Glendronach, a Speyside distillery, was founded in 1826 by James Alardice. It is named after the source of water from which the distillery draws its stock – dronach burn is the source of water. The name “dronach” means “brambles”, so the distillery name itself translates to the valley of brambles. Generally, the production of Glendronach whiskies are of high quality, relatively affordable, and well presented- without colour or chill filtration. Indeed, this whisky is almost sherry coloured! This whisky uses a combination of PX casks and Olosoro casks for the maturation of the whisky.
This whisky has been a recent addition to the core Highland Park range, which includes the 12, 18, 21, and 25 year old along with the 10 year old here in Canada. It comes in at a slightly higher ABV than the others, at 46.8% and is non-chill filtered to keep the oils in the whisky which enhance mouthfeel. The emphasis on this whisky is sherry – it is matured in double first fill sherry casks. This means that the whisky is matured in a cask which has only held sherry, with the wood flavoured with the sherry and influenced by the maturation in it, and then, after some time, is taken from that first sherry cask and dumped into another cask which has only held sherry. Thus, understandably, they are looking for a lot of sherry influence. My hope in their use of sherry casks is that the dryness brought in from the sherry will combine well with the beautiful highland park smoke – but the bottles tend to vary in this.
This bourbon is part of Diageo’s “orphan barrel” series, where a number of “orphan” barrels have been put together for a number of bourbon releases ranging in age from 15-26 years old from different distilleries. Of course, barrels aren’t just “lost” but the range has released a number of decent whiskies. This whisky, despite remarks trying to claim some link to Stitzel Weller (where the famous Pappy Van Winkle bourbons were distilled), was produced at the Bernheim distillery. This whisky is aged for 20 years, which is a very long time for a bourbon, which is typically in the range of 5 years – these whiskies are both very hard to find and very expensive.
Ardbeg is a distillery on Islay, the region of Scotland renowned for its peaty whiskies. They are also (somewhat notoriously) known for many limited edition bottlings which are highly sought after and has brought the distillery to cult status. Ardbeg was one of the first distilleries to use No-Age-Statment (NAS) bottlings as part of their core lineup (Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Uigeadail), even charging more for these whiskies than for this 10 year old. (However – I must add – despite much of the correctly placed critique against NAS whiskies, Corryvreckan and Uigeadail are very nice whiskies). Part of the reason they utilized a no-age-statement is because the smokiness from peat dies down with age, so an older expression of the same whisky will be less smoky.
Amidst all the craze around Japanese whisky, with many expressions dropping age statements or going out of production, there are a few great whiskies which appear to becoming more widely available (for now….) – including this one. This is a grain whisky, which, in short, means a whisky not made from malted barley as the definition arises from Scotland where the malts reign and this is part of the “other” whisky. Japanese whisky arose out of students of whisky who journeyed to Scotland to learn and take back what they learned – and, especially at the beginning (and still now) grains and stills were imported from Scotland to Japan – as in 1963 was the continuous coffey still used to make this whisky. The whisky is made in Miyagikyo. There aren’t many coffey stills currently in use, but they are around a few places, like here, or Crown Royal.
This whisky is another move towards more rye grain in Canadian whisky, where Wiser’s has decided to blend together two 100% rye whiskies together – one from a column still distilled and one from a copper pot still distilled to a higher ABV relatively. These are two of the main “flavouring” whiskies at Wiser’s – the column still whisky and the copper pot whisky, which is the column still whisky redistilled in a copper pot to a higher alcohol content. Apparently, the column whisky is heavier on the grain characteristic of the rye and the copper pot whisky is heavier on the spice characteristic of rye.
This whisky was matured in a bourbon barrel and is a fine example of some solid old Canadian corn whisky, as we’ve seen in Highwood products. This whisky was from a single cask, aged 24 years, purchased originally from the Potter’s Whisky Broker. The bottle comes in at 56.5% (cask strength), and was released in February of 2014 – only 126 bottles were released. Again, this was a whisky tasted due to the generosity of a friend at a tasting this summer.