A review of the Carmel Mediterranean 2007 and several GlenDronach Single Malt Scotch Whiskies.
By Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon
Washington Jewish Week January 16, 2013
In a strictly biological sense, there is nothing “alive” in a bottle of wine, and yet there is no doubt that wine continues to evolve after bottling. Many have compared wine to a living creature since it begins as an organic product that changes over time and has a limited lifespan. Indeed, most well-made wines seem to have their own unique personality, and often with the inherent potential to become more complex and interesting over time.
Most wines are made for early consumption rather than extended maturation, and accordingly are generally consumed within days or weeks after purchase. There are some wines, by contrast, that require additional time in the bottle to allow the various components to merge and reach their full potential. A great many wines fall somewhere in between and will benefit from a few years of additional time in the bottle.
Deciding which wines require aging and for how long depends upon an evaluation of the vintage, producer, grape varietals and the experience of the taster with prior vintages.
So the opinions of wine critics enter the picture, since they are presumed to have the time and resources to make truly educated guesses. The surest alternative is to buy an entire case and open a bottle periodically just to see when the wine is really “ready to drink.”
Some people enjoy drinking wines that are young; others prefer to drink wines that are old. Perhaps, like us, you simply enjoy drinking good wine, regardless of the wine’s own internal clock of maturation (from too young to past its prime). Even still, drinking window recommendations from trusted wine critics can be a helpful guide for those interested in seeing how a wine will develop over time. They can also help avoid waiting too long only to discover that the particular bottle should probably have been drunk months, if not years, earlier.
A wonderful wine worthy of storage is the Carmel Mediterranean 2007 ($50), a blend of Carignan, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Petit Sirah and Viognier. Each component was vinified and oak-aged separately for seven months prior to blending, and then underwent a further eight months of aging together. Amazingly deep dark fruit aromas rise immediately from the glass followed by raspberry, dried dark plum, black olive and anise flavors with savory accents, along with oak and spice on the finish. Consider opening this complex charmer over the next five to seven years.
Spirits-wise, we thought we’d review the single malt Scotch whiskies from the GlenDronach Distillery.
GlenDronach is, unfortunately, not such a well-known single malt here in the U.S. The distillery is located in the Forgue Valley in Aberdeenshire’s “castle country” in Huntly, in the Deveron district of Speyside. The name means “valley of the blackberries (brambles)” in Gaelic.
The distillery was founded in 1826 by the GlenDronach Distillery Company, a consortium of farmers and businessmen headed by James Allardice. The GlenDronach became highly successful right out of the gate.
Then in 1837 James Allardice’s luck ran out and a major part of the distillery was destroyed by fire. Unable to fully recover financially, the distillery was sold in 1852. The distillery experienced a handful of ownership changes over the years and by the late 19th and all through the 20th century was mostly used in blended Scotch whisky, with very little being sold as single malt – though its reputation was as a solid, quality whisky.
In 1996 the distillery was mothballed by its drinks conglomerate owner (Allied Domecq), then brought back online in 2002 but with some bizarre production tinkering (like switching away from sherry cask maturation). In 2005, the distillery was acquired by Chivas Brothers, the spirits division of drinks giant Pernod Ricard. Production of GlenDronach continued, but, alas, so did the tinkering with the whisky. The packaging underwent some confusing alterations, and the quality became a tad variable, though generally very competent. All of this diminished GlenDronach’s otherwise fine name in whisky.
Then, mercifully, in 2008 the GlenDronach Distillery and its stocks of aging whisky was bought by the BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd., a consortium of businessmen – South Africans Geoff Bell and Wayne Keiswetterled, led by Scotch industry veteran Billy Walker.
Thankfully, the BenRiach folks really seem to appreciate what they have. They not only repackaged and relaunched the GlenDronach with the intent of restoring the brand’s image and integrity, but their GlenDronach portfolio is truly much improved over the latter Allied and Chivas years. Whatever magic Billy Walker brought to selecting and blending the right casks has clearly worked. By 2010, GlenDronach was even outselling whisky from the BenRiach Distillery (which, we hasten to add, is quality whisky!).
GlenDronach is seriously good whisky.
Here are three whiskies from GlenDronach’s current lineup:
The GlenDronach, Original, 12 year old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky (43 percent; $60): Matured in a combination of Spanish Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso Sherry casks, this rich and enjoyable whisky offers lovely aromas of creamy vanilla, subtle toffee, fruit cake and a hint of malted barley, followed by flavors of sweet spice, honey, almonds, and marmalade. The quick finish is relatively dry and nutty, with touch more toffee and just a bite of bitter chocolate. Not fully balanced, perhaps, but oh so drinkable.
The GlenDronach, Revival, 15 year old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent; $95): This thick, rich complex Oloroso Sherry cask-matured whisky is a joy, with aromas of dark dried fruits (like raisins and prunes), candied citrus peel, toffee, cake spice, and with overtones of worn leather and traces of furniture varnish, with warm, rich, yummy flavors of raisins, marmalade, baked cake spices, nuts, and autumnal fruits. The finish is warming and slightly tannic, with a bit more raisin and some blackberry jam. An awesome whisky!
The GlenDronach, Allardice, 18 year old Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky (46 percent; $135): Named after the distillery’s founder, James Allardice, this Oloroso Sherry cask-matured whisky is sweet, complex, soft and rounded on the nose, with aromas of hazelnuts, cocoa, pralines, citrus, stewed cherries and super comfy worn leather. The whisky offers sweet, sympathetic flavors of demerara sugar, treacle, dried walnuts and more hazelnuts, dark chocolate, dark roast coffee beans, raisins, figs, orange peel, cake spices, and a distinct tinge of cherry liqueur. The finish is long, thick and rich, with additional cherry liqueur, ginger and lovely vanilla and cake spices to balance and keep the sweetness in check. A fantastic whisky. (Fans of The Macallan take note – this is one you don’t want to miss.) L’Chaim!