The recent Authentic Collection outturn from Cadenheads had many delights including the 1980 36 year old Caol Ila that I reviewed recently. Amongst the Glentauchers, Glenkinchie and other delights, one particular whisky stood out; a 1990 Glen Garioch.
This distillery owned today by Morrison Bowmore (Suntory), is situated near Inverurie in Aberdeenshire and was established in 1797. It’s therefore a particularly old distillery and during a period of closure in the mid-90s was reopened after extensive renovations. Now depending on who you speak to these enhancements have changed the style of spirit and therefore whisky forever. The floor maltings were closed as part of the refurbishment and many consider that since then the hint of smoke has been lost.
Referring to Ian Buxton’s definitive But the Distilleries Went on The Morrison Bowmore Story, the distillery maltings even by the 1980’s were assisted by commercial maltsters. The Glen Garioch produced malt was peated and mixed with external non-peated malt. The level of peat was already being phased out slowly in the 80’s until it ended completely circa 1994.
Glen Garioch prior to the changes, possessed a peated fruity interchange that it was loved for. Today’s whisky retains an increased element of fruit but without the backbone of peat. A footnote in history is the last time the malting kilns operated at Glen Garioch was to provide peated malt for Bowmore distillery around the millennium.
For these reasons, when I noted this Glen Garioch was distilled in 1990, I couldn’t resist acquiring a sample from a friend. Bottled in July 2016 at 44.4% strength, with an outturn of just 186 in total, this will set you back around £106 which to me is yet another good deal from Cadenheads.
Colour: apple juice
Nose: oh a sticky concoction of golden syrup and caramel. Malted milk biscuits and cornflakes provide body and on the fringes a really fine Highland heather honey. A real sweetie but with real depth and delight. A touch of sourness, marmalade, wine gums, cinnamon and coconut.
Taste: more of that Highland honey, then vanilla and in the distance the seasoning of peat. A faint echo of the past but it grounds everything nicely. Pencil shavings confirm the age of maturation, toffee, a little kiwi and grapefruit towards the end.
Overall: a gorgeous nose that the palate cannot match. In comparison the palate only displays a handful of flavours but a real richness and body with few ingredients. It all makes for a winning formula.