Glengoyne 21-year-old vs GlenDronach 21-year-old

I admit, I am more than a bit impressed with the Glengoyne distillery, particularly its 21-year-old bottling from the core range, which I have compared against a same-aged single cask pour from an independent bottler Douglas Laing, in the last round. In that writeup, I also dropped a “sherry-bomb” reference, so that got me thinking – why don’t I run it by another sherried dram? In this case, it’s the 21-year-old from GlenDronach (subtitled Parliament), albeit I expect it to be sweeter since, besides the ex-oloroso casks, this single malt vatting also has some whiskies from Pedro Ximénez casks. So let’s see how this goes, shall we? But first, we need some music! Now playing: DeruTorn In Two.

On sight, the GlenDronach is immediately darker, ruby-coloured, polished bronze. Glengoyne is instantly familiar since I just had it a few days ago. I’ll spare you the particulars – they are the same as last time. GlenDronach is a little sweeter but surprisingly less fragrant, for some reason: Glengoyne cuts through with its scent, while the GlenDronach is more muted and restrained even at a higher ABV. Which reminds me, I forgot to list out the ABV values – the Glengoyne is 43%, and the GlenDronach is at 48%. Neither whisky has any added colouring – why would they need to tint their sherried malts beyond the amber shine. But both, I suspect, are chill-filtered since it doesn’t explicitly make that claim on either bottle [edit: I think GlenDronach is not because it had some “Scotch Mist” with the added water, but I can’t be sure here]. OK, I’ve waited long enough for both to settle in! About 20 minutes in the glass – to be specific, a minute for each year. So let’s go for a taste!

Glengoyne is just as I remember it. It’s thick and viscous, almost syrupy at first, with the ripened fruit, stewed apples, and sweet cherries. GlenDronach’s even darker on the palate – it’s chewy with some chocolate and toffee, like a nutty raisin gravy for the cake. There is a sulfur finish, slightly bitter and more noticeable here. I’ll add a drop of water to each one [more to GlenDronach] and let both breathe for just a minute. Now let’s have a go again. The Glengoyne’s really opened up – again, just like the last time with more water – it just became a splendid dram that I could drink from start to finish. GlenDonrach went the other way. It’s still as viscous as before but lost the sweetness and gained something slightly strange – I think it’s sulphur coming through, and as I write this, I’m surprised – a look of disbelief as I complete this sentence. Let me dilute it one more time to see if I’m not just imagining things. Glengoyne – again, a solid dram. It’s got a nice and tangy finish. GlenDronach – what is going on? It tastes like it has scraped against some bitter mineral. And this was also a favourite of mine, so my surprise is genuine, believe me.

I’m not sure if over time my opened bottle of GlenDronach has oxidized a bit – a trait that’s common with the sherried Scotch. That is a little worrying since I have plenty of open bottles. I need to start consuming! I think the flavour’s changed throughout that time (has it been a few years since I bought it? this post-lockdown period has swallowed years). I think I’ll have to come back to this dram again. It’s somewhat unexpected, to be honest. With that, I will proclaim that Glengoyne wins this round, and to be clear, more than just because GlenDronach tasted foul. Glengoyne continues to surprise and outperform my expectations!

[Update 7/10/2022] I came back the next day, poured myself a dram of GlenDronach 21, without any water, and let it stand there for another 20 minutes before I took a sip. It has redeemed itself, for sure. It was less sweet and dense, and nice. Nevertheless, somehow I could not shake off the memory of this encounter.

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