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GlenDronach's Cask Strength Line of Scotches Is a Hidden Gem

Recently, I was at Spec's browsing Macallan's offerings; the Macallan 12 is one of my standards for Scotch, and I always keep some around. While looking through older vintages, I noticed that the price of the 18-year had climbed quite high. (Over the period of perhaps a couple of months, it went from approximately $140 to $180.) An employee, perhaps sensing my consternation over this, suggested I try a bottle I hadn't looked at previously. It was from GlenDronach, another Highland distillery. Rather than one of their standard Scotches, it was part of their single cask line-- with bottlings from a cask hand selected by Spec's. Like Macallan's standard line, these too were aged in sherry casks of various types.

The worker showed me a 17-year from 1994 and a 21-year from 1990. I opted for the 17-year and went home to compare it to my favored Macallans, vowing to come back for the 21-year if I liked what I had.

Some of my tasting notes follow.

The GlenDronach pours out a rich tawny color and retains it well even after being cut with a little water. Bottled at cask strength, my GlenDronach came in at 55.1 percent ABV. Most Scotches are bottled at 86 proof (43 percent), and certainly a Scotch of this strength calls for the addition of some spring water to cut it back down to a more manageable proof.

Once back down to a more drinkable proof, the GlenDronach reveals itself to be rich in flavor and texture, no longer containing the harsh astringency of a cask-strength liquor but complimenting it with a soft, filling mouthfeel. The nose was buttery and enticing. The finish was smooth and smoky, with a bit more roasted flavor and a bit less of a "clean" finish than the Macallan.

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While not quite as elegant as the Macallan 18, I can't complain for the strength and price. I got the bottle of GlenDronach 17-year cask strength for $104.99; when you consider it's bottled at significantly higher proof and should be cut before drinking, you're talking about roughly half the price of the Macallan 18 for the same volume of alcohol, maybe even less.

Sadly, when I came back to Spec's two days later, the 21-year had completely sold out. After digging a little more into GlenDronach, though, I found they release their single cask series periodically; the last such release was in July. I'll be contacting my liquor store about it.

My bottle of GlenDronach 1994 is a reminder that sometimes you can find great spirits in unexpected places. Don't be afraid to try unfamiliar brands or look around for special offerings. And trust your Spec's worker.

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