Occasionally, I get to treat myself. While ordering a batch of miniatures from Master of Malt for the drudgery of writing these blog posts (just kidding), I splurged and also ordered a bottle of the 14 year-old Sauternes-finished GlenDronach from their line of non-sherry barrel finishes. I’m a sucker for a Sauternes finish, and GlenDronach is fast becoming one of my top five distilleries, so this European-only release (a 700ml bottle) was a no-brainer.
This release was aged for an un-announced amount of time (I’m guessing between 12 and 13 years) in a “European oak” cask, according to the tin. This was then followed by a second maturation in a Sauternes cask until the age of 14. It is bottled at 46% ABV, without coloring or chill-filtration (music to my ears). I am uncertain of the provenance of the “European” oak casks used in the initial aging. It must be a batch of totally spent refill ex-sherry casks, as I do not get any of the spicy notes associated with French Oak, nor any sherry influence at all. Tasting blind, I would have guessed ex-bourbon because of the vanilla.
Nose: Sticky-sweet, with plump golden raisins and crystallized honey and a mild sour winey note. Peach syrup and dried apricots over vanilla-banana pudding. Cake frosting. Flawless nose – deep and inviting, but very (very) sweet.
Palate: Medium-bodied – slightly chewy, which is the only hint this is GlenDronach at its core. Pear drops, golden raisins, apricot Turkish Delight. Sweet. Almost – but not quite – cloyingly so.
Finish: Medium-short. First the mouth is enrobed in a candy-apple coating. This is stripped away by a flash of acidic freshly-squeezed white grape juice, which lingers while a hint of bitter, sappy oak creeps in. It fades away with green grape skins.
With Water: Water opens up a few cereal notes, but dulls some of the complexity in the nose. The water has a nice congealing effect on the palate – lessening the syrup and heightening the golden raisins and fresh grapes. Ditto on the finish. Definitely try this with water – but try it without first.
Overall: The experience is very similar to a syrup I made once by re-hydrating golden raisins in white port. Yum. This is dessert whisky, and no bones about it. While the GlenDronach house style (meaty/oily) is missing here – likely because the house style is closely associated with the sherry character of the flagship expressions – this is still one robust, flavor-filled escapade of a whisky. Sweet to the point of cloying, but excellently balanced by a grapey acidity and fruity complexity. Truly a pleasure, especially for a lover of dessert wines. I am not disappointed in my purchase from across the pond.