another brand known for its sherry maturation, the new GlenDronach 50 Years. Still a few decades below the oldest Scotch whisky, but impressively aged nonetheless. And lest not forget: the GlenDronach 50 Years is the oldest GlenDronach ever bottled.
Now I know it is not fashionable anymore to say that age matters. There are so many new distilleries putting out admirable young whisky that I’m beginning to doubt that old adage myself. One just has to look at Bimber in England, Waterford in Ireland, Dornoch in Scotland or Shizuoka in Japan. You could almost be fooled into thinking that maturation has become less important than it once was.
But if were being totally honest, it doesn’t get much better than properly aged single malt. There’s simply a ceiling attached to the complexity and depth of young whisky. And while distillers have gotten better and subsequently upgraded our expectations of what a 3-year-old single malt can be, it takes decades for most Scotch whiskies to truly reach their potential. There’s a reason why pretty much my entire Top 10 is over 25 years of age – and some even A LOT older.
That’s probably a harsh truth, because in this day and age it is rare to find truly good, well-aged whisky for an affordable price. Even some 12-year-old single casks are now priced (well) above 100 euro. Finding value for money as a Scotch whisky drinker? That’s difficult, sometimes nearly impossible. And you’re not going to find it in the new GlenDronach 50 Years either. This is an ultra-premium luxury single malt priced at £20,000 and clearly not meant for the average whisky drinker.
I’m very lucky doing what I do. When I started this blog I never set out to profile myself in such a way that whisky companies would send me stuff. And I’ve never approached them about it either. That would not be fun or very honest, would it? But as I’ve built an audience, further educated myself and have written not just for my own personal blog but for many other outlets as well, I suppose at some point they started to trust me to write fair articles about them and their products.
And that’s the only reason I’m now in the position to taste the GlenDronach 50 Years. This whisky was distilled in 1971 and is a vatting of one Oloroso cask and one Pedro Ximénez sherry cask. It spent the final year in a new Spanish oak Pedro Xim´énez cask, which tallied just 198 bottles. Bottle No.1 of the GlenDronach 50 Years was donated to the inaugural Distillers’ One of One Auction, which was held in December 2021. It sold for £40,000 in support of disadvantaged young people in Scotland.
Before moving on to my tasting notes, I should disclose that my sample of the GlenDronach 50 Years was just 1 centiliter. That has been the case before with precious whiskies sent to me for review purposes. And this is not me complaining, but rather me forewarning, as it is a rather small amount to base an opinion on. Nevertheless, I tried…
GlenDronach 50 Years 1971 (43.8%, OB, 2022)
Nose: Rather crisp despite the earthy mushroom and soy notes, there is orange rind, sprinkles of lime zest, some polished leather, hazelnuts and a surprising touch of vanilla custard. Whiffs of oregano, sage and fennel followed by a drop of cough syrup. Finally some figs, plenty of plums and chocolate pralines. Taste: So many sensations at the same time. Almost too many. Sour, sweet, earthy. And umami. No oak tannins to speak of. Some aniseed, sweet miso paste and creamy chocolate, as well as some coffee beans and cranberries, followed by crushed mint and oranges. Finish: Gentle and medium in length with notes of cappuccino, dark chocolate and a whisper of fennel.
Upper-echelon single malt, the GlenDronach 50 Years distinguishes itself from other old, sherry-matured whiskies because of its luscious, syrupy mouthfeel without barely any oak tannins. If it weren't for the low abv this could've spent several more decades in the cask. But it seems the Glendronach 50 Years was bottled at its absolute apex.