Glen Garioch Vintage Series Review: Part IV – Vintage 1978 and Two 1978 Single Casks

This post concludes the reviews of Glen Garioch’s Vintage series with the oldest expression, the Vintage 1978. This 30 year old was bottled in 2009 at 57.8% and has 1320 bottles altogether. But we’re not going to stop there, as I have two more single casks from 1978. The first, cask 11000, was bottled in 2011 at 33 years for The Whisky Shop at 54.2% and yielded 187 bottles. The second, incredibly enough, is the following cask, 11001, which is now offered as a Bottle Your Own (BYO) at the distillery, currently at 38 years old.

The previous posts in the series looked at the post 1995-1997 closing of the distillery and the move to unpeated whisky with the 1999, 1998 and 1997 (see post here). Part II looked at the early part of the 1990s matured in ex bourbon casks (see post here) and part III covered Vintage 1990 and Vintage 1986 (here).

Looking into the future of Glen Garioch (and after asking 😉 ) I have been told that no more Vintage releases are planned. The distillery seems to be happy with the (very small) core, and will continue with the Renaissance project for two more releases. I’m venturing that there might be a future addition to the core range (this is really a guess), but I have no clear picture as to where Beam Suntory/Morrison Bowmore Distillers are going with Glen Garioch. I hope that the appointment of Ron Walsh will get things going for this brand, doubtlessly the jewel of the MBD portfolio. Sadly, this seems to be painfully clear to everybody other than MBD and Beam Suntory.

Three 1978s

1978 was a monumental year at Glen Garioch. Morrison Bowmore purchased Glen Garioch from DCL in 1970. The distillery was closed at the time, after DCL, citing water supply problems that have plagued Glen Garioch since it’s founding, chose the old Clynelish distillery for the production of heavily peated malt in the Highlands due to an Islay drought. That distillery went on to be renamed Brora, and was lost in the whisky loch of the early 1980s, a fate that would have surely been Glen Garioch’s were it to have remained part of the DCL portfolio. In Morrison Bowmore’s hands a new underground water source was found in 1972, and the distillery could safely return to production, and even add a third still in 1972 and a fourth in 1973.

Photo Credit: El Horizonte

In 1978, the distillery implemented a scheme to use the the massive amounts of heat that the distillery creates to earn some income to offset the almost doubling in fuel costs throughout the 1970s. In Glen Garioch, this was used to heat an acre of greenhouses which grew tomatoes and peppers. So you think to yourself “ok…tomatoes, cute diversion” right? Well, The project produced 145 tonnes per year, and brought in some £90,000. Not bad for some farming, right? This was implemented at Bowmore as well, where the heat was used to warm the swimming pool at the neighboring Mactaggart Leisure Centre.

The project was scrapped in 1993, when the distillery closed the malting floors (and kiln) and switched from direct fired stills to steam coils. As we clearly saw in the second post of the series (see here), this had a significant effect on the character of the whisky coming out of Glen Garioch.

I’ve been waiting for almost three years for all the stars to align for this tasting 🙂 so here we go:


Photo Credit:

Glen Garioch Vintage 1978, Bourbon Cask Matured, Bottled 2009, 1320 Bottles (57.8% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Deep gold, slow thin legs, with tiny droplets coming off a a very sturdy necklace.

Nose: Fruity with hints of pepper and ginger. Honey and vanilla with a whiff of smoke, with the vanilla leaning toward a vanilla creme filled donut. A drop of water brings out the honey with some golden delicious apples with a light hint of cardamon. Sweet lemon cake comes out after a few minutes in the glass, with notes of star fruit. The nose has some dryness to it. The honey and vanilla take predominance as it breaths, with a creamy maltiness present in the (oh, too quickly) empty glass.

Palate: Whoa… The first thing that hits you is the peat, and with it a wash of red grapefruit juice, with a perfect bitterness and sweetness all balanced. The spice – with white pepper and a sprinkle of cinnamon – comes and goes. It’s perfectly drinkable as is with the 57.8% it has.

Linger: The peat and the pepper play on the tongue, with a sweet under-note, in an overall dry mouth. The back of the palate is especially dry with a peppery residue, and a bit of a mineral-y note. The mouth remains dry and chalky and the gullet peppery for a long time, with the sweetness on the tongue coming and going.


This distillate, unlike the 1990 and 1991 is really clean, and doesn’t have that “dirty” quality they did. I’m not sure if this is the extra decade in the cask, the casks themselves, of something different in the distillate, but wow – this is a stunner. This is not one you’ll mistake for a Campbeltown dram.  This dram is perfectly balanced, with a beautiful development. I look forward to my next dram of this.

Thank you Lorenzo for arranging the bottle share on this one!





Photo Credit:

Glen Garioch 1978, Cask 11000, Bottled for The Whisky Shop, North American Oak, Bottled 2011, 33 Years Old, 187 Bottles (54.2% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Amber, the whisky leaves a lot of residue on the glass.

Nose: Sweet vanilla, with honey and a mineral dryness with a dollop of dulce de leche. It smells almost creamy, with a baked apple with ginger jam, watermelon rind, and hints of baking bread in the distance. A note of smoked meat is the only indicator that this is a peated whisky. There’s a hint of honeysuckle in a very sweet nose, and with time in the glass, caramel comes through.

Palate: Thick and viscous, sweet with a hint of white wine. Liquid sunshine is what comes to mind here. White pepper and clove permeate the palate, with a sweet wave following.

Linger: Spice and honey fill the mouth, with a very light ring of spiciness around the gullet. The peat is almost not present in the linger, except in one small wave that makes you think of peat. The linger is a bit dry, but not overly so, with a tingle of spice left on the inner cheeks.


Strangely, this is a very “modern” Glen Garioch, with almost none of the peat left. This is a beautiful single cask, with a very sophisticated palate. Again, very drinkable at 54.2%, and it definitely doesn’t need any water.






Photo Credit:

Glen Garioch Distillery Exclusive BYO, Cask 11001, Distilled 16 November 1978, Refill Bourbon Barrel (55.3% ABV, NCF)

Appearance: Amber, with thin legs running off a pretty sturdy necklace, which clings to the glass for a long time.

Nose: Quite a bit of coconut, with the 38 years in the cask very much on the nose. The oak is on the nose together with honey and coconut cream, some fresh cut pear, a baking honey cake, vanilla and that signature ginger jam found in so many of the Glen Garioch bottlings. A hint of white pepper comes through on the nose, but it’s light.

Palate: This one has that sweet lavender note I got in the 1986, but with none of the funk. It’s like some lavender was folded into a vanilla custard (or maybe vanilla ice cream), with a bit more of the peat here, although not in a very “peated” way. Held in your mouth, the honey takes over from the spice and the peat, and with that lavender like note, is a true treat on the palate.

Linger: Dry, with a hint (only a hint) of the lavender in a sweet mouth, with some of that vanilla custard. Candied ginger, without the sharpness, and a ring of spice around the gullet. The back of the tongue also tingles with the spice.


This is, truly, spectacular. Different than the 33 year old despite being filled just one cask after it. The 1986 had a funky lavender that required working with, whereas this dram sings with it, and is probably what the 1986 would be doing in a few years. The palate is sweet and chewy, and you’re likely to not want to swallow it. I’ll admit to not having the heart to add any water to it. What can I say? This cask is truly exceptional, and I might just have to get a bottle of it….

Official sample provided by Glen Garioch Distillery.





Lining up the drams for this tasting took some time and effort, and was aided by two wonderful whisky friends – Lorenzo and Arnout – and by Fiona at the distillery. Yet, my (pretty extensive) research into the single cask releases points to three other 1978 releases still out there in the wind: A 1996 or 1997 bottling of an 18 year old amalgamation of 11 casks (not unlike the 2009 Vintage release) and two single casks. One of those, is cask 10999 (consecutive to two casks tasted here today) was released in 2012 for Millroy’s of Soho at 58.8%, and cask 10997 released that same year for World Duty Free Glasgow at 54.8%. I hope to be able to review those three in the future.

Getting to delve so deeply into my favorite distillery’s liquid past is a true pleasure. I can definitely point out my favorite drams in this series, my own winners: First place is held by the utterly surprising and totally rouge 1991, followed very (VERY) closely by the 1978 and the 1990. The 1995 and 1999 take the next two places, followed by the 1986. The 1994 and 1997 battle for last place. Putting together the drams for this tasting was absolutely worth the effort, as there are some truly spectacular drams in the vintage releases. If you come across one, try to taste it….

On another note, this was the 499th post on Malt and Oak, so I guess the next one should be really special, and I know exactly what to taste…..

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