I love the unique and the different. I like things that are one-of-a-kind that don't run with the pack. I think this comes from an inward fear of being "normal"; the fact that most of our lives follow a fairly standard pattern terrifies me. Therefore anything that breaks this mass-produced lineage is appealing to me. One of the reasons whisky appealed to me when I was younger (aside from its fearsome flavour) was that it wasn't the poison of the masses. I think most stuff that says something different is worth a listen, and I can say my film, television, music and book tastes have been much improved as a result.
This naturally brings me back to whisky. The interesting and unique is a fairly common occurrence in the whisky world. Every single whisky claims to be different from the next. Many distilleries claim to be the 'oldest' (usually suffixed with a minor difference e.g. In relevent region) or the the 'only' (usually suffixed with a minor difference e.g. Family run). So being different isn't something as unusual in the world of whisky. However there is one aspect of whisky that will always be interesting beyond marketing mirages, and that is the phenomena of single cask whiskies. Undeniably every single cask imparts a slightly different flavour on the whisky to the next cask, hence why standard releases tend to be a blend of multiple casks. But when you sample a single cask you know you are trying something unique. There is one distillery, that I have written of before that does a particularly fine selection of single cask whiskies, and that is Glendronach. Today's review is a comparison of two single cask Glendronach's distilled in 1994 and their differences are striking.
58.5% - 14 Year Old - Oloroso Puncheon - Bottled 2009
Nose: Demerra sugar, toffee, butterscotch dominate, but becomes more herbal with water added.
Palate: Creamy with mounds of milk chocolate and viscous stewed fruit in particular raspberry and strawberry in a red fruit compote.
Finish: Sherry wood, more chocolate and roast peaces becoming fresh peaches with water.
Overall: Punchy with a long finish, rich and oily but with a slight off-woody character when left in the glass too long.
60.1% - 17 Year Old - Oloroso Butt - Bottled 2011
Nose: Much softer than the 14 year, with fudge over toffee and a gentle kiwi character plays with orange blossom and a striking aroma of curry spice and notes of saffron with water.
Palate: Spicy, chocolate orange and Christmas pudding rolling around in brandy sauce.
Finish: Curry spice returns; notably garam massala, tumeric and chili toward the end of this long complex finish.
Overall: I preferred this 17 year to the 14 year mainly for its lack of off-wood notes and abundance of curry spice and chocolate. A very well made whisky showcasing what Glendronach do best. I should also mention each whisky was very different in colour. The 14 year was golden whereas the 17 was a rich brown. Food for thought there... Hopefully more casks to follow!