Low-key Mission #2: Glen Garioch

I’ve only had seven expressions before and found the house style to my liking. The best i’ve tried have been super:

  • Glen Garioch 12yo Ob. [Bottled by McClelland’s] 43% Scores 89 points
  • Glen Garioch 1973 40yo TWE Sherry Cask 4297 [138 bts] 54.3% WB93.22[48]
    Scores 92 points

Today I’m trying the standard 12 [old label], a 70’s NAS and a cracker [so I’m told], from 1971 – all official bottlings.

glen garioch flight


  • Officially established in 1797, making it one of the very oldest distilleries.
  • Located in the Eastern Highlands with its nearest neighbour being Glendronach.
  • Glen Garioch was the first distillery in Scotland to convert its stills to gas-firing [in 1982], and subsequently the first distillery to be powered by North Sea gas. MM
  • Glen Garioch was mildly peated up until 1994 when they ceased their own floor maltings. Since then Glen Garioch single malt has been non peated though there are occasional smokey runs. SW
  • Glen Garioch was sold to Stanley P Morrison [Bowmore]. Morrison installed an innovative waste-heat recovery system at Glen Garioch [not unlike at Bowmore], which not only supplied heat for the malt kiln and pre-heated the wash, but also warmed an acre of glasshouses and another acre of poly-tunnels, saving around £90,000 per annum. The project was discontinued in 1993. GG.com
  • Glen Garioch was released as a single malt for the first time in November 1972. The whisky had previously only been used in blends such as VAT 69 & Bell’s as well as in Drambuie liqueur. Now currently owned by the Beam Suntory group, all of Glen Garioch’s output goes to single malt.


Glen Garioch 12yo Ob. green label 40% WB0 [WB]80.23[15]

glen garioch 12yo

  • N: I can smell its natural honeyed & grainy style as its being poured. Also, faint notes of strawberries, blackberry & raspberry pollen, frozen yoghurt, hay and light phenol whiffs. As time passes its reduced to a barley putty-mash as the OBE becomes more & more apparent.
  • T: Theres some unfortunate OBE to deal with but that doesn’t disguise this 12 yo’s rather simple & plain style.
  • F: Short and sweet.
  • C: Nothing more to say for this so let’s move on to the next.

Scores 74 points


Glen Garioch NAS [1970’s] Ob. 70 proof WB89[1] [WB]90[5] WF90 WM87[2]

  • N: Not sure why these miniatures go so cheaply at auction given the provenance, but under the radar they remain – good for me! Starts off with some smoky burned wood oils, some TTW, a touch of creosote/shoe polish, beeswax, leather belts & bags, honeyed>fruity grains & grasses, herbal toffee, herbal tinctures & teas,… It’s potency appears to grow as it oxidises, the barley & oak oils swirling whilst signs of umami development begins. Theres some good age here but it also remains youthful. Honeyed fruity sugars emerge later.
  • T: More OBE darn it. I think this bottle wasn’t kept very well by its previous custodian[s] as the mouthfeel is very flat – yet the fill level was right to the top. Whilst it gathers pace, the oils and more so the sugars begin to grow. Theres a sweet herbal growth too – a slow but steady crescendo.
  • F: After some delightful heights concentrating on a herbal sweet-barley-chew, the integrated soft smoke gets to work – Caol ila 25yo like. And what of the wood, the casks? Again, all so beautifully integrated. After notes speak of herbal, dusty chocolate/soft toffee with dryish oily old planks and just the right amount of smoked/malted barley.glen garioch NAS
  • C: I do hope everyones looking after their miniatures properly. Once upon a time they were [and still are], neat marketing tools used like calling cards by distilleries, blenders & purveyors, but now often the only way to tap into rich whisky history – currently reflecting full bottle prices & going for crazy money. If you’re not intending to drink them/passing them on, I recommend storing them in a CD rack [perfect height for 5cl’s], located in a shady box room/bedroom and keeping the blinds closed and the radiator off in that room as much as possible. Even more ideal – a CD rack with smoked glass doors. Gumtree aside, what a nice whisky – despite the flatness.

Scores 88 points

  • N: Well fancy, i have another bottle in the library. Straight away i sense an improvement/difference compared with the last bottle, with the OBE minimal. Sweet fruits come first, still the beeswax, shoe polish, soy and some meaty smokiness, yet its equally waxy as it is oily – though its changing all the time. Now the barley/beer roots pop their head from the depths, though the malty & oily complexities remain. Plenty of bourbon chat and the same display of virility. Really love this style, lots of everything with qualities unique to the Scottish traditions.
  • T: Theres much less OBE & mouthfeel flatness but still, the low abv & time in the bottle [20+ years], are making hard work for this wee whisky from the Eastern Highlands. Still, chew it and you can eek out those Garioch delights. Gotta love the laid back presentation. Oily, herbal, soft-resinous icing sugar into the finish.
  • F: A dry-sweet-herbal menthol freshness with sweet honeyed heather/heather honey and bourbon sugars. Thats a very nice finish indeed with another wave of chew to conclude.
  • C: Same same but different to the last bottle. A tad more simplistic [form and complexity], despite less OBE/more intactness – and then again,….. Worth picking up at auction anytime you can.

Scores 87 points


Glen Garioch 1971 [1990’s] Ob. for Oddbins single cask 43% WB91[2] WF95 WM91[4]

Glen Garioch 1971.jpg

  • N: The colour is of a dark orangey gold that suggests we are in ‘old country’. Straight away theres vibrant streaky bacon & pork crackling, BBQ veg skewers being suitability charred, smoked tofu, light soy with black bean sauce, maple syrup and a little leather [jacket, worn by a smoking’ pig]. So much complex smoking, roasting and BBQ’ing going on, its untrue. Theres also a light fruity citrus note but its the BBQ herbal-sweet that captures it for me, yet its no smoke bomb at all.
  • T: The palate doesn’t disappoint. Starts smoky in a flavoursome way before a herbal-to-sweet manoeveur, building all the time much like the previous NAS. Theres some excellent cask action here, long and slow. Herbal-sweet, dryish oily oaky, sweet n smoky sustaining yummy delights,…
  • F: Heathery dry-smokey-meaty-herbal-oaky-fresh,… yet its the collective experience that counts here. Bows out gracefully.
  • C: Really interesting going back to the younger NAS 70 proof [first bottle], as both that & this share the same oily deep, almost umami complex – yet in different places. Can you imagine walking into an Oddbins now and buying this kind of stuff that dreams are made of?

Scores 92 points


Final thoughts

  • I tried four whiskies without mentioning the ‘V’ word.
  • I think old Glen Garioch and Linkwood share similar distillery profiles – theres a tasting flight there.
  • I should really try some Vat 69,……




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