I last left off with a series of GlenDronachs, before the new Connosr Reboot. So here we go! Continuing from my last review of GlenDronach Cask Strength 3, I was curious about other well-reviewed CS releases (CS2 & CS5) and then the somewhat hyped "Single Cask" releases. I'll return to the other Cask Strengths later, but to celebrate the Reboot of Connosr, I will start here with my favorite of the bunch-- and maybe the most coveted item in my cabinet.
I entered GlenDronach via a fabulous experience with the 15yo Revival. I felt that it delivered more of what I personally wanted from a sherry bomb: more of the raisin/cocoa/soft-oak. I'd had enough of the light fruits or young spirity burn of certain A'bunadhs, and for me the Revival welcomingly avoided the overly woody or peppery oak of others (such as their 18yo Allardice). Could I find a cask strength version of the same thing? Short answer: not exactly, but some were close. This reviewed bottle was the most glorious find, among the cask strength bottlings I found. Single Cask 1243 felt like another awakening. I'm not sure why, since the whiskybase.com average score is not the highest among their Single Casks (89.6 for all ratings, but just 86.8 from reviews). But it rubbed me the right way-- just another reminder for how personal our tastes are.
The bottle is 23 years old, from a PX cask, and released in 2013. Sadly this batch is mostly gone now-- as of today I see one, going for 270Eur. So perhaps you should take this review as an example of what you might get with a lucky choice of single cask. Take it also as an example of what this reviewer prefers from a certain style. Here are my notes:
Better with just a little water. At 50.6%, it is already light for cask strength.
- Nose: Led by bright PX fruits, decorated with dates, antique dust, and substantiail but tempered vanilla-oakiness: I get wood dust reminding me of pencil graphite and cocoa/dates, fruits of strawberry/stewed-cherry with raisin-prune, and tannins of oaky almond and walnut shell.
- Palate: A perfect mix of aged wood and PX, with oak spices that are noticeable but not overpowering: Strong almond-walnut type of woodiness, dark maple-raisin-cocoa-muscovado and sensitively balanced by tannic oakspice of peppery cinnamon. But despite these dark flavors, there are some smooth lighter ones beneath: vanilla-caramel and strawberry-raspberry juice. A flash of tobacco near the end.
- Finish: A decent drier version of the above: Dates and tobacco, with dry cinnamon-woody honey-raisin oak, and tapering out somewhat flatly into thin strawberry-"cardboard".
Well, it seems obvious but I'll state it anyway: a lot of the descriptors above are the same as for any CS sherry bomb! So I've tried to go back to this malt and each time ask "what separates this from other sherry bombs?" Yes, it has the expected deep notes of raisin & cocoa & oak tannins, which you get from many of the Single Cask series. But I've realized that what pulls this one up the extra notch is the underlying "smooth" flavors that carry it: an assertive combination of vanilla and dates, along with toffee. I feel that many similar malts are instead carried by a thin lemony base, or by an acrid explosion of peppery juice, or just by hot spirity ethanol, or maybe in the best cases by simple honey malt. Instead of veering sour or spicy, the 1243 has substantial "thick" supporting flavors. The vanilla/date/tobacco make a pillow that carries the other PX elements like no other malt I've experienced. If you find one like it, please drop me a line! On an off-day for my palate, and without enough oxidation, this scores 87; other days it's usually a certain 95.