You might remember earlier in the year I was lucky enough to be invited up to visit Glen Garioch… It was a fantastic trip and really helped shine a light onto what is an excellent big bold drop of drammage. To read about the trip go here.
It’s about time I now reviewed some of their official range, so I’m going to take a look at their entry level dram, Founders Reserve, their 12y0, their new release – Renaissance (Chapter 1) 15yo and two of their vintage releases, the 1998 Wine Cask, and their 1995.
So without further ado let’s take get reviewing…
Info: Bourbon and Sherry.
Colour: Orangy yellow Gold
Nose: Beefy and strong, some young punchy spirit amongst sweet malt and sherry fruits. Loads of flavour.
Palate: Thick and mouth coating with gently warming spices, sweet green apples and buttery notes.
Finish: Almost a puff of smoke there (from the casks I suppose) and a long lasting sweet warming maltiness.
Water: None needed, but it helps to bring out a little more sweetness which may make it easier to drink.
Thoughts: What a great malt for the price, it’s got more ABV than most which helps make it thick and moreish.
One of the best value drams around in a time when many new releases still offer around the 40% abv mark, the legal minimum. It’d be great to see some others (even those from the same owners!) follow suit.
Available: The Whisky Exchange – £31.95
Info: Introduced into the standard range in late 2010 this 12yo is a mix of ex-Bourbon and sherry casks
Colour: Honey golden.
Nose: Sweet malt, slightly oaky (fairly fresh oak) and hints of spices, heather and poached pears. A more grown up nose over the Founders Reserve.
Palate: A restrained sweetness, not unlike a bag of chewy sweets but more grown up. The spices grow slowly and the background of heather and poached pears remains with a touch of menthol showing.
Finish: Nicely warming on your chest, gentle with a long, slightly oaked finish. Peppery and a slight bitterness at the end which intertwines with barley notes.
Water: There’s a slight bitter note to this, and a wee splash of water helps take that away and allow more sweet notes and summery fruits to come forward.
Thoughts: The higher than usual abv really allows a good array of flavours to be imparted (because it’s not been chill-filtered and you’re therefore getting all the good barley oils). It’s also smother than you’d imagine at that strength, you could get a wee bit tiddley on this! A good early evening dram with plenty of flavour to sit and relax with.
Available: The Whisky Exchange – £39.45
Info: The initial release in a four-part series, the first chapter of the Renaissance has been bottled at 15 years of age. There will be further releases annually to chart the progress of the distillery’s spirit as it ages.
Colour: Fully golden.
Nose: Glen Garioch all the way through, but with lots more buttery toffee than the others releases reviewed. Ginger, citrus notes and milk chocolate.
Palate: The palate continues similarly to the nose, there’s a thick caramel butter toffee note, a fair amount of spice and a good amount of barley malt.
Finish: Beautifully long and warming on your chest.
Water: It is quite spicy, partly from the high ABV, so a drop of water does help a little.
Thoughts: As ever the Glen Garioch heartiness is here in spades, a dram that whisky drinkers would love, but one that might be slightly challenging to newbies. Saying that, the caramel cream toffee notes do help to make it more accessible and tasty. Take small sips!
Available: The Whisky Exchange – £73.95
Info: This was the dram that was sent to me without me knowing what it was… my original notes are here, and luckily for me it won me the trip to Glen Garioch! Now I can revisit the dram and make some fresh notes. This was entirely matured in French wine casks.
Colour: A distinctly reddish hew.
Nose: Rich and hearty packed with red forest fruit berries, barley sweetness and some milk chocolate.
Palate: Really thick and sweet on the palate, very pleasurable with the extra red fruits working a treat together with the rich Glen Garioch spirit leading to quite a spicy note. The cask type has married really well with the Glen Garioch style.
Finish: Barley malt still comes through to the end along with the chocolate and autumn red fruit berries – blackcurrants, redcurrants and blackberries. Quite strong.
Water: If you find this too spicy then some water works a treat, reduces the spices and increases the sweetness… as when I had this previously, a wee drop works well for me.
Thoughts: I enjoyed it the first time I had it, and still do! It’s fairly small batch hence the price hike, although it is on the expensive side.
Available: The Whisky Exchange – £90.95
Info: Marking a milestone in Glen Garioch’s recent history, their Vintage 1995 was the last to have it’s barley smoked with peat, before being left to mature in first fill bourbon barrels.
Colour: Straw yellow, fairly honest looking.
Nose: A slight nip at first from the high ABV, which leads into a wee smokey and hearty sweet barley nose.
Palate: Slightly smoother on the palate than the nose might have lead you to imagine. Sweet smokey puffs greet you and soon turn into the more spicy notes you come to expect from a Glen Garioch. It’s got barley, a little honey, some citrus freshness and grassy tones.
Finish: Warming and long, those hints of smoke and sweetness carrying through.
Water: A drop of water really brings out some caramel and cream notes whilst also allowing out more tropical notes from the bourbon. A drop is quite worth it to open up the whisky, making it easier on the palate and allowing out more flavours.
Thoughts: A favourite of mine, and my friend at Morrison Bowmore (the owners). This dram represents the old guard in many ways, the malting being some of the last done on Glen Garioch’s own malt floors before it closed (and then reopened without malt floors). It’s an honest dram and the smoke hints help make it a classic which is still affordable.
Available: The Whisky Exchange – £60.95
Overall Thoughts: Glen Garioch may not quite be for the malt whisky beginner, although it’s worth trying to see how you get on. Personally I remember somewhat grappling with this as a malt beginner as it’s such a big malt packed with spice and at a higher alcohol percentage than some others that you might start on. However stick with it as it’s a hidden gem… there are very few other drams (that I can currently think of) in which the entry expression is 48% or more and Glen Garioch deserves kudos just for that! I have a fondness for the 1995 vintage, but the whole range is good and worthy of investigation.
Thanks to Glen Garioch for the various samples!