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Monday, October 30, 2017

Glen Garioch 1990, Part 1: 23 year old Nectar of the Daily Drams

Here's a random series for you. In honor of reader James, to whom it's taking me months to respond, I did a Taste Off between three Glen Garioch single malts distilled in 1990. (James is a fan of older Glen Gariochs, to clarify that previous garbage sentence.)

Before Suntory took over (1994) and mothballed (1995) Glen Garioch, the distillery used lightly peated malt. And as much as I like the current version of Glen Garioch's single malts, the pre-Suntory style always brought something interesting to a bottle. Of course, the rumored dark side of that situation is the dreaded lavender soap note that also infected Morrison's Bowmore output in the '80s.

Here are three samples of '90 Garioch from three different bottlers.

First up, a 23 year old from Nectar of the Daily Drams.

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Distilled by: Morrison Bowmore
Current Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Bottler: Daily Drams

Age: 23 years (1990-2014)
Maturation: maybe a refill ex-bourbon cask
Alcohol by Volume: 49.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(purchased sample)

Its color is the second darkest of the three, but it seems as if the cask contributed little more than visual tone, because the nose is very spirity for the whisky's age and alcohol content. Burnt paper, barley, apples and plaster. A good oceanside note. Small notes of marshmallow, lemon cake, vanilla and peat. The palate is ashy and earthy, full of minerals and concrete (oh that tasty concrete). It's lightly sweet with moderate notes of malt, horseradish, plastic and vanilla. Its finish is very ashy, like damp cigarettes. Light bitterness and peppercorns.

Dilution time...

WITH WATER (~43-44%abv)
Its calmer nose has more vanilla, caramel and marshmallows. Additional beach, smoke and farm notes. With time it almost turns into a single-digit Ledaig with sulphur and sneaker peat. The palate is aggressively green and herbal with plenty of bitter smoke. Tart citrus, stale raisins and jalapeño peppers. Little bit of sweets, lots of minerals. The finish is shorter, quieter. It's still green and earthy like the palate. Light vanilla sweetness mixes oddly with the jalapeño peppers and smoky residue.

That this whisky flexed its spirit was not a surprise. That it read like a 60%abv whisky at one-third its actual age was unexpected. Water did bring out some oak notes in the nose, but also turned up its rugged phenolics. The palate's a fighter with or without water. This was confirmed by Kristen's reaction when she tried the whisky.

One's personal preferences are certainly in play here. This isn't a graceful or casual sipper. It's a bit more of a winter warmer. While I enjoyed the nose better once the whisky was diluted, the added water messes up the finish. So I'd recommend it either neat or at an ABV much lower than 43. And while I dig the zesty greenery in this one, I expect a bit more depth, roundness and maturity from a whisky that spent twenty-three years in a cask.

Availability - A few European retailers perhaps?
Pricing - probably €100-€130
Rating - 82