I have never had a full dram of the standard releases of Glen Garioch, the Founder’s Reserve, the 12 year old, etc., but I have been fortunate enough to indulge in several drams from the cask strength vintages. I remember in particular the 1991 and the 1994 and a single cask distilled in 1998 that was selected by and bottled at cask strength for Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, MA. That one was heavenly good! But they were all very good to wondrous, so the potential of this 1994 single cask had me salivating before I even opened the sample bottle…
Glen Garioch is one of the old ones, founded in the Eastern Highlands in 1798 near Inverurie. Its old style was that of the “smoky Highlander” (like its close neighbor, Ardmore) but the distillery now focuses on unpeated whisky – which is something you would never guess with this Exclusive Malts single cask from 1994: It hints at peat and smoke in several more or less subtle ways from many different directions. A return to the smoky Highlander style, perhaps.
As always, this Exclusive Malts bottling is unchillfiltered, unspoiled by deceptive coloration and bottled at a cask strength of 56.6% ABV after spending 20 years in a refill hogshead that (I suspect) was previously used to mature a more insistently peated whisky.
A rosewater lake dotted with islands of dark toast dripping with wildflower honey; toasted marshmallow clouds float by.
Now I walk into a shop where almonds dusted with confectionary sugar are served in waffle cones.
Open the window and a light breeze of smoky peat wafts in over the clean fur of a large sleeping cat.
I start to purr.
In a kitchen now, where apples were baking an hour ago; there is a chocolate covered cherry hidden somewhere in one of the cabinets. A young mother walks in and you can smell her infant’s hair.
Back in that confectionary shop, but, this time, warm vanilla ice cream is being sprinkled with powdered chocolate and served on charred oak staves from a dismantled cask that had previously held a peated whisky. (24/25)
Before you tasted it, you thought you would never like French toast with no butter and no syrup, but now you know you do.
Caramel being stirred over a peat fire and then poured over the maltiest of malted barleys.
Oat bread toast is fine by itself, but it is much improved with the addition of almond butter. (21/25)
A very protracted, long finish distinguished by a slow, radiating, blooming burn on the tongue that unfolds crushed almonds and oaky apples slowly, like a time-elapse flower, but suggesting nothing like a flower…
And it ends with – try to imagine this – the taste of the syrup inside a chocolate cherry, slightly peated but unsweetened. (22/25)
A very lush, satisfying whisky that combines many things I like to find in my glass and contains nothing that I don’t like. The nose is the clear winner here, but the palate, while less far-ranging and eclectic, and thus less wow-inspiring, is not a disappointment by any means. I have already made arrangements to buy a bottle of this and to have it shipped to my doorstep. (23/25)
Total points for this whisky: 90
PS: Don’t look too closely at that illustration I used: It’s the 18 year old version of the 20 year old I’ve reviewed here that was previously released to the British market. I couldn’t find an illustration of the one I was reviewing and the label on the sample bottle was damaged.