Glen Garioch Vintage Series Review: Part I – Vintage 1999 (Sherry), Vintage 1998 (Wine) and Vintage 1997 (Bourbon)

This is the first in a series of posts that will run down (or up?) the full Glen Garioch Vintage Series, culminating in a three way review of three official bottlings of vintage 1978 Glen Garioch: The Vintage series 1978 (30 Year old), a 33 Year Old single cask bottled in 2012 and a BYO cask available at the distillery, bottled at 39 years of age.

I’ve wanted to do this vertical series for a long time. However, there’s one bottle in my set that I’ve wanted to keep closed until a specific future birthday of mine, which in my mind expanded to a tasting of the complete range. I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy trying to buy or make a trade for a sample of that bottle and one other, to no avail. I then made up my mind that if I don’t get samples of both by my upcoming birthday in December, I’ll open both bottles. Funny, once I made that determination,  two people in the beautiful whiskyfabric made things happen, and I was able to trade for both missing samples. Lorenzo and Arnout, you have my thanks!

These are all vintage releases bottled at cask strength, with the exception of the 1998 Wine Cask Matured that is presented at the distillery standard strength of 48%. I’m having a hard time deciding if it is to be treated as one of the series or not. When it comes to your favorite distillery, when in doubt, put it in. So I’ll include a review of it, but I didn’t include it in the picture I took of the complete set. I will mention that the distillery’s current BYO cask is a 1999 wine cask (cask 1420) at cask strength, on which I’ll report after my upcoming visit to the distillery in early October.

© Malt and Oak

 

But we still have a way to go until we get to the 1978, and along the way we’ll be enjoying these vintages:

  1. Vintage 1999, Sherry cask matured, bottled 2013 at 56.3%.
  2. Vintage 1998, bottled 2013, wine cask matured at 48% (is it part of the series?).
  3. Vintage 1997, 1st and 2nd fill bourbon casks, bottled 2012 at 56.7%.
  4. Vintage 1995, 1st fill bourbon barrels, bottled 2012 at 55.3%.
  5. Vintage 1994, North American oak, bottled 2011 at 53.9%.
  6. Vintage 1991,  North American oak, bottled 2010 at 54.7%.
  7. Vintage 1990,  Sherry and bourbon casks, bottled 2009 at 54.6%.
  8. Vintage 1986, North American oak, 25 year old, bottled 2011 at 54.6%.
  9. Vintage 1978, bourbon casks, 30 year old, bottled 2009 at 57.8%.

This first installment will look at three vintages, all post the 1995-1997 mothballing of the distillery, from which it returned to life sans the light peating that was so much part of the character of the distillery, and sans the malting floors. Of these post 1997 vintages, we have one in bourbon casks, one in sherry casks and one in wine casks.

Ten years after the resurrection, the distillery began a rebranding with a new bottle shape, non chill filtration and a minimal strength of 48% and a new core of bottlings. With that, the distillery began releasing the above listed vintage bottlings, and at the same time released a slew of single cask bottlings. I have so far been able to identify 30 of those single casks, bottled for shops with vintages ranging from 1971 through 1999.

On to the three post 1995 drams, in descending order:

Photo Credit: abbeywhisky.com

Glen Garioch Vintage 1999, Batch 30, Sherry Cask Matured, Bottled 2013 (56.3% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Copper, thin legs running off a pretty sturdy necklace.

Nose: Leather and dried fruit, sultanas, hints of kumquat, wood spices aplenty, with a heaviness to the nose, making it feel older than its decade and a half. There is some extra spice on the nose, with dates and some chocolate. A few drops of water bring out a hint of Vegemite alongside the raspberries that join in the fray.

Palate: Dry, almost dusty, with spice and sherry sweetness washing over the tongue in a second wave. Ginger and cinnamon, with just a hint of pepper and dried cherries and apricots and a sprinkle of demerara sugar.

Linger: Red fruit, with a spicy dryness and a bitterness on the sides of tongue. Spice around the gullet, with the linger staying on for a very long time. After a while, some leather and tobacco settle in, and a hint of the sweetness fleets on the tongue.

Conclusion

The sherry works so well with the Glen Garioch spirit, which makes a lot of sense as the spirit is not a light one. This dram has some layers to it, and if you take your time with it, you’ll be rewarded.

 

In between these two vintages, we have the 1998 Wine Cask matured expression. I have reviewed it here, but will bring the review once again for your convenience.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Glen Garioch Vintage 1997, Batch 12, First Fill and Second Fill Bourbon Barrels, Bottled 2012 (56.7% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Pale gold, sturdy necklace releasing small drops.

Nose: Spice and a floral sweetness, clean with a woodsy quality. Notes of honeysuckle and yellow grapefruit, with an underlying note of vanilla. This needs some water to release its secrets. A bit of water brings out the oak of the cask, together with a strengthening of the floral note. A bit of time brings out pears.

Palate: Spice (black pepper, white pepper and allspice), honey and a lovely bitter citrus rind. Water skews it to the peppery side, with a sweetness you’ll only get to if you hold it in your mouth for a while. With water its much spicier and less bitter, although you can still make out the grapefruit.

Linger: The spice and the bitterness remain on the tongue for a long time, with the spiciness ringing the gullet. After the addition of water, the spice is much more dominant, and a very malty-cerealy note stays on your tongue.

Conclusion

Definitely a bottle I’d keep out the hands of a malt novice. This is a full blown Highlander, with the spice and the fruit right up there in your face, and a lovely floral note that brings a lot of sophistication to this dram. Do I like the new unpeated style better than the old one? No. But this is definitely a dram that will have you thinking of the distillery.

Postscript

Wow, these were the youngsters of the bunch, and they were beautiful. The The next installment in the series will be the three ex bourbon barrel matured in the early 1990s: The fabulous 1995, the whistle clean 1994 and the dignified 1991. Until then, Sláinte.

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