Nestled in a quiet hillside in Aberdeenshire in the Scottish Highlands, GlenDronach Distillery has been producing its namesake whisky since the year 1826.
GlenDronach is a unique single malt Scotch with a storied history featuring some of the greatest players in Scotland and in Scottish whisky, and every turn has made it into the beloved whisky it is today.
Are you a single malt whisky fan? Keep reading to learn more about this storied distillery and product.
The GlenDronach distillery has been producing single malts on a windy hillside of Aberdeenshire since 1826 as one of the first licensed distilleries. Today, it is a grade B-listed historical building and a place for whisky lovers and history buffs to enjoy a wee dram in historical surroundings.
Like many other Scottish distilleries, it was less a production center and more like a small town. All those who were involved in the production of the ‘Guid GlenDronach’ lived on site, including the managers, brewers, staff, and all the families of the workers – over 50 people would live on the site at any given time.
Many of these houses remain on the property and as a result, visitors to the distillery will see not only a historic distillery but a piece of life from an early nineteenth century.
The most famous house is known as Glen House. Built in 1771 and originally named Boynsmill, it is the house where the distillery manager would live with his family during his tenure at GlenDronach.
Many aspects of the original distillery were left in place at GlenDronach long after its competitors and many other distilleries in the Highlands had began to modernize. It was not until 2005 that the distillery finally switched from the coal fires it used to heat the stills to steam heating.
Aberdeenshire – Highland Whisky District
It’s no mistake that GlenDronach is found in Aberdeenshire. This part of the Highlands, including the central Speyside region, is home to some of the best whiskies in the world.
The central Speyside region is often referred to as the Scotch Whisky Region or the Highland Whisky District. Over half of all Scotch malt whiskies are produced in this unassuming and rural part of the Scottish Highlands.
GlenDronach keeps its ingredients and distilling process fairly secretive – as is the time-honored tradition of many Scottish distillers.
The barley used in the whisky is grown in Aberdeenshire, and the water used in the whisky has traditionally be taken from the Dronach burn, the water source flowing through the grounds of the distillery.
What separates GlenDronach from its competition is its casks. Distillers have been using superior sherry casks for aging the whisky since 1826, and the practice of carefully seasoning sherry casks continues today.
History of GlenDronach Ownership
In 1826, James Allardice was looking to produce his ‘Guid GlenDronach’ single malt whisky, a richly sherried single malt.
His success was built on the quality of his whisky but also under the ability of investors to see the value in his product.
In 1847, Walter Scott joined the enterprise as a steward, taking over the distillery from Teanininch and lending his money to the success of the distillery.
In 1920, Captain Charles Grant lent his help in steering the distillery into the future. Grant knew a thing or two about whisky, which he undoubtedly learned from his father, who founded the Glenfiddich distillery.
Grant owned the distillery until 1960 when it was bought by William Teacher & Sons. Under new ownership, the distillery expanded. The site had always had two stills, but success meant it was time to double production to four stills.
Allied Distillers purchased the storied GlenDronach in 1996, mothballing it until 2002.
Allied Distillers was eventually purchased by Pernod Ricard, bringing GlenDronach with it. The distillery was then passed on to Chivas Brothers.
This wouldn’t be the last time the distillery changed hands: the BenRiach Distillery Company took over GlenDronach in 2008. The switch to leadership from a small, privately-owned spirits company meant the world: BenRiach was named Global Whisky Distiller of the Year in 2015.
BenRiach wouldn’t be the final owner of the distillery. In April of 2016, the distillery, along with Glenglassaugh and BenRiach distilleries, was scooped up by the U.S.-based Brown-Forman Corporation, who continues to hold it today.
The Brown-Forman Corporation is the current owner of BenRiach and of GlenDronach.
Based in the United States, Brown-Forman was founded by George Garvin Brown in 1870 to house his original brand – Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. Brown’s whisky was the first bottled bourbon produced in the United States.
The company remains under family control, and over five generations of leadership, its portfolio has expanded to include the original Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky as well as 24 other brands including Glen Dronach.
Today, GlenDronach’s product line includes more than its initial Guid GlenDronach.
The primary focus is on the core range of whiskies, listed below.
- The Hielan’ (8 year old)
The Hielan’ is a single malt aged for eight slow years in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks. Once ready, it is bottled at 46% and includes only natural colors and flavors.
It appears in the bottle with an amber color and features a copper glow that has been slightly burnished.
This whisky is a sweet and buttery malt made more interesting by the spicy overtones picked up from the bourbon and sherry.
Its name is a tribute to the dialect of English spoken in the area around the GlenDronach distillery.
- GlenDronach Original (12 year old)
GlenDronach’s Original is a simple dram: carefully aged in Oloroso as well as Pedro Ximinez sherry casks for at least 12 years.
The Original is a sweet whisky with a deep amber-red gold appearance. Bottled at 43%, you’ll enjoy a creamy vanilla nose and palate punctuated by brief notes of mulled wine and pear derived from the carefully chosen Spanish sherry barrels.
- Allardice (18 year old)
The 18-year-old Allardice is named for the distillery’s founder – James Allardice. It’s not quite Allardice’s original recipe, but it carries on the founder’s legacy in the choice of sherry casks.
This single malt is sherried in Spanish Oloroso casks for a rich and bold sherry flavor.
Bottled at 46%, this merry whisky is characterized by its deep gold color slightly offset by the tawny center found during the pour.
Like the others, the Allardice is a sweet whisky. GlenDronach says you’ll enjoy a nose of Muscovado sugar and fudge with a hint of fruit including glacier Morello cherries to avoid the overly sweet sensation.
The whisky marries the Olosoro sherry notes with a chocolate and a toasted walnut bread. Combined with the sweet nose, you end up with a complex conclusion.
- Parliament (21 year old)
An ode to the rooks who have kept watch over the distillery from their nests in the hillside since the facility opened, the Parliament single malt scotch is a 21-year-old whisky aged in the GlenDronach tradition: Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso casks.
Parliament is the highest proof whisky at 48% and it includes the natural color – a beautiful deep amber not dissimilar to a cherry wood.
This well-aged whisky is less sweet than the other core products: there’s a greater balance in both the nose and palate. You’ll enjoy less sweet fruits, like red plums, as well as a toasted oak fragrance with a hint of oatmeal biscuits.
With a wee bit of bitterness, the flavors include the traditional sherry with a bitter chocolate and plum pudding.
GlenDronach is known for its sweet, sherried whiskies, but a core range isn’t complete without a classic peated whisky that the nation’s producers are so well known for.
The only peated whisky produced by GlenDronach, the Peated is an ode to the Scottish Highlands with a bit of the sherried character characteristic of GlenDronach.
As a peated whisky, the bottled product is best described as a vivid gold.
The nose features a citrus twist combined with Scottish berries and only a slight influence from the peat, which provides a slightly charred wood smell.
The peat complements the oak spices left behind by the sherry casks and the result is an all-around subtle but dry whisky.
GlenDronach also produces several wood-finished products distinct from the core range. These bottles include:
- Virgin Oak Wood Finish (14 years)
- Sauternes Wood Finish (12 years)
- Tawny Port Wood Finish (18 years)
- Madeira Wood Finish (19 years)
Several limited-edition bottles have also been produced:
- 1968 Recherche
- Octaves Aged 20 Years
- Cask Strength Batch 6
- Grandeur Aged 25 Years Batch 8
A few of the out-of-commission bottles include:
- Cask Strength Batch 5
- Grandeur Aged 25 Years Batch 7
- Tawny Port Finish Aged 20 Years
- Tawny Port Finish Aged 15 Years
GlenDronach is a storied whisky distiller and one of the most historic products currently available on the market. A wee dram of GlenDronach is a drink of history – the sherried whiskies were the vision of the distilleries founder and his vision continues to dominate the distillery today.
Are you a fan of GlenDronach or sherried whiskies in general? Let us know in the comments below.