The mid 1980’s were a bit of a rough patch for the Morrison Bowmore distilleries. Bowmore was rife with that distinctive perfume unlovingly referred to as FWP (french whore perfume). This was a deep herbal scent, like aromatic oils of various herbs combined. Glen Garioch expressions from those years have not escaped it, as the two 1984 expressions I tried (both at cask strength and at 40%), as well as the 1986 Vintage and the 1987, have that same herbal perfuminess. So does this Glen Garioch BYO.
I have a feeling this has to do with the yeast used by MBD, as the barley wouldn’t have been the same, given that both distilleries floor malted a large part of their malt at the distillery, and the grain sourcing is different (Bowmore gets the grain from Port Ellen, and Glen Garioch was using a closer supplier). Nor would the water be the same, obviously. Until 1990 Glen Garioch still had wooden washbacks, so some bacteria might be the culprit, but the yeast remains the immediate suspect.
I have reviewed the Glen Garioch Vintage 1986 and it displays many of the same characteristics, especially around this lavender on the palate and finish. Another common feature is that while these expressions are peated, that’s almost not a factor after 25 or 30 years, in either expression.
Glen Garioch Bottle Your Own 1985 Cask 1586, Sherry Butt Distilled on 11.4.1985 (43.8% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Dark mahogany, slow and thin legs coming off a necklace. The picture on the right is a pretty accurate depiction of the color.
Nose: Warm wood spices – clove, cinnamon and nutmeg, with a sprinkle of allspice. Prune compote and a heavy, treacle sweetness. Dry and almost chalky, with floral notes. There’s also a sweet thick wine, almost like a dry PX sherry. With some time, dried cherries mix with some fresh fruit, with a hint of bay rum. Time in the glass deepens the wood spices. A drop of water brings out balsamic vinegar and a hint of coconut shavings almost on the verge of a piña colada.
Palate: Sweet and dry, with lavender (and sage?) that’s rather overpowering. Under it I get some dried fruit (prunes and perhaps cherries or cranberries?), treacle and the cinnamon and allspice. The dryness is very chalky and herbal.
Linger: Sour herbal lavender, chalky dryness and hints of the wood spice, especially the cinnamon. The oak is here in force, and some of the spice gently envelops the gullet. The finish is very long.
The base spirit is very close to the 1986 Vintage (much more so than the 1984, and I think that has to do with chill filtration and time in the bottle). Thus, the comparison between the sherry matured BYO and the 1986 Vintage was fascinating. The lavender comes through in exactly the same place, with the added tartness and dryness of the sherry, as well as with the fruity level on top. It’s far better than the 1986, which I didn’t like very much, and I can’t really say that this is my favorite Glen Garioch ever. On the other hand, this is definitely a dram you want to try more than once, and if you can contrast it with the Vintage 1986.