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Glen Garioch 14yo 2000/2014, cask 424 distillery special, 59.7%

Glen Garioch (confusingly pronounced Gee-ree) often springs to mind whenever someone asks for the most underrated distillery I know of. I have tried several from various vintages and liked them all, and even the basic 12yo is better than other commonly available 12s. Why isn’t it more popular? Perhaps most people just prefer the big bodied sherry sweetness of Macallan or else the heavy peat punch of Laphroaig, and fewer appreciate a highland style whisky that can seem restrained or difficult. Or perhaps it is just not marketed that way by Suntory, its Japanese owners.

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From early on, Glen Garioch had been in the DCL stable, but in 1968, when a draught on Islay and rebuilding of Caol Ila caused a shortage of peated malt, DCL had to choose between Brora and Glen Garioch to produce peated whisky. And so Glen Garioch was closed but quickly sold on to Morrison Bowmore who reopened it and produced some fantastic peated stuff in the 70s. Suntory acquired Morrison Bowmore in 1984 and it is not inconceivable that the distillation regime was tweaked thereafter. Also noteworthy is that the distillery closed from 1995-97 and lost it’s floor maltings. Spirit produced from this time on would be unpeated.

Here’s the stillhouse September 2014. Notice the 3 stills? Unusual for a distillery to have a double matured spirit using 3 stills. According to the distillery staff, they once had 4, but Health & Safety made them remove a still due to unsafe workplace concerns.

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The wash still is large enough to feed the 2 spirit stills, but all in all Glen Garioch does not produce a lot of whisky. Also note the unusual length of the lyne arm on the wash still, Rachel Barrie, Master Blender believes this, plus the short heart cut between 75% to 69%, contributes to the distillery character.

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Nose  Nose: The bourbon wood influence is obvious but somehow well contained by the firmness of the spirit. So yes bananas in caramel sauce, touches of leather and sweet wood, but it’s all held back by stoney sharpness and alpine freshness. Also showing is fragrant heather, lumps of coal, petrichor, and from somewhere at the back of the glass, something very earthy-sweet like medicated clove ointment. With water: Drives back the bourbon and allows the spirit to come through albeit in a somewhat diluted form.

Taste  Palate: Starts bourbony sweet but almost immediately the spirit reasserts itself. This Glen Garioch is not cowed by first fill bourbon. Explosion of ‘cold’ flavours. Steely, cutting juicy acidity, green mint, soda bicarb (you know when you bake a cake and didn’t mix it properly and you bite into a lump of soda bicarb #bakersangst) but sweet honey and light heather shows up soon after as well. With water: same effect as above.

Finish  Finish: Sweeter now as the bourbon flavours make a belated return after the spirit has had its say and left.

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I am in two minds about this. On one hand the bourbon influence is way too much, but the spirit can stand up to it, and in fact I’m in love with the distillery character which still shines through. Also 59.7% unreduced is just fine, though water pushes back the bourbon but dilutes the spirit. Hmm..

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2015 by in Glen Garioch and tagged .
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