Whisky lovers have enjoyed a recent flood of exceptionally old drams over the past few months. After a 50 year old from the coastal distillery of Glenglassaugh (remarkably fresh and fruity and a tribute to the quality of this little-known distillery), Johnnie Walker enthusiasts could enjoy the third release in the Masters of Flavour (41.8 percent abv, around £20,000) series, a 48 year old blended whisky. This marks the retirement of former Master Blender Dr Jim Beveridge, OBE, one of the giants of the Scotch whisky industry.
Now comes a rare opportunity to sample a 50 year old single malt from Highland distillery The GlenDronach. These days part of the Brown-Forman group of the USA, better known for their Jack Daniels brand, GlenDronach has been operating for close to 200 years but historically was rarely released as a single malt.
The maturing casks are now under the watchful eye of Master Blender Rachel Barrie, one of the leading women in whisky and a great fan of ‘finishing’ these super-premium drams in casks formerly used for Pedro Ximénez sherry. This adds great richness and a deep mahogany colour to the spirit, while releasing previously hidden depths of flavour.
Understandably, only a very few casks are chosen to reach such a celebrated age, and just 198 bottles will be available worldwide, at a SRP of £20,000. At 43.8 percent strength the GlenDronach 50 years old remains forceful and concentrated. There are aromas of bitter cherry, mocha chocolate and tobacco with a nose that faithfully hints at the taste experience to follow.
Like other whiskies that have experienced this extended ageing, this is not a dram to drink casually; it demands your concentration and to be sipped and savoured with care over an extended period, with very special (and privileged) friends.
The elegant presentation – restrained by the standards of some ultra-premium whiskies – comprises a luxurious, genuine leather case accompanied by an embossed leather booklet detailing the distillery history, tasting notes and a description of the unique craft that created this exceptional release. It’s also gratifying to note that at least one bottle has gone to support a good cause: bottle no. 1 of The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years was proudly donated to the inaugural Worshipful Company of Distillers’ One of One Auction in December 2021, raising some £40,000 in support of disadvantaged young people in Scotland.
“The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years is the most prestigious expression of what this timeless, richly-sherried Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky has to offer,” says Barrie about this career-defining moment adding “It has been a privilege to be the final custodian of our oldest expression to date, passed down through generations. The result is a hand-crafted Highland Single Malt that tells a story of rare dedication, of which The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years is the rarest of them all.”