In 1826, the ‘Guid Glendronach’ Distillery became legal in Aberdeenshire thanks to James ‘Allardice’ Allardes (1780-1849).
Just three years earlier Scotland had established the Excise Act (1823) allowing for legal distilleries. Allardice produced the first batch of GlenDronach whisky under the second licence ever granted, after years of bootlegging on the same site.
FunFact: Former bootlegger George Smith was the first person to take out a licence for a distillery under the new license law, founding the Glenlivet Distillery in 1824. This made him a ‘sell-out’ to his whisky making neighbors. He had to carry arms for years as his life and his distillery were under constant threat.
GlenDronach sold to Walter Scott, owner of the Teaninich Distillery, in 1830. A decade later, most of the distillery was destroyed by fire. With the joint efforts of Teaninich Distillery and Glenfiddich, the distillery was rebuilt.
Walter Scott of Teaninich owned the distillery until 1887, after which ownership bounced around a few times eventually coming under the ownership of Pernod who shuttered it in 1996 (sources thekrav.blogspot.ca and undiscoveredscotland.co.uk)
The distillery re-opened in 2003 when Billy Walker of BenRiach Distillery bought the distillery from Pernod Ricard. New production started, now with un-peated barley. (They also stopped heating the stills with burning coal by switching to steam, so you win some you lose some.)
The distillery makes many cask strength expressions of ages ranging from 12 to 33 years and special release bottles.
Today we will focus on the Original.
12 Year Old GlenDronach Original, aged in Spanish Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks
Deep amber-red gold.
Sweet, creamy vanilla, with hints of ginger. Spiced mulled wine and pear.
Rich, creamy, silky-smooth. Warm, rich oak and sherry sweetness, full mouth feel, raisins and soft fruits. Spicy with medium length and a dry finish.
Long, full and firm, slightly nutty.
(Tasting note credit: glendronachdistillery.com)
Billy Walker’s son Alistair Walker has travelled the world as an acting brand ambassador for the brands. We were once able to meet.
Alistair Walker revealed the delicious story of how GlenDronach founder James Allardice got his foot in the door of Edinburgh bars,
‘When he first went around town with his single malt, bar keepers gave him a firm, “No”. This was at a time when people had very little love for anyone audacious enough to produce whisky under license. Almost everyone produced small batches locally.
Dejected, Allardice took up company with a couple of ladies of the night [wink wink nudge nudge]
They partied heartily with his Glendronach Whisky.
In the following days the ladies took ownership of the rest of his yearly stock, sharing it with other companions.
A trend was born.
Soon Glendronach was found on every backbar of the iconic Royal Mile of Edinburgh.’
The Walker family puts a ‘D’ on it.
Billy Walker followed the tradition set with BenRiach. The Walker family capitalized the ‘D’ in the name and relaunched the entire GlenDronach range in 2009.
Almost 200 years after the founding of GlenDronach, the Walker family now produces over a million liters of elegantly oaked, uncolored, non chill filtered and cask strength GlenDronach every year. Half gets sold to Pernod Ricard for blends, such as Johnnie Walker.