Glendronach Distillery: The Heart of the Valley Forgue
Little has changed in Glendronach Distillery since the Victorian era. The distillery was founded in 1826 by James Allardice who led a consortium of farmers and businessmen. It is set on the gentle, green slopes of the Valley of Forgue in the heart of Aberdeenshire’s 'castle country'. The distillery and its whisky get their name from the Dronac burn that flows through the grounds.
The distillery was acquired in 1881 by Walter Scott who expanded it. In 1920, Charles Grant, son of the founder of Glenfiddich distillery bought Glendronach. It remained in the Grant family until it was sold to Teacher in 1960. The distillery still follows age old traditional methods of making whisky.
Most of the barley is grown locally on the company’s farms. Glendronach still has its own floor maltings that provide about 15 per cent of the malt needed by the distillery for its whisky production. Glendronach whisky is lightly peated and pagoda topped kilns are still in use here. The distillery also uses wooden fermentation vessels. Coal fired furnaces, the very last in Scotland, heat the two pairs of stills. The buildings too have changed very little and the ambience both within and around the distillery is very comfortable and satisfying.
The original stone dunnage warehouses used to mature the whisky have earth floors that hold moisture. They absorb some of the excess from the air in damp weather and release it during hot spells. The air here thus always smells damp. It is perhaps the only distillery that uses only Spanish Oloroso butts for maturing the spirit. The casks exude their ‘share to the angels’ filling the air with its characteristic aroma.
Earlier Glendronach was sold in two official editions, the Original that was matured in plain and sherry casks and the other a 100 per cent sherry-aged version. There is now a single official edition – the Traditional, a superb 12 years old whisky. This combines the merits of both with a change in the proportions that were used for the Original.
Now the casks used are sherry casks that have been filled once or twice earlier with whisky. This allows other aromas and flavors come through the sherry. As a result the newer version of whisky has both the creamy oakiness and the toasty toffee of the plain and sherry casks. The elegant malt and smoke also are discerned in excellent balance.
The Glendronach Distillery also releases official special editions occasionally. Examples include the 18-year-old whisky of 1972 vintage and some 22 year old whisky which is available from a private bottler. Glendronach Whisky is used in Teacher’s Highland Cream, a blend with high malt content. It is also used in other whiskies in the Allied Distillers range.