Tag Archives: Highlands

Glen Garioch 2011 Carn Mor Strictly Limited 5-year-old

Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 27th March 2017

Ratings:
80/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

I do love the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. It’s a nice wee shop in my home town with great staff but….OMG, the website! It’s been sitting there with one page saying, “online shop coming soon” since about 2013. But this is a perfect example of how crazy the whisky market has gone in recent years. The statement “you must be online to make money” doesn’t apply to whisky. If you have a shop in the centre of Scotland’s third largest city you get enough walk-in trade to make ‘online’ become ‘on hold’ until market forces change. But it is frustrating if you find the Aberdeen Whisky Shop online and you don’t live anywhere near the city. At least they give regular updates about new stock via their Facebook page.

I hadn’t intended on buying this Glen Garioch but I was in the shop, it was there, and the rest is history. Generally I’m not a fan of immature whisky but after visiting Glen Garioch in 2016 I was keen to get more examples from the distillery. Distilled in 2011 and bottles in 2017 this 5-year-old was limited to 665 bottles. It has no added colour, and it’s non-chillfiltered but it’s a shame it isn’t cask strength. I suppose it’s a lot to ask for a mere £36 and 46% is a decent enough potency. Definitely one to be drunk as I don’t see this making much as an investment. The bottles aren’t individually numbered and it comes from 2 bourbon barrels rather than single cask. There’s no box and the label is very basic, which all says, “drink me” rather than “keep me for 10 years then sell me”. The independent bottlers Morrison & Mackay that make this whisky certainly know their marketing.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Coconut, white oak spice, vanilla-forward barley.
Palate: Freshly cut grass, mint leaf and more sweet coconut notes.
Finish: Soft citrus and toasty oak.

Glen Garioch 1997 ‘Vintage Batch 12’

Bought: Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, 12th September 2016

Ratings:
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 24 member votes)

I bought this bottle of Glen Garioch from the distillery shop following my tour in September 2016. My blog about this visit can be found here. Initially I fancied buying a hand-filled bottle but at £135 a pop it seemed rather extravagant. The pre-packaged 1997 ‘Batch 12’ was a more pocket friendly £51. Bottled in 2012 it’s 14-15 years old and cask strength at 56.7%. I’d seen it at airports and online so I knew it wasn’t very exclusive but I wanted a memento of my visit and 1997 was a significant year for Glen Garioch. The distillery fell silent in 1995 but started production again in 1997 so a bottle from that year celebrates the rebirth of a historic and treasured Aberdeenshire business.

Scoring 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dynamic dram from Glen Garioch as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. It’s only 0.5 points away from being ‘brilliant’ according to the author, Jim Murray. His review consists of “I have to say: I have long been a bit of a voice in the wilderness among whisky professionals as to regards this distillery. This not so subtly muscled malt does my case no harm whatsoever.”

Reaching nearly 83/100 on Whiskybase suggests a very good single malt. Comments about the Glen Garioch 1997 include “very tasty, nice bourbon-barrel whisky”, “I liked it a lot” and “a very clean and fresh Glen Garioch, on sweet barley and tasting rather young”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt (where it’s still available for £75.65):

Nose: Creamy and sweet, with notes of vanilla ice cream and banana fritters.
Palate: A kick of cinnamon and pepper, but this remains firmly in ‘caramel and orchard fruit’ country.
Finish: Apple turnovers dusted with brown sugar.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about this Glen Garioch 1997 (August 2015):

Ardmore 8yo – Claxton’s ‘A Dram A Day’ Charity Bottle

Bought: Gauntley’s of Nottingham, 3rd February 2017

Ratings:
87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)

If you’re a fan of YouTube whisky reviews like I am you’ve probably come across Ben Bowers and his ‘A Dram A Day’ channel. Starting in January 2016 he set himself a challenge to post a whisky review every day for a year, all in the aid of charity. Initially he wasn’t sure he’d manage it but he did, even during the birth of his 3rd child. As the 365 days drew to a close, Claxton’s, a Yorkshire-based independent bottler, offered Ben’s cause a limited edition Ardmore with all proceeds going to charity. After watching most of Ben’s videos I thought it would be rude not to get it. Finished in a Laphroaig cask, limited to 299 bottles and at the cask strength of 55.1%, it sounded wonderful. Also I’d never tried Claxton’s before and their square bottles looked very attractive. I do love a good bottle shape!

Fans of the Ardmore ‘Traditional Cask’ will know how well the Highland distillery’s spirit harmonises with peat. Ralfy, a leading YouTube vlogger, once remarked that the ‘Traditional Cask’ was his favourite peated whisky outside of Islay. Praise indeed and something I agree with. So it doesn’t surprise me that after 11 votes on Whiskybase this special dram has got the excellent score of 87/100. One comment (translated from French) said, “peaty but not in a crazy way either. Gentle on the nose. The high title pushes the sensations high enough, but it remains creamy, not so peated eventually. Youth does not appear.”

Since finishing his challenge I’m delighted to see that Ben got a job with Gordon & MacPhail. I’m sure his whisky videos helped boost his CV as well as helping a worthy charity. Congratulations Ben, and thanks Claxton’s for this awesome Ardmore!

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with his thoughts about his Ardmore charity bottling (YouTube, January 2017):

Glen Garioch 12-year-old

Bought: Amazon, 16th April 2016

Ratings:
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 354 member votes)
91/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)

As a fan of the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve I jumped at the chance to get the 12yo when Amazon reduced it to £32. That’s cheap for any 12yo whisky let alone one as hefty as 48%. Once open the 12yo certainly is a lovely dram but I slightly prefer the Founder’s Reserve, which seems less ‘designed’. I tried the 12yo again when visiting the Glen Garioch distillery and it stood up well against the 15yo, which I also got to sample. It’s hard to go wrong with spicy dark fruits, vanilla and a hint of smoke when presented at 48%. Delicious!

Scoring 88/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Glen Garioch 12yo as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “sticking, broadly, to the winning course of the original 43% version, though here there is a fraction more toffee at the expense of the smoke.” The Founder’s Reserve scores 87.5/100 in the Bible and the 15yo 86.5/100 so not much in it.

Getting over 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. The Founder’s Reserve scores 80.6/100. Comments for the 12yo include “very solid uncommercial style and very nice strength for a standard bottling”, “well crafted….perfect daily dram” and “overall it’s good, enjoyable and showing complexity”.

The Glen Garioch 12yo is a hearty Highland hidden gem that’s well worth seeking out.

Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her thoughts on YouTube about the Glen Garioch 12yo (May 2012):

Blackpool Trams (Glen Albyn) 12-year-old ‘Dreadnought No.59’

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
None I can find.

It took me a while to find out that this miniature is by the independent bottler ‘Signatory’. They’re not mentioned on the label but sometimes the bottle appears at auction in a Signatory box (mine didn’t). It was bottled in 1993 as number 2 of a series of four tram-themed miniatures for ‘The Wee Dram’ in Blackpool. I’ve been unable to find out what ‘The Wee Dram’ was but I’m assuming it was a shop, or possibly a pub. It’s not the current ‘Wee Dram’ shop located 90 miles away in Bakewell because that only dates back to 1998.

Although I’ve been unable to find a review about this specific bottle I have a similar mini Glen Albyn 12yo by Signatory bottled in 1993. Unfortunately it doesn’t fair very well where a reviewer says “one of those notorious bad casks of Signatory in the past.” It makes you realise that some whisky has more value in a collection than to a whisky drinker.

The four trams in the series of miniatures were:

No.1 – Longmorn 12yo ‘Blackpool Trams standard car no.40’ (on Whiskybase here)
No.2 – Glen Albyn 12yo ‘Blackpool Trams Dreadnought No.59’
No.3 – Glenury Royal 14yo ‘Bolton Tram no.66’ (on Whiskybase here)
No.4 – Glenturret 14yo ‘Edinburgh Car’

Although this was billed at ‘series 1’ there wasn’t a second series. A list of Signatory miniatures including the Tram series can be found here.

Royal Brackla 21-year-old

Bought: Amazon, 7th December 2016

Ratings:
91/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
85.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 36 member votes)

Towards the end of 2014 John Dewar & Sons Ltd decided to repackage 5 of their distillery brands under the title of ‘Last Great Malts’, which were Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and The Deveron (see their YouTube promotional video here). They clearly took a lot of time and effort designing the packaging. I like the script used on the Craigellachie label and the smoked glass effect on The Deveron bottle. But I personally feel the Royal Brackla is the star of the show. The elegant bottle shape and regal looking label in blue and gold certainly give it the touch of glass a ‘Royal’ bottling deserves.

Unlike with the Aberfeldy 21yo, before 2014 there wasn’t a distillery release of a 21-year-old Royal Brackla. In fact Whiskybase only list 13 distillery releases from Royal Brackla in total. It’s nice to be getting something so rare! Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, thinks this new 21yo is ‘brilliant’ with a score of 91/100. He says of the taste, “silky malt, with a shade of coastal salt ensuring the full flavours are wrung out”. He concludes with “now that’s much more like it!”

Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a high mark and suggests it’s not only Jim Murray that thinks this new Royal Brackla is brilliant. Comments include “well put together and tastes more like 46% than 40%” and “a single malt blend that’s working well”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Vanilla crème, some sweet and slightly sharp fresh berries and gooseberries – much fruitier than the 12 & 16 year olds.
Palate: Chocolate flake with just a few dark spices adding complexity.
Finish: The green edge seen in the other expressions seems to appear on the finish with cocoa, chocolate sponge and cream.
Overall: Opulent fruits and spices.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on the Royal Brackla 21yo (November 2015):

Glen Mhor 1978 14-year-old, Signatory

Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016

Ratings:
76/100 – Serge Valentin (Whiskyfun.com)
83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

Glen Mhor was one of many Scottish distilleries to feel the brunt of the whisky slump of the early 1980s, closing in 1983 and being demolished in 1988. Whiskybase currently have 170 different bottles of Glen Mhor listed on their database, 10 by the distillery and the remaining 160 by independent bottlers. The top three independents are Gordon & MacPhail (38), Signatory Vintage (22) and Cadenhead (14). My miniature is by Signatory and at 14-years-old it’s the youngest of the 22 listed on Whiskybase. Although 83/100 is a reasonable score it’s the second lowest of Signatory’s 22 versions of Glen Mhor with 5 bottles scoring a very impressive 89/100 or more.

Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun (and one of the Malt Maniacs) reviewed this Glen Mhor in 2005 and gave these tasting notes:
Nose: rather fresh starting on some fruity notes like green apple, kiwi, pink grapefruit and also some sherry. Develops on cereals: grain, muesli… It goes on with some porridge, yoghurt, caramel. Whiffs of white pepper. Really fresh, fruity and lively, with some jolly nice yeasty notes. Just a bit dusty, but the cask was still very neutral, it appears… Oh, some nice and bold vanilla fudge developing after fifteen minutes or so.
Palate: the mouth feel is quite powerful, the attack being little sour and unbalanced. Certainly less clean and fresh than the nose suggested. Some hot milk, brioche, yeast… Green vegetables, hydromel, bitter beer (like Bombardier). It gets even sourer after a while, and drying at the same time. A bit of apple vinegar… Too bad, it gets then even worse, with some disturbing offbeat notes.
Finish: is very sour, on green tomatoes and over-infused tealeaves

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Glen Albyn 1980 12-year-old, Signatory Vintage

Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016

Ratings:
67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

Yes, I confess I bought this miniature even knowing its poor rating on Whiskybase. But the problem is not due to the size of the bottle because the full 70cl version can only muster 61.33/100 from 3 votes. One member explains why “very, very, very strange whisky. One of those notorious bad casks of Signatory in the past. The distillery used to have a hit-and-miss reputation as well. Seems that this whisky has matured in an oil barrel.” Oh dear. We get to enjoy their tasting notes later.

So why did I get it? Because I’ve become a crazy collector of ‘Signatory Vintage miniatures in cardboard tubes’ that’s why! You had to ask. I now have a total of eleven, seven of which are from closed distilleries. To be fair on myself this Glen Albyn mini was being sold with two others, neither of which were considered to be as bad. Normally I would say that miniatures are a cheap way of getting a taste experience from a closed distillery but this Glen Albyn wouldn’t be a fair example. The liquid is better off staying in the bottle and joining the investment merry-go-round or tucked away in someone’s collection (mine for now).

Here are the tasting notes from Malt Martin on Whiskybase:
Nose: What’s this! Lots of gasoline. Like filling up your car at a petrol station. First I thought this was due to my glass, but it is really the whisky. Acetone and plastic. Later on some leafy and flowery notes. Biscuits.
Taste: Astringent and sharp. Orange peel. Lemon grass. Zesty. Also cereal and porridge. A little perfume. Lavender. Heather. Very strange again.
Finish: Medium long. Sourness. Pepper and a little nutmeg. Bitterness at the end.

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Glenturret 21-year-old 1994 (Lady of the Glen)

Bought: Prize from Lady of the Glen, 16th November 2016

Ratings:
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

When you search Whiskybase for Glenturret there are only 236 bottles listed, which isn’t that many. 84 are from the distillery so the majority are by independent bottlers such as ‘Lady of the Glen’. Glenlivet have 1203 bottles listed on Whiskybase, Glendiffich have 412 and Glenmorangie 350. Glenturret maybe considered more of a blending malt but 60 independent bottlers have managed to get casks and a mention on Whiskybase. Signatory have released the most with 61, Gordon & MacPhail have 22 and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) are third with 19.

Gregor Hannah started ‘Lady of the Glen’ in 2012. Unlike some independent bottlers you can buy directly from ‘Lady of the Glen’ on their website here. There’s usually 2 or 3 different bottlings available at any given time. As I post this blog there are still 6 bottles of the Glenturret 21yo left out of a small run of 198. It’s also currently available on The Whisky Barrel. Distilled in a bourbon cask in 1994, it was bottled in 2016 at a cask strength of 54.6%. Very typical of ‘Lady of the Glen’ it has no added colour and hasn’t been chill filtered.

Tasting notes from ‘Lady of the Glen’:
Nose: heavy toffee and yellow fruits of melon and mango peel
Palate: Honey suckle, herby and crisp with papaya and honey
Finish: Fresh and light with notes with grassy hay notes

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Glen Garioch Distillery Tour

Visit: September 2016

Glen Garioch Distillery

If you’re visiting Aberdeen, Scotland’s third largest city, and you fancy a distillery tour, I’d recommend a trip to Glen Garioch. The distillery is situated in the town of Oldmeldrum, which is about 18 miles from Aberdeen. If you’re driving then the distillery has a strict policy that you can’t drink a dram at the end of a tour but you get to take away samples. Thankfully there’s a bus service from Aberdeen to Oldmeldrum and Glen Garioch is a short walk from the town centre. The No.35 bus takes about an hour, which is a lot longer than by car but gives you time to take in the scenery and drink without fear of prosecution.

At the time of writing, tours are available all year from Monday to Saturday, with Sunday tours from June to September. They do a Founders Tour (£7.50, which includes a dram), Wee Tasting Tour (£15, which includes two drams) and for £50 there’s either a VIP Tour or a Whisky & Cheese tasting. My brother and I opted for a Wee Tasting Tour, which lasted for 90 minutes. Details can be found on the Glen Garioch website here: http://www.glengarioch.com/visitor-centre

The tour kicks off with a short video in the Visitors Centre about the history of the distillery. Glen Garioch is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd (MBD) who also own Auchentoshan and Bowmore. MBD became part of Beam Suntory in 2014, the third largest spirits company in the world. Not that any of this was apparent at Glen Garioch, which felt very grounded in its Aberdeenshire community. When I initially booked the tour online I spoke to a lady called Fiona but a different Fiona took us on the tour. Apparently there are four different Fionas working at the distillery in a very ‘family’ atmosphere, which was clearly evident from the staff we met.

Glen Garioch had its own maltings in use until 1993. The distillery fell silent in 1995 with production starting again in 1997. It was because of this historic rebirth for the distillery that I bought a bottle at the end of the tour distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012. The website mentioned a ‘bottle your own’ for £80 but during the tour the only options available were £135 and £190 per bottle. The lesson learnt here was not to trust their website with regards to the ‘bottle your own’. Email them beforehand if that’s something you’re interested in.

Fiona our tour guide was very knowledgeable and the tour itself was thorough and enjoyable. We went into the old maltings and walked through all the buildings step-by-step, following the creation process of whisky. At the end my chosen drams for tasting were the standard 12yo and 15yo, both of which were excellent, with honey, spice and hints of heather. I’d also recommend the entry-level Founder’s Reserve, which is delicious, affordable and a generous 48%.

Since my visit it has been discovered that the distillery is actually older than originally thought. Instead of 1797 an article from the Aberdeen Journal published in 1785 refers to the sale of spirits from the Oldmeldrum distillery, which is Glen Garioch. It’s still not the oldest distillery in Scotland but not far off.

Overall I’d thoroughly recommend visiting Glen Garioch. If you’re considering moving to Oldmeldrum and looking for work, change your name to Fiona and apply to the distillery. It’s bound to work!

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