GlenAllachie 12 vs GlenDronach 21 Parliament

I think I got a bit overexcited about the advent calendar selection, and in the last entry, I’ve contrasted two very different drams. As a result of them landing on the opposite ends of the spectrum, it was almost too easy to discount and oust. This time I’m doing something a little bit different, continuing to refine this interpretation in search of a perfect dram, at least for this occasion. And so I reach in and pull out the first of surprises and then try to match it against something alike. This way, the perceived discrepancy should be removed from the experiment. So let’s dive in. But first, music! Now playing: LoscilClara.

The first dram is the GlenAllachie 12-Year-Old (a 2008 release, cask# 849) which is bottled exclusively for Master of Malt [currently at £95]. It is undoubtedly a unique bottling since I couldn’t find this single malt anywhere else, besides the online retailer for which it is made [obviously]. And just look at the colour! It’s copper and dark mahogany, almost as if it is the Pedro Ximénez sherry itself, in which hogshead this whisky has rested for 12 glorious years! It smells like sweet summer cherries, and the legs on my Glencairn invite me to indulge. It’s a generous 54.1% cask strength pour, and I add a bit of water to really have this open up. The colour changes to dark ruby red, like a 40-year-old tawny port, and it’s honeyed and bitter-sweet, like a bar of dark chocolate with 90% cocoa and a hint of dry berries. It reminds me a little of Ararat, with less caramel but more weight. There is a slight hint of coffee, ground together with some sticky brown sugar, but the most defining character is still the PX. Its density overpowers almost any other character of this spirit, and I’m not really griping – it’s a mighty good dram. It could go well with a Cuban cigar or sticky toffee pudding, a tad bit of ice cream and a warm summer breeze.

I compare it with GlenDronach because, well, it’s the only PX matured whisky I have in my collection. This is an unopened bottle, but I happily peel off the foil for the occasion. Although this 21-year-old Parliament single malt, in addition to PX, was also matured in the Oloroso Sherry casks. It’s smoother and lighter dram, and I pat myself on the back for selecting this pairing. They go well back and forth, the denser young kid and a refined elder gentleman. I’m not sure of the year of the bottling [I think the bottle code is imprinted on the inside of the label], but I think it’s probably a 2020 release. And here is the best part – this 21-year-old had to be distilled sometime between 1998 and 1999, but because the distillery was closed between 1996 and 2002, what I’m actually drinking is probably more like a 24-year-old whisky! The GlenAllachie is in Speyside, but GlenDronach is in Highlands [well, actually, used to be classified as Speyside], and they’re only about 45 minutes away from each other if you drive east [or west]. It is still golden amber syrup, soft and tangy with apples, maybe honeydew melon, maybe plums and some dates. It’s less bitter on edges [not that bitterness is an undesired attribute here] and feels just a bit “safe” at 48% [and about £130] – as in, you can’t really go wrong with this dram, especially if you have a few fans of Macallan over for dinner.

I have bought the GlenDronach because, well, I’m a fan. There’s even a 26-year-old bottle in my collection (from 1993), which I purchased in Scotland at The Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, and I have a feeling that I will always have at least one open bottle of this nectar from gods. But the uniqueness of character in the GlenAllachie dram left me reeling in awe for its powerful punch. That being said, it is just a tad sweet for my taste [I wouldn’t mind adding a few drops of this into a peaty malt to make my own unique blend], but I wonder if the 30-year-old, which is matured in PX and Oloroso Sherry barrels, won’t find its way on my shelves in the future. I am also curious about a 14-year-old PX hogshead, which was just released as part of the new single cask series [12/29 update: I bought the 32-year-old PX sherry puncheon]. With that, I’ll say that GlenDronach wins this round.

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