May 042019

This 2011 Glen Garioch is a harbinger for the sequel to the very successful Virgin Oak. Indeed, a few months before the release of Batch 2 of the Virgin Oak, the distillery released a very limited single cask of the whisky that will make up that expression, at cask strength.

Glen Garioch

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I’ll have more to say about Batch 2 of the Virgin Oak in the upcoming review, but this is a very lovely single cask.

Virgin oak works very quickly on new make, and seven years are plenty of time for some real flavor to develop in the cask.

Photo Credit: Dave Farquharson

Glen Garioch 2011, Cask 1409, Distilled May 23, 2011, Virgin Oak Cask Distillery Exclusive (60.8% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Bronze, very slow and thin legs coming very slowly off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Toffee, caramel and coconut, with sweet honey and fresh wood shavings. Faint popcorn and a creamy butteriness. It has some traits in common with bourbon on the nose. Water takes it further toward bourbon or grain. Water also brings out the malt, or specifically the mash, as well as a hint of fresh ginger and brine.

Palate: Dry and spicy, pretty intense. There’s a lot of oak – almost sawdust – and harsh pepper. It definitely could use some water. The addition of water highlights the pepper, but brings out some mint and some yellow plums and some chalkiness.

Linger: Warm and spicy on a dry palate, with a buttery sweetness remaining in the mouth. The gullet has spice lingering. With water, the linger is spicier and sweeter. It’s actually a more intense finish with the water.


It’s only seven years old, but the virgin oak really allows it to mature nicely. This is complex and deep, albeit a little ‘in your face’, and is fun. I’ll be reviewing the second edition of the general release of the Virgin Oak in the next few days, as well as a few other distillery exclusive casks.

Oct 272018

After trying the 1987 single cask (AKA Sage Galore), we turn to the Glen Garioch 1979. Now every once in a while you have a dram that makes you understand something new about whisky in general or about a certain distillery. When it’s you favorite distillery that you have the that understanding, it’s even more exciting.

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I have written about Glen Garioch’s dark 1980s, indeed, the whole Morrison Bowmore’s troubled decade. This decade left Bowmore with a pretty shoddy reputation, which has been admittedly rebuilt since the Suntory involvement. Suntory bought a stake in the company in 1989, and fully took it over in 1994. I have raised the conjecture that the soapy lavender prevalent in Glen Garioch from those years and Bowmore’s “french whore perfume” were products of the yeast used by MBD during those years, but I obviously have no way to prove that.

I have tasted quite a few 1978 expressions (and even reviewed a few here), and many expressions from 1990 onward, but the period between 1978 and 1986 is somewhat of a black hole, deepened only by the 1984 vintage which I have tasted both at 40% and at cask strength. All I can say about the 1984 is that I truly hope nobody ever tasted it as their first whisky ever, or they would swear off the drink forever. There’s the 1985 BYO that closed the gap between 1984 and 1986, which I reviewed here. Thus, tasting a 1979 vintage (and one matured in a first fill sherry butt) is exciting as it shortens the 1978-1984 gap by 20%.

What I have learned is that while 1978 was a high point for the distillery and a very sought after vintage, the herbal decade actually started in 1979. This cask has all the characteristics of a mid 1980s cask, so I would love to check a few things:

  1. Are there records of a yeast change in 1979 for MBD?
  2. I’d love to explore some 1978 and 1979 Bowmore to see if there’s the same change.
  3. Were they aware of this at the time?
  4. Is it possible that the loch getting so bad and the industry outlook so bleak that nobody really was paying much attention to the quality?


Photo Credit: Derek Zhang

Glen Garioch 1979, 38 Year Old, Cask 3831, Distilled 25.6.1979, First Fill Sherry Butt, Bottled for Chief Whisky Society (CWS) on 25.10.2017, 114 Bottles (42.9% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Mahogany, very slow droplets running off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Polish and dried fruit with notes of prunes, figs and apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of fresh mint. Dry and somewhat chalky with a hint of smoke on the wind. The apricots shift toward canned apricots with the wood spices coming round softer. There’s cake on the nose, but it’s more an English cake than a Christmas cake and a cherry liquor filled chocolate. There’s also a coniferous note in there with vanilla and a touch of vinegar.

Palate: Herbal with lavender and mint over a compote of plums. There’s a herbaceous bitterness, with white pepper and cinnamon, and a hint of chocolate and cherries.

Linger: Sweet lavender and dry mint linger on the tongue. Dry and tangy, with a touch of sweetness that remains on the tongue. There is a bitter note that stays on.


This dram takes me back to what is probably the earliest instance of the herbal notes of the 1980s. No 1978 that I tasted (and there were a few of them) had it, and by 1990 it was gone. Fascinating piece of Glen Garioch history, and a beautiful choice for CWS!

Thank you very much, Derek Zhang!

Nov 192017

My last visit to Scotland was a short one, following the London Whisky Show. Short or long, though, a stop at Glen Garioch in Oldmeldrum is a must, as there’s a new bottle your own cask on tap from their two or three that are regularly available. The new cask is a first fill red wine barrique, filled in 1999. Knowing how fabulously Glen Garioch spirit interacts with wine casks from the 1998 Wine Cask Matured (reviewed here), getting a bottle was a no brainer. I will say that I’m still debating if the 1998 Wine Cask should be counted among the Vintage series, since they were all bottled at cask strength and the 1998 was bottled at the Garioch strength of 48%.

Last year, I picked up a stunning sherry matured bottle (see visit recap and review here), and this year it’s a first fill wine barrique. I tasted it at the distillery, and enjoyed it immensely. It’s now time to sit down and spend some real time with it.


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Glen Garioch Bottle Your Own, 1999 First fill Red Wine Barrique 1420, Distilled 9 June 1999, 18 Years Old (56.5% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Reddish copper, quite viscous with slow legs peeling off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: A very warm nose, with gingerbread, spices, orange blossom, freshly ground cloves, red berries – blueberries, raspberry and strawberries, and you do get hints of the wine. Later some minty notes appear with oak.

Palate: Wood spices, rose petals, pepper and hints of strawberry. A bit of water strengthens the spice and it’s full of oaky tannins and some saltiness.

Linger: Citrus and spice, a sweet and dry linger, with a dryness on the inside of the cheeks. With water the spices and dryness are increased.


This dram isn’t playing around. This is serious stuff, not to be taken lightly and not for casual sipping. You’ll want to give this dram time, and have a pipette with water around, as you’re in for a ride. I will say that I can actually understand why the 1998 Wine Cask Matured was bottled at 48%, as there’s something wildly intense in the cask strength expression.

I’ll mention that I have a 15 year old Bordeaux Wine Cask Finish from the old days at 50%. That will have been peated malt, and when it gets here I plan to taste the 15 year old Bordeaux against this cask and the 1998. That should be a fascinating comparison.