I had the privilege to sit down with Greg King, whisky brand ambassador for Brown-Forman (Glendronach, BenRiach, Glenglassaugh), to talk about their labels and taste through the range. We met at Fine and Rare in midtown which is the sister restaurant/lounge/bar to Flatiron Room. It was the perfect atmosphere for a whisky tasting.
Fine and Rare
After acquiring a trio of scotch distilleries (Glendronach, BenRiach, Glenglassaugh) from Billy Wallker, Brown-Forman is looking to re-introduce these brands to the US market. All of these distilleries have been around for quite some time; Glendronach started in 1826, Glenglassaugh founded in 1875 and BenRiach established in 1898. However, among casual US whisky fans these brands remain relatively unknown and obscure. Greg King was brought on to change that and help push these brands to the forefront of consumers’ minds.
We started with the BenRiach 10. It’s a traditional Speyside malt that is composed of spirit aged in ex-bourbon casks, virgin oak and a sprinkling of sherry butts. It’s an easy sipper and a great gateway whisky for casual whisky drinkers. It’s surprisingly refreshing with hints of green apple, pear and nutmeg. If there ever was a “summer whisky list” then this dram would certainly qualify.
Next we jumped over to the Highlands to go through the Glendronach range. The first expression we tasted was the 12 year old which is a combination of spirit aged in 80% oloroso sherry butts and 20% pedro ximenez (PX) casks. The whisky is full of raisins, rich cereal and toffee. According to Greg the PX casks take the edge off the sherry a bit. I really enjoyed the cereal notes which complement and balance the red fruit flavor.
Glendronach 15 is on hold right now and not readily available in the States so we jumped to the 18 year old expression. The 18 year old is a true sherry bomb that is aged solely in oloroso sherry butts. It tastes of dark chocolate, dark red cherries and red grapes. I love the richness of this whisky and it ended up being my favorite in the Glendronach range. This is a classic delicious sherry stunner and at a price range of $150-$200 this is a relative bargain. It’s better than the much more popular Macallan 18 in my opinion and hopefully more people hear about Glendronach’s spirit in the upcoming year.
Since I’ve never tried the 21 year expression, Greg accommodated me and brought some out. The 21 year is the same composition as the 12 year (80% oloroso sherry/20% pedro ximenez), it’s just aged nearly a decade longer. Due to the PX casks the 21 year is less rich than the 18 year. It tastes of figs, peach jam and oak tannins. The flavor profile is similar to the 12 but it’s more developed and complex. The Glendronach 21 concluded our time with that distillery and we switched gears to the enigmatic Glenglassaugh.
Glenglassaugh was a silent distillery for 22 years (1986-2008); production of scotch whisky re-started in 2008. When Billy Walker purchased the distillery in 2013 he acquired an eclectic bunch of casks: some were under 5 years and others were 27+ years old. As such they decided to relaunch the brand with a no age-statement (NAS) whisky dubbed Revival. This whisky is made up of 50% ex-bourbon casks and 50% European wine casks. The resulting spirit is married and aged in PX casks for up to 20 months. The result is a funky whisky that is very unique. It smells quite sour and earthy – think mushrooms. The taste is mainly dried fruit and honey with a strange mushroom-like after taste.
We finished the night off with BenRiach 10 Curiositas which is a peated version of the 10 year expression. They use Speyside peat which smells of heather with hints of campfire. This is a lovely smoky dram that tastes of toasted nuts and stone fruits. There’s quite a bit of black pepper which sticks around on the finish.
On the whole the Brown-Forman single malt whisky line-up is quite robust. They have nice starter whiskies with the BenRiach 10 and Glendronach 12. Then there’s the delicious sherried Glendronach 18 and 21. They also have a whisky that could be mistaken for originating from Islay in the Benriach 10 Curiositas. Finally they have a completely unique expression in Glenglassaugh’s Revival. If you haven’t tried whisky from any of these distilleries, I suggest you go check them out.