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For some reason it took me a while to get into GlenDronach; I was not disappointed when the time finally came.
Nose: After clearing some initial vapors (sneakers, hay-like walnut oil, varnish): Rich melted chocolate, coconut oil, and some walnut. The next slow breath added raisin and vanilla. Finally, the milk chocolate, raisin, vanilla, walnut all seem to blend together. There is only one small deviation from this fudgy delight… celery? Yes, celery root, light enough to not detract from the rest of the aromas.
Palate: Enters with sweet honey, slightly tangy raisin, and then tannic (nutmeg-y) cocoa. Held in the mouth, the tannins pass to walnut with supporting oak spice/hazelnut on the tongue. Then a raisiny impression comes from back, seeming thick and still with vanilla-walnut. (I only sense the nose’s celery if I really look for it.)
Finish: Sensation of cocoa raisin sustains, together with vanilla in the throat, and the tongue has some drying from tannic walnut.
Wow, I really love this; what a delight for a reasonable price! In terms of value and quality, this is a contender to the Glenfarclas 15. A reserved oxidized sample has, once again, picked up grassier notes after a couple weeks; so I will be taking special care of my bottle.
It’s not very similar to the GlenDronach 12yo, being less vegetal hay and more raisin cocoa. It’s less spicy (ginger/clove) than the 18yo, or the 21yo for that matter. The 15yo has a “thicker” feeling to it, if less spice-influenced sophistication. I think it’s a toss-up with the 21yo; I just want to keep drinking the 15yo, but the 21yo will suit more contemplative times.
I thought it made sense to compare this to the Glenfarclas 15 and the Glenmorangie Signet, so I also tasted these head-to-head. Both of these have elements of milk chocolate, oak, and nuts; and I consider all three to have similar high intrinsic quality.
The Glenfarclas 15 might be the closest of the Farclases I know (10/12/15/21/25/30/40), and it might sound logical to compare two 15-year-olds— but in fact these are very different malts. Drunk side-by-side, the Glenfarclas 15 seems much more serious, the GlenDronach sweeter. The Glenfarclas seems like salty nougat (cashew/walnut) with leathery bran. Meanwhile, the GlenDronach’s sweet coconut-oil seems more obvious, and its nutty quality seems more like hazelnut rather than walnut, since the Glenfarclas 15 has such a strong walnut quality.
The Signet is actually closer to this GlenDronach, relative to the Glenfarclas 15-- but of course the Signet is still significantly different. Both have milk chocolate, but the Signet is certainly oakier (much more nutmeg) and also has more elements of coffee and vanilla. (The Signet also has an even thicker mouthfeel.) Meanwhile, the GlenDronach is clearly nuttier and adds the touch of raisin.
In any case, this GlenDronach is in good company.