Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New release - Glen Garioch 1998 Wine Cask Matured

This whisky is the first ever bottling from Glen Garioch to have been fully matured in ex-red wine casks. The casks in question were sourced from Saint-Julien in the famous French wine region of Bordeaux and the whisky has been maturing in the wine barriques for 15 years.  The spirit used was all distilled on June 23, 1998 and the casks have been hand selected and married together by Rachel Barrie, the Master Blender at Morrison Bowmore.

Glen Garioch (pronounced glen-geery) is located in the village of Oldmeldrum, which is found between Inverurie and Aberdeen in the east Highlands. It is one of the oldest distilleries currently in operation in Scotland, having been founded in 1797 by Thomas Simpson. The distillery is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, who are part of the larger Japanese company of Suntory, and is relatively small with an annual capacity of around one million litres. Morrison Bowmore re-opened the distillery in 1997 and they have established Glen Garioch as a single malt for connoisseurs.

The 1998 Wine Cask Matured has been bottled at 48% ABV and continues the innovative recent release programme, which includes expressions such as last year's Virgin Oak.  It is non chill filtered and of natural colour. There will be just 5,400 bottles available from specialist retailers, with a recommended retail price of £100 each.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep reddish amber and the nose is a rich mix of aromas - to begin with there are toffee, butterscotch and a hint of milk chocolate, while some robust malty cereals come through with time.  Underneath are aromas of dried fruits (think of prunes especially) along with hints of cocoa powder, cinnamon, crumbly brown sugar and a whiff of molasses.

On the palate, this has an instant mouth coating quality and a pleasant spicy warmth.  This is led by notes of cinnamon and a hint of ginger.  Then comes the sweet characteristics - think of a lovely combination of golden syrup, toffee, dark caramel and milk chocolate.  These mingle with fruity notes that are most reminiscent of stewed dark stone fruits - imagine plums/prunes especially and these have a jam-like feel.  Everything is backed up by plenty of delicious bittersweet malted cereals and further notes of cocoa powder, gingerbread, cloves and a hint of candied orange zest.

This finish begins with the sweeter and fruitier elements to the fore, particularly the plum jam and milk chocolate notes.  However, as time progresses the bittersweet and malty notes come through and take over.  This leaves the drying and warming wood spices lingering also.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely new limited edition offering from Glen Garioch.  There is a lovely blend of characteristics and it has a vibrancy as well as warmth and richness.  It feels luxurious and is definitely worth a try.  The price seems slightly high but reflects the higher ABV strength and limited nature of the release.

We also like the experimentation that Morrison Bowmore are doing with Glen Garioch and their other single malt brands (Auchentoshan and Bowmore).  Their strategy of using non-traditional casks for maturing their whiskies is not simply 'jumping on the bandwagon' but shows strategic planning way before other companies were thinking along the same lines.

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