Glendronach is a well-known single malt that most of us love. The sherried notes in each of their expressions are a signature to their passion and expertise in their knowledge of using sherry casks; not just any sherry casks though, but excellent and well-made sherry casks.
I was invited to the Glendronach Revival 2018 launch at the Saint Louise House some days ago, and here are some of the highlights.
The Glendronach Revival Event
As we know, the Glendronach Revival had been one of their most popular expression, and it was met with such an uproar of injustice when the distillery first announced its discontinuation due to stock constraints. Therefore, you probably could imagine the joy of most attendees at the event. The new Revival is still a 15-year-old expression but made slightly differently. While the old Revival aged exclusively in Oloroso casks, the new one aged in a combination of Oloroso and PX Sherry casks. Everyone was excited to try the new Revival to see if it lives up to its name, but there was another distraction – the 1993 single cask bottled for Asia.
The Revival 2018 did not disappoint, but what wowed me was the single cask bottled for Asia. Distilled in 1993, it is a 24-year-old whisky that deserved its reputation. Try it, I’ll say, and you may want to bring a bottle home. The Glendronach Revival is retailing at $299 and the single cask at $1099. You can find them at The Grande Whisky Collection.
Exclusive Chat with Dr Rachel Barrie
Glendronach’s Master Distiller, Dr Rachel Barrie, hosted the event. As you can imagine, it was not every day that we get to meet a Master Distiller of a well-loved distillery. I jumped at the chance of getting an exclusive interview with Rachel when the opportunity presented itself.
We had a good chat about some important things. As a professional, Rachel had worked with many distilleries before she joins Brown Forman as the Master Distiller. Her career is somewhat unique because most master distillers work with only one distillery in their entire career, but Rachel has proved to be different. Working with various distilleries gave Rachel an experience that other master distillers may not get, and that experience has helped her to gain a reputation in the malt whisky industry.
The Greatest Takeaway from Rachel’s Varied Experience
I was curious to know the most significant takeaway from Rachel’s experiences in the various distilleries before joining Glendronach. She told me that Glendronach is an “old-style” traditional distillery, making single malt whisky in the same way for centuries. It is different from some of the more modern distilleries that she had worked with, and the greatest takeaway for her is that in Glendronach, she is not just the Master Distiller; she is the guardian of tradition and the highest quality. She protects the best from the past and ensures that they only use the best and most authentic ingredients to make the world’s most complex single malt.
Gender is Irrelevant in the Industry
Rachel is one of the rare ladies in the whisky industry to hold her position as a master distiller. I asked if gender is an issue in her job. Her robust answer to that was a resounding NO! She said that making malt whisky is a passion. It does not matter whether a man or a woman is doing it. What is important is the teamwork and collaboration that happens inside the distillery. When everyone, both men and women, is committed to what they do best, the team achieves the desired result.
The Challenge of Glendronach
Rachel worked with many distilleries in different roles, but I was curious about her challenges as the master distiller of Glendronach. When I put the question across to her, she paused and then smiled. Rachel’s biggest challenge at Glendronach is the selection of casks. She said that Glendronach has a deep and complex character which changes with the seasons. It also matured differently in the various casks left in different warehouses. The robust and fruity spirit of Glendronach created an abundance of intriguing layers when she left them in different casks. Therefore, her challenge at Glendronach is the selection of casks as each one is different from the other. In her words, Rachel said, “The challenge is the opportunity”.
A Day in the Life of a Master Distiller
All of us are interested to know the life of a Master Distiller, so I asked Rachel what her day looks like. She said that there is no typical day because she works on different things each day. She works with all three distilleries under Brown Forman – Glendronach, Benriach and Glenglassaugh, but she spends most of her time with Glendronach.
Rachel revealed that she spent most of her mornings nosing cask samples to make decisions for vatting of casks. Her day varies between selecting casks for individual bottling, writing tasting notes, and composing the next vatting of the Glendronach core range. She also needs to give her attention to new expressions as well as deciding on the cask fillings.
Some Advice for the Women in the Whisky Industry?
I also asked Rachel for her advice to women who hope to work in the whisky industry – regardless of role. Her reply does give hopes to many, I believe. She said, “Work hard and stay focused on the serious job of making whisky. Learn something new every day, stay curious, be courageous and seize every opportunity to be creative. If you keep trying, stay focused and have a positive attitude, opportunities will come your way.”
So, if you hope to be a master distiller one day – continue to work hard and learn! You never know!