A little bonus of my time in Edinburgh this June was finally getting to meet James, who comments on the blog from time to time, and who I’ve known on the whisky web for a while. He lives in Glasgow but as it’s a short hop from there to Edinburgh, he came over for a drink one night. We met at the Bow Bar and had a very good time talking a little about whisky but mostly about other things (and drinking a fair bit of peaty whisky). He was the source of some very good advice (he recommended the tour at Highland Park highly which I liked it a lot) and also some angst (he warned that our crossing of the Pentland Firth to Orkney might be really choppy; thankfully, it wasn’t). He was also the source of this generous sample of Glen Garioch 26, 1990 bottled by Signatory for the Whisky Show in Glasgow early last year. I’ve not had much pre-1995 Glen Garioch (that was the year they stopped using peated malt) and the last Glen Garioch from this year that I tried was a belter, with quite a bit of peat influence—and it was also bottled by Signatory. As such I was looking forward to getting into this one, which I finally did a couple of weeks later in London. Here now are my notes.
Glen Garioch 26, 1990 (54.4%; Signatory for the the Whisky Show; hogshead #2698; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Honey, peach, toasted oak. On the second sniff there’s some vanilla and pastry crust. Not much change with time. With water the fruit integrates with the softer notes and expands. After a bit there’s more of the wood too.
Palate: Leads with the wood here and it’s got a bit of a bite—not tannic though. There’s a slightly musty note as well, stopping just short of cardboardy. The fruit pops out as I swallow. Nice, thick texture. With time there’s some orange peel as well. The musty-cardboardy thing backs off as well but it’s still quite woody. With water it’s more spicy than woody and the fruit expands as well (a touch of apricot too now).
Finish: Long. The oak and fruit go out together. Spicier and more peppery with water and then there’s a nice burst of fruit at the end,
Comments: A lovely nose. Neat, there was just a bit too much wood on the palate for me. I liked it better with a few drops of water and wish I’d added it sooner. No real sign of peat—either they weren’t peating their malt consistently/appreciably even in 1990 or the peat impact faded with the long maturation in the cask.
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to James for the sample!
I’m glad this whisky worked for you. I completely agree with the oak notes, this being one of the woodier Gariochs I’ve had from this period. It doesn’t feel doctored or doped, however, and the spirit can still come through.
The peat influence from this era – as you point out – can be extremely sporadic, if not chimerical. I’ve noticed that Signatory had a parcel of casks (usually hogsheads) from April 1990 which they’ve released over the last 3 – 4 years. The peat level jumps even amongst what are clearly sister casks.
I have tried this whisky in combination with other samples, recently alongside a 1993 Glen Garioch from Svenska Eldvatten. In comparison to the ‘93 this one came over as powerfully smoky, almost to Highland Park levels. It just goes to demonstrate how starkly head-to-head tastings can point up contrasts.
P.S. I took up the music recommendations and I’m enjoying The New Pornographers a good deal.