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The “Revival” expression marks the renaissance—literally—of the GlenDronach distillery. A Speyside distillery, GlenDronach was “mothballed” in 2000, but resumed production in 2002. Ownership changed hands from the Chivas Brothers arm of Pernod Ricard (having acquired Allied Domecq, having acquired William Teacher and Sons, the previous “proper” buyers of GlenDronach) to BenRiach, the current owners, in 2008. Ingeniously, Master Distiller Billy Walker and his BenRiach colleagues decided to expand the GlenDronach range beyond the commonplace 12 year-old and the uncommon 33 year-old expressions with this, their first release under new ownership.
The Revival has garnered many awards and much praise from folks of no less expertise and enthusiasm for the dram than that venerable Maniac, Serge Valentin, who gave it 92 points and referred to it as an “adorable whisky”. (I absolutely love that!) Nonetheless, I’m inclined in this case to disagree somewhat with the common assessment.
The Revival has been matured for 15 years in Oloroso sherry casks, and it shows: the colour is an extraordinary shade of caramel, one stewed until it was on the verge of burning. The sherry notes on the nose and palate are equally unmissable. Less obvious, but perhaps more intriguing, are the other elements of the nose: burnt caramel (much like the colour) and cherry cough syrup co-mingle with coffee, honey, marshmallow, plums, and melon. As @galg noted in his review, there is balsamic here, too, but an aged (or heavily reduced) one. This is a sumptuous, jammy nose.
The palate is where things go awry. Again, you get strikingly sweet sherry at the fore, but as notes of dark chocolate, salt-water taffy, and orange marmalade appear, it changes utterly to a tarry, persistent sourness that carries through the finish. A healthy finish is a treat, but only so long as one enjoys the lingering flavours. With the Revival, I’m not so pleased with what’s left coating my tongue.
It’s nice that the Revival has been bottled at 46% ABV, as it’s a richer dram for it. It’s smooth, but with a touch of that lovely Speyside spiciness. And while the body doesn’t impress the eye, seeming to coat the glass only thinly, it does have a redeeming mouthfeel.
This is an interesting whisky, and one to be proud of for many things. The nose alone is wondrous. However, the predominating sourness on the palate seems to me a real blight on the Revival’s character. And so it goes...