women in whiskey
Covering both the science of distilling and the history of women in whiskey is less like a boring lesson and more like a great conversation over whiskey.
Brand Ambassador for Glendronach
One on One with the Rep
On April 2nd, I had the pleasure of speaking with Rebecca Gardiner, one of the Brand Ambassadors for the famed Glendronach distillery. For those who are unaware of one of Glendronach’s claims to fame, they mature, as in fully age, rather than simply finish, each of their whisky offerings in Sherry casks. The following questions are what I asked Rebecca, and her responses were written down to the best of my ability. That said, some of the below responses may be edited or shortened for clarity. Thank you again to Rebecca and Glendronach for taking the time to conduct this interview.
There is something romantic about escaping with a perfect dram
What makes Glendronach’s whisky unique among Scotch generally, and Highland Single Malts in Particular?
“The big uniqueness is the traditional approach of a copper mash tun with a traditional rake and plow. Only a handful left in Scotland using that approach. We also use Scottish lurch wood washbacks which adds a huge depth of flavor to the liquid. We have these massive saxophone shaped copper stills. The saxophone neck, the huge sweeping curl which allow for slower distillation and promotes big, robust flavor. We call everything in the Glendronach, a calm, and smooth and slow, we refer to it as the Glendronach time. It’s calm and relaxed and everything takes just a little bit longer. We also take care to only use Spanish Oak for our casks. We use expensive Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez casks. We’ve been sherry cask connoisseurs since 1826. Our whole package makes us unique in my humble opinion.”
What goals for the upcoming year, 5 years, 10 years does Glendronach have?
“Tricky question, our plans and our goals are to continue growing. To continue on the road to be a leader in the premium Scotch category. One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to open up the world to whisky drinkers who aren’t used to Scotch. I’m gifted with the gift of the gab, to convince them to try the Glendronach. To keep growing and keep doing what we’re doing. With the Awards season, we’re clearly on the right path.”
Following on that question, are there any special releases of Glendronach slated for a Stateside release in the next year or so?
“We are continuing to grow our core range throughout the United States at the moment. Especially this year and the next. Focusing on our core range right now and the flavors we can offer to the consumer. Two of the core whiskies have won awards. There is always magic happening at the Glendronach.”
Regarding the 15 year old Revival release, and congratulations again on it being named the Best Whisky of 2020, what in particular about the taste profile do you think resonates with so many people?
“What a huge honor to receive the award. One of the big things I love about the Revival is the nose that instantly transports you. It’s intoxicating. It has a burst of maraschino cherries, with dark chocolate and mint. The taste profile has crescendos of ripe fig, and muscatel, dark chocolate. The finish has dark honey. The whole experience is a journey. It’s a distant memory. It brings me straight home to the smell of my step-mom making desserts in the summer. There is something romantic about escaping with a perfect dram. It’s a perfect balance of romance and wonder. The 15 is almost a hug. It’s definitely something we’re very proud of.”
For those whisky enthusiasts who prefer consuming their libations in cocktail form, are there certain cocktails that you feel complement Glendronach’s flavor profile?
“Yes there is. I’m going to be completely honest. I’m a bit of a purist. So putting the 15, the Revival in a cocktail is a little bit of a difficult concept for me. I would suggest using the Glendronach 12 in an Old Fashioned, garnished with an orange peel, to pull out the candied fruit notes. The Scottish Orchard: Glendronach 12, honey syrup, angostura bitters, hard cider, lemon and 2 cherries. Those flavors are still going to pull out the Sherry. The Glendronach still has the ability to stand on its own.”
Out of the Glendronach offerings, which whisky is your favorite? And do you prefer drinking it by itself, or enjoying it with a meal or dessert?
“Obviously the 15 is the dram of the hour at the moment. Honestly I believe that The 21 Parliament doesn’t get as much recognition. Not as many people come up and talk to me about it. It is a stunning showcase of what Pedro Ximenez casks can offer in a whisky. But for me, speaking again from the romantic nature of the whisky, is the 18, the Allardice. For me it’s just perfection. It’s one hundred percent Oloroso so it’s a big sherry bomb, and the color alone is dark. It’s enticing the flavor profile is a mix of orange peel and fudge, a faint leather, an old cigar box. Just a huge flavor profile. As I said earlier about the 15, part of the magic is being able to transport you. The 18 does the exact same thing for me. In fact that’s part of the magic of Glendronach. It’s ability to stir memory through smell, or through tastes, and this is my camping whisky. I get to go camping quite a lot living up here in New England. In the middle of the woods with a campfire at dusk, a glass of the Allardice in hand is perfection. It’s definitely my go to camping whisky, an absolute favorite. The Allardice is a really interesting one, because it is such a big flavor, you can pair it with something savory. I do this weird one, where you pair it with Fish and Chips. The Allardice just cuts through the beer batter and opens up really interestingly. So don’t be afraid to certainly try and play with those more obscure meals. In terms of dessert, honestly just a bit of vanilla or fudge. If you’re going to go down a cheese road then the creaminess of gorgonzola, works well.”
As finishing your whisky in Sherry Casks is central to your brand, how do you go about selecting the Sherry Casks that you use to impart additional flavors to your Scotch?
“We’re incredibly lucky to have Rachel Barrie who is our master blender and an incredible alchemist. We’re very proud to be working with her, and I’m proud to have any affiliation with her whatsoever. She travels to Spain to select the highest quality casks. We also partner with a bodega in Jerez in Andalusia. They help us to continually select these very high quality barrels. Our partner bodega also has their own cooperage. They craft each cask to our optimum requirements, again on Glendronach time for slow maturation to get that exquisite single malt whisky. Also on the word finish, we actually tend to avoid, because we fully mature our whisky in these barrels. So it is an incredibly important job for Rachel to choose these barrels, to allow for the slow maturation. We tend to really choose our barrels with extra care, since the whisky is fully matured in them.”
In your core range at Glendronach, age statements are prevalent, are you considering experimenting with some No Age Stated (NAS) whiskys?
We actually do have some Non Age Stated whiskies in our portfolio, the Glendronach Pieces, Portwood, and Cask Strength are all No Age Stated whiskies. So we do play around with it, but we are committed to keeping age statements on our core range.”
Which of your core offerings do you feel that consumers need to try at least once?
“Can I say all of them? Am I allowed to say that? This is a really difficult question, because I can tell you as we spoke earlier what my favorite is. They all bring something unique to the table. As much as I adore the 18, I do truly think that people should try the 15. It’s really something special. With one sip you’ll completely understand why it won the Best Whisky of 2020. It’s this phenomenal balance of everything that you could want in a Sherried Single Malt Scotch. So I’ll definitely hit the nail on the head again, and say the Glendronach Revival.”
Right now in the wake of this pandemic a lot of people are either out of work, or at least more budget conscious. Does Glendronach offer retail tasting sets in 50ml bottles, for consumers to get acquainted with the brand?
“No actually we don’t. We are staying focused on the core 750ml bottles in the USA. You’re right there is no good answer for that.”
Rebecca, what would you like our readers to leave here knowing about Glendronach?
“As I said, the romantic side of whisky. Glendronach captures the romanticized version. To ask the readers to take away just a couple of pieces of information, that we truly are Sherry connoisseurs. We’ve been doing this since 1826. We definitely have perfected, and try to perfect the Sherry maturation. Also our attention to detail for the entire process, from the cask selection to the bottling, really sets us apart from the rest. Each bottle of Glendronach really does tell a story and has something different to offer. The flavors are bold, bright, robust and complex. It’s an incredibly approachable whisky. We are the connoisseurs of Sherry!”