Not much has changed at GlenDronach since opening in 1826. The heralded Highland distillery still does things in a similar way to how it did them almost 200 years ago, which means they deliver a traditional, classic single malt Scotch. One of the newest additions to the GlenDronach lineup is the Port Wood, which brings a Port-finished whisky to the distillery’s core range.
Frankly, the GlenDronach Port Wood is one of our favorite whiskies released in the last few years. It’s rich, fruit forward, and, like everything else guided by the sure hands of Master Distiller Rachel Barrie, exquisite.
Luckily, in this week’s Bottle Breakdown, we got the chance to sit down with GlenDronach Brand Ambassador Greg King to discuss the Port Wood and learn a little bit more about the release and the distillery where it comes from.
Spirited Zine: Just to get started. What was your first experience with The GlenDronach? And how does that memory impact the way you view The GlenDronach Port Wood?
Greg King: My first visit to the distillery is what made me truly understand just how special GlenDronach is. Visually, not much has changed since the distillery was founded back in 1826. So when I arrived, it was a little bit like stepping back in time, surrounded by almost 200 years of history. You witness the traditional methods and styles of production, you smell the age of the dunnage warehouses, and even spot the rooks (black birds) flying over the distillery for good luck. All of this represents everything GlenDronach is, a traditional, classic single malt scotch. The spirit in your glass has a history and the Port casks are very much a part of that story.
SZ: The Port Wood uses whisky initially matured in Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso Sherry casks. Before we dig into the effects of the Douro Valley Port pipes, how do the two different types of Sherry casks each impact the Whisky?
GK: We use ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximenez casks throughout our entire core line-up at GlenDronach. Each cask will of course impart a different flavor into the whisky. Oloroso casks create nutty, tannic, dry flavors, while Pedro Ximenez is very sweet, with notes of intense raisin and chocolate. It’s the skill of our Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, to utilize these casks to create the rich, fruit forward, full bodied, yet elegant whiskies that GlenDronach is known for.
SZ: Port and Scotch share a long history. Why did you think now was the right time to explore that tradition?
GK: If you go back just a few years ago, GlenDronach had released several limited Port Wood finishes. Most recently a 10yr, and prior to that a 15yr and 18yr Tawny Port. People still ask me about those Tawny Port finishes today, and I always say if you find one, grab it because they are incredibly delicious and incredibly rare. Incorporating Port casks is something GlenDronach has done historically and that continues today.
SZ: What is the process that is gone through in sourcing the port pipes? Is there a particular type of Port that is in there before or one that comes from a particular place?
GK: Our Master Blender Rachel Barrie uses her almost 30yrs of experience and relationships to travel the world and source the best casks she possibly can that meet her specifications. This approach is of course done for our Port casks which she sources directly from the Douro Valley.
SZ: How long does the Whisky spend in the Port pipes and what about Port pipes makes them pair so well with The GlenDronach Whisky?
GK: What makes our GlenDronach pair so well with Port casks is that our unique saxophone shaped stills produce a rich, full bodied, and robust Highland style new make spirit with notes of berry, orange, and chocolate. This heavier, oily spirits work incredibly well with European oak and fortified wine casks. One shouldn’t overpower the other, but work in harmony.
SZ: Originally, the distillery released a 10 Year Port Wood, but the new edition is non-vintage. How is the new release different from the original and why the change?
GK: Our 10yr release was a limited run back in 2019. It was incredibly well received, but we had very limited inventory and sold out quickly. Moving forward our new Port Wood will be part of our core line-up. Consumers should expect a fruit-filled expression of ripe berries and a long finish.
SZ: Should the Whisky be given time to sit after pouring to let it open up? And if so, how long?
GK: Essentially, we all want to get the most out of our whisky. Allowing air to open up a whisky can certainly have its advantages, but it isn’t a requirement. In addition to letting a whisky sit for a period of time, which will allow some of the alcohol to evaporate, you can also try adding a little water. By adding a few drops of water you will begin to release the aromas and therefore enhance the flavor profile while simultaneously bringing down the alcohol content.
My advice is find what works for you, but most importantly do not rush, sip and savor the Port Wood.
SZ: What should we be looking for when tasting the Whisky?
GK: GlenDronach is known for being a richly sherried single malt that is fruit forward and elegant. You’ll experience this in the Port Wood as well, but with an added layer. On the nose you’ll breathe in notes of plum, strawberry jam, and ginger. And on the palate, layers of rich fruit, berries, spice as well as a sweet black cherry note can be found.
SZ: How do you recommend enjoying The GlenDronach Port Wood and what should be paired with it?
GK: I always recommend drinking a whisky in a way that will give you the most pleasure. Port Wood is just absolutely beautiful on its own, so for me, served neat with a few drops of water is how I enjoy it. Or if you are interested in a cocktail, the depth of flavor in the Port Wood really shines through in classics such as a Rob Roy or a Blood and Sand.
If you are looking to pair the Port Wood, GlenDronach pairs incredibly well with both sweet chocolates and savory cheeses. The complex fruit notes of a bittersweet dark chocolate compliment the layers of rich fruit, gingerbread, baked orange, and black cherry notes of the Port Wood. Or a versatile yet complex cheese such as an aged gouda or a fontina compliments those fruit-forward notes of ripe berries and rich savory fruit notes of baked orange and cherry.
Get a bottle of GlenDronach Port Wood delivered to your door via Drizly.