A wee tasting today. Two eighteen year olds from two Speyside big hitters, Glendronach and Macallan. Both distilleries are highly regarded, Macallan is the more famous of the pair, the elder statesman if you like. Whereas Glendronach, although long established is only just starting to garner the limelight it has long deserved, thanks largely to its new owners Benriach. Perhaps the most important link between them is their infamous insistence on top quality sherry casks (we’ll just forget about the fine oak range for now Macallan). So the obvious thing to do, you’d rightly think, would be to compare the two OB 18yo bottlings. Well due to lack of samples to choose from I will be throwing logic to the wind and trying the OB Glendronach 18yo with a Doulas Laing 18yo Macallan from a refill hoggie. Sense? No. Fun? Lets hope so…
Glendronach 18yo Allardice OB. 46%. 70cl. rotation 2010.
Nose: Very dense notes of toffee straight away, toffee apples, stewed fruits and all kinds of thick classic sherry characteristics. A very clean nose, which is rare for a sherried malt these days sadly. Develops some lovely mushroom and fig notes with honeysuckle and orange blossom aromas in the background. Quite a delicate nose in many respects but very entertaining. Keeps on developing becoming gently drying and spicy with walnuts and more vegetal, grassy aromas. Very intricate and entertaining so far.
Palate: Big, succulent, controlled delivery with lots more clean sherry character. Very nutty and chocolaty with a great ‘fizzy’ background spiciness. Rosewater and a big hit of Turckish delight. Its maybe not as complex on the palate as the nose suggested but its still very clean sherried whisky with a beautifully controlled profile. Quite an elegant spirit that tastes a little younger than 18 to me but in a good way, it rides very well the balance of sweetness and dryness that so many sherried whiskies fail to do.
Finish: Medium to long with hints of pipe tobacco orange peel and cedar wood. It displays, if only very fleetingly, some older characteristics in the fade.
Comments: Great dram. Consistent, compelling, very clean whisky that’s far too easy to drink. In my mind I find this makes more of an impression than any of the recent Macallan 18yo bottlings, but don’t hold me to that as I don’t have a sample to be sure. I think we’ll have to have another go at this when I can get a sample of the Mac 18yo to compare. Highly recommended anyway.
Macallan 18yo. Douglas Laing OMC. Refill hogshead. 50%. 70cl. 1991/2009 reference no: OMC1656.
Colour: White Wine
Nose: A big mish-mash of cereals, citrus fruits and freshly baked bread. Green apples, malt barns, quite grassy and flowery, like a meadow really. Becomes quite thick and oily as Macallan in refill wood tends to do. Some delicate fruitiness and notes of kirsch or some fruit eaux de vie. A little herbaceous and maybe even a bit coastal, its a very invigorating, fresh nose. Typical good refill wood. Water doesn’t seem to do much initially, brings out more delicate flowery notes and some eucalyptus, menthol characters.
Palate: Oily and fat with notes of leather and tobacco. Very spicy with fruits in syrup, peaches, lychee. Quite earthy with maybe even a little peat in the background. The maltiness is heavy and chewy, so far quite a big boisterous dram. Vanilla pods, nutmeg, quince jelly and more kirschy notes. Quite meaty after a while, some sort of bloody steak character. Water cuts right through the oiliness and creates a lovely soft fruit salad of a dram. More menthol again and a little honied, very enjoyable dram this.
Finish: Long, big and malty with more of those leathery, slightly smoky notes hanging around and more meatiness.
Comments: Not the easiest Macallan by far, it seemed to be ever changing at some points and certainly one that facilitates watersports well. I always love to try naked Macallans as it were, when you strip away all the big wood influence you get down to the beautiful subtleties of the distillate, like that wonderful oiliness that comes though in this one. Its not much use comparing the two drams, they’re both very different but it has given me the inkling to come back and try some sherried Glendronachs and Macallans head to head. Watch this space…