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GlenDronach Revival 15 Year Old (Billy Walker Release, Pre-2015)


When it comes to the topic of Glendronach - you'll most certainly encounter a topic that folks feel greatly towards, which is that of the Glendronach Revival, appended with an unofficial "Billy Walker Release" - and boy does it matter. A Billy Walker release and one that's not commands a palpable price difference.

So what's that all about? Because quite frankly, I knew nothing about it.



But through my research, here goes.

Glendronach itself its a pretty old distillery, in fact when it was founded in 1826, it was only the second distillery to gain a license to legally produce whisky under the Excise Act that was passed  just three years prior to the distillery's founding. Of course, illicit distilleries abounded but that's a different matter altogether. Over the course of its history, it would change hands numerous times, from Teachers and Sons, Charles Grant (the son of Glenfiddich's founder), to Allied Distillers, Chivas, and then BenRiach, now finally it lies in the hands of the Brown Forman Corporation. 

But most noteworthy was its time under Allied Distillers (which was later acquired by Chivas) when the distillery would be mothballed - basically shut down - in 1996, before the man by the name of Billy Walker came along to revive the distillery. Billy Walker has had a long storied career in Scotch, and long story short, came to be close to the folks at Chivas. At the time in the early 2000's, Chivas was sitting on something like 20 inactive distilleries - which keep in mind whilst not actively producing new whisky, many were still sitting on stocks of whisky made years prior that continued to mature regardless of the distilleries' activity (or lack thereof). And so the opportunity arose for Walker to acquire the BenRiach Distillery, and soon after, GlenDronach (he would later acquire a third distillery, Glenglassaugh).


Billy Walker.


Under his watch, it is said that when GlenDronach had its whiskies put back out on the market, Walker would buttress his core range of whiskies with stocks of whiskies far older than what was indicated on the age statement. Glendronach Revival 15 Years Old? Try 25 Years Old (hypothetically as nothing was ever confirmed). This led to mass market expressions that tasted ridiculously superior and were incredibly accessible in terms of availability and price - what a steal! The distillery's reputation rocketed!

Now of course, there were other changes under his watch, having swapped out peated malt for unpeated malt, changes to the heating equipment for the pot stills, changes to the cask quality - change aplenty.

But I suppose the reason folks are convinced that the reason for saying it was a matter of blending in much older whisky stocks is that as you can imagine - there was a finite amount of well-aged whisky stocks that Glendronach had! The party couldn't last forever. And so when Walker eventually sold the distillery to Brown Forman in 2016, while the Glendronach Revival 15 Year Old remained, there was said to be a massive noticeable difference in taste. Apparently it was even said that of all the core range expressions, it was the 15 Year Old Revival which benefitted the most from the use of older whisky stocks, wherein it took up the most sizeable proportion.


The single casks of the 1993 vintage are yet another hot Glendronach topic. (Image Source: Single Malt Savvy)


Again, none of this was ever confirmed, but it is the lore that explains why when you delve into Glendronach, you'll most certainly hear of the Glendronach Revival 15 Years Old (Billy Walker Release).

Since then, Walker has moved on to his next project, the GlenAllachie Distillery, while Glendronach continues to operate under the helm of Master Blender Rachel Barrie.

Today we're going to give the Glendronach Revival 15 Years Old a taste and see what we think of it. Onward!

GlenDronach Revival 15 Year Old (Billy Walker Release, Pre-2015) - Review


Tasting Notes

Color: Light Copper

Aroma: Incredibly funky - chock loads of farmy notes, which on first take comes across somewhat umami, savoury and sour - a la buffalo cheese or maybe a soft reblochon cheese. But more nosing brings out a light nuttiness and leathery note that would push this more towards something of a sulphuric rancio, with additional scents close to mulled wine.

Taste: Leather, honey, mulled wine sweetness, cacao nib - more rancio funkiness that borders on farmy, cheesy somewhat lactic notes. There’s more of those nutty flavours, and also mortadella cured meat - there’s that savoury, umami meatiness. It’s medium bodied but works well with these intense flavours.

Finish: More mulled wine cooked fruit dense sweetness, quite malty and buttery here too. It’s also chocolatey with chocolate sauce and again with that nuttiness.


My Thoughts

To call this wild would be an understatement - one of the most funky whiskies I’ve had with its two way funkiness of farmy, lactic, musky cheesiness (think yak cheese or goat cheese) and also the sulphuric rancio notes of cured meats, mulled wine, and nuttiness.

This is one intense ******, this should carry some sort of disclaimer or warning sign (and as mentioned earlier, I tried this blind! How am I still here?!).

Frankly you couldn’t rate this on flavour - it’s really quite an exceptional experience in the sense that this is so distinctive and striking. It’s etched on my palate with equal parts of awe and horror.

Luckily, those funky notes are supported (maybe I should say I’m supported instead) by denser, sweeter, more comforting flavours of chocolate sauce and cooked fruit, which softens the blow.

Definitely, definitely a must try. You don’t have to like it (and believe me, lots of people do) but you definitely shouldn’t miss out.

A real love-it-or-hate-it whisky, that you won’t drink everyday (unless you’re insane) but try it once, and trust me, you’ll definitely remember it for a long time.


My Rating: 9/10 (Memorable, not necessarily tasty)


Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most whiskies, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.