My personal affinity for Glen Garioch whisky is no secret. I like that almost everything coming out of the distillery is age stated (there are only two exceptions – the 1797 Founder’s Reserve, which is for some reason not age stated, but not priced significantly lower than the 12 year old (reviewed here) and the Virgin Oak). I also like that the distillery bottles either at 48% or at cask strength and that the whisky is non chill filtered. I’m not really sure why E150 wasn’t removed as well. The distillery has an interesting system in which a bare bones core range is kept, consisting only of the 1797 Founder’s Reserve and the 12 Year Old. That’s it. With it, though, you’ll find a rather extensive array of vintage bottlings offered at cask strength (currently including bottles from 1978, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, the herein reviewed 1998 Wine Cask Matured and the gorgeous 1999 Sherry Cask Matured. Additionally, a new 15 year old Sherry Cask Matured expression appeared in duty free shops (beautiful stuff, reviewed here), and there’s the 15 year old Renaissance, to which three sequels were to appear. So far, only the first of the quartet has so far been released (reviewed here).
I’d like to think that it’s Glen Garioch’s intrinsic quality and uniqueness (imparted by a rather short fermentation of 48 hours, very long lyne arms and one of the narrowest middle cuts in the industry, keeping only the spirit from 75% to 69%) that caused Morrison Bowmore Distillers to single Glen Garioch out for this geekily respectful treatment not afforded the other distilleries in their portfolio, Bowmore and Auchentoashan. But it could just as easily have been a decision to take this smaller distillery and keep it more of a boutique operation. Who knows… (Note to self: Rachel Barrie would have an answer to that). But Glen Garioch is a different story and since 2009, when the lineup was revamped and the old core range of the NAS ‘Highland Tradition’ and ‘Archive’ and the very traditional 10, 15 and 21 year old were scrapped, the unique 48% ABV standard strength was introduced together with the small core and vintage releases regime. Admittedly, new releases are coming forth rather slowly and the second installment of the Renaissance is almost a year overdue now, but in terms of quality to hype ratio – these guys are doing something right.
Glen Garioch 15 Year Old 1998 Wine Cask Matured (48%)
Appearance: Bronze, sturdy necklace peeling off thin legs that move down really slowly.
Nose: Cherry liqueur filled chocolate praline, malt, old spices and orange peel. Heather honey and spiciness appear as the dram breathes, with a dryness to it. Milk chocolate, just the plain Cadbury, keeps coming round and fading out. A couple of drops of water will bring out some apricot.
Palate: First the wine imparts sweetness, than a wave of spiciness – with ground black and white pepper – and a tannic dryness. The different waves are very distinct here, with the liquid returning to being predominantly sweet as you hold it on your tongue. It has a nice body and presence.
Linger: Long and dry, with an almost veiled hint of sourness. It leaves the mouth with the signature Garioch chalky dryness.
Clearly a Glen Garioch, it has a lot of character all to its own. This is a dram you’ll be loath to drain out of your glass, if only so you can continue nosing it. It’s also one of the more expensive releases in the 15 year old range, so not a daily dram, but unique enough to still remain within the VFM range, albeit at its higher end.