Rachel Barrie has more than made the role of Master Distiller at The GlenDronach her own. She is the person ultimately in charge of what goes into your delicious bottle of The GlenDronach. Quite the job. But also quite the responsibility given the reputation and following for The GlenDronach scotch whisky.
Here at TheWhiskyBarrel.com we have just launched two exclusive single cask bottlings. Two 1992 vintage sister casks aged 26 years old. To coincide with our release of our exclusive single casks from The GlenDronach, we put a few questions to Rachel.
(N.B. For the purpose of this interview we focused predominantly on Rachel’s work at The GlenDronach Distillery. She is also the Master Distiller for BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries)
The GlenDronach and the Adoring ‘Baying’ Fans.
The Whisky Barrel (TWB): Your journey bringing you to The GlenDronach Distillery has seen you expand your knowledge and skills with some of the big hitters of the whisky world, in the process developing some renowned and award winning whiskies. Has your time at any one of these particularly set you up for taking on the role at The GlenDronach?
Rachel Barrie (RB): I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in some of the most recognisable names in single malt whisky. In your first distillery, you learn as you go along. It’s like having your first child: you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. Some of what you learn you apply to the second child, and more you apply to the third. As soon as I walked through the door of Brown-Forman I knew that it would be a great environment to work in. All our distilleries are completely different but equally special.
TWB: How proud are you to see your name now adorn the new releases of The GlenDronach?
(RB): I’m very proud to see my name on all three of Brown-Forman’s Scotch brands The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh taking you from ‘the ben’ to ‘the glen’ to ‘the sea’. The GlenDronach in particular is my Dad’s favourite malt so this provided the ideal opportunity to share the depth of this truly great single malt with my Dad. I’ve had several special moments, this year being the return The GlenDronach Revival Aged 15 years, an iconic aged expression of critical acclaim, revered by connoisseurs around the globe.
The other was last year with the launch of the Kingsman, signing the first bottle which was going to the film producer Matthew Vaughn for him to sign also. I bought three bottles for my three sons. That will be my legacy to them. When they are 25 they will get a bottle each, with my signature and Matthew Vaughn’s signature. That was a very proud moment, hopefully because they will be proud of me.
TWB: The GlenDronach has a big reputation among a staunch and adoring sherryhead and sherrybomb fanbase following. Is it getting more difficult to manage expectations given the difficulties of sourcing quality sherry casks?
RB: As sherry cask connoisseurs since 1826, continued investment in the finest quality Spanish oak sherry casks is an integral part of The GlenDronach and Brown-Forman has seen this as a key priority. The challenge is strategically managing the inventory and deciding on what the portfolio should be, and managing that for the long-term. I’m looking at how it’s going to mature over the next 25 – 30 – 40 years and that’s the exciting part.
TWB: What is the most exciting cask of The GlenDronach, still sleeping in the warehouses, that you have tried? Have you made plans for this cask?
RB: There are so many special nuggets in the stock profile that are patiently maturing in our dunnage warehouses that it would be difficult to point to one.
The Whisky Barrel Exclusive 1992 Vintage Single Casks
TWB: Here at The Whisky Barrel we are thrilled to release this mini batch release of 1992 vintage GlenDronach. How do you whittle down from such a selection in the warehouses, to casks such as these for the single cask bottlings? An Enviable or ‘nightmare’ job?
RB: Development of a new whisky or expression always generates more questions than answers during the creative process until everything starts to come together, it’s a highly iterative process, a complex puzzle where there are no rights or wrongs, only many twists and turns leading to the best way forward.
TWB: The GlenDronach has built much of its recent reputation on these Single Cask releases. How important do you see these alongside the ever consistent and loved core range?
RB: The GlenDronach is a distillery known across the globe for its authenticity, traditional craftsmanship and sherry cask maturation expertise. Our special releases hand-selected from a single cask are a superb representation and celebration of The GlenDronach’s robust Highland style, with each series of casks chosen for their distinction, character and cask-imparted colour.
TWB: You and your team approve and have the final say on exclusive single cask bottlings such as the 1992 vintages selected by TheWhiskyBarrel.com. What do these particular single casks ‘say’ about GlenDronach?
RB: Each cask individually demonstrates the finesse, powerful complexity and rich layers of sherry cask maturation found in every expression of The GlenDronach. All casks showcase The GlenDronach’s dedication to the time-honoured methods and traditions since founding in 1826, a time when sherry and port casks were first imported and used to mature single malt.
In particular, these casks are a fine example of those rich notes and sherry cask maturation The GlenDronach is known and loved for. With layers of vine fruit and cherry stone on the nose combined with notes of nutmeg and cinnamon, drinkers can understand the complex nature of a sherried malt. These notes continue on the palate and lengthen into toasted apple and cherry brandy.
TWB: Finally, when Rachel Barrie isn’t dramming with The GlenDronach, BenRiach or Glenglassaugh, what is her ‘other’ tipple of choice to whet the whistle?
RB: I do drink wine, but it’s my second choice after whisky, of course. I especially love to share a dram of The GlenDronach with my dad, it’s a special bond that we have as his favourite whisky.
We extend our thanks and gratitude to Rachel for taking the time to answer our questions. We also extend our further thanks to the whole team at The GlenDronach Distillery and Brown-Forman for accommodating this interview. And of course, for producing some rather delicious single cask whisky!