What’s hot right now on the fashion parade? Visually it’s
all things Game of Thrones and from a whisky perspective the demand is still
prominent for all things peated. The challenging part is to bring these
tedious elements together.
Observing Game of Thrones, it’s an orchestrated chess
competition where pieces move in harmony and a predictable manner. We’re all
merely pawns with just a handful wielding any power or influence. Sacrifices
are made in the pursuit of power and untold riches. It’s all reminiscent of
today’s corporations who jockey their distilleries to their own means. Some are
sacrificed for the greater good, which ultimately in our realm means the true
gods of profit, greed and efficiency. We’re merely informed that all of this is
progress and a necessary transition to ensure there’s whisky on the shelves
that we can rely upon and enjoy.
Except its all completely rubbish. Distilleries are closed
for a variety of reasons but at the heart their demise is the central premise
of money. Whether it’s the cost of reviving an ancient beast or bringing it
into the modern realm, or there’s no room to expand beyond its limits or
enhance its transportation links. It’s far easier in the cauldron of power to
close, bulldoze and start again without the wasteful fantasy of having to
become inventive. It’s the disposable culture that we’re created that continues
to feed consumerism and the upper echelons of society.
Unlike many of my fellow peasants trying to scrape a living
on the ground level of existence, I often question the bubble gum coloured press
releases our wholesome whisky leaders generate. A constant source of amusement
is Laphroaig sending out their jester to proclaim that they still do things
traditionally and nothing has changed. Quite rightly he should be stoned or
thrown to the lions, or more realistically whoever came up with the waffle.
It’s a simple and direct question to throw back at the whisky generator and the
marketers, but why? One word that shoots directly to the heart of the dragon
and exposes the half-truths lies and utter gibberish.
Unsurprisingly to many out there I often talk to myself – in
silence of course – about changes and the real agenda. One of my ongoing
concerns alongside whether I should keep the beast Whisky Rover has become
alive, is the essence of distillery character. In this day and age of
homogenisation, distinctive qualities have been watered down in worship of the
aforementioned gods. Those rough edges and lapses in quality have been ironed
out. Individuality is something sacred and precious. Conforming from the first
until the last day would be a world shrouded in grey tones and white walkers,
or Dundee as its otherwise known.
From my dingy pit in the local watering hole, all the
available whiskies are ploughing the same path and what was once a ripe field
of possibilities is now uniform and the soil has become tired. A prominent
example is that of Glen Garioch and its existence today is a different beast to
what many enjoyed previously. The distillery for many years heavily doused its malt in the
original god of fire. Fuelled by peat, the Glen Garioch’s of legend
are from the decades of whisky nirvana i.e. the 1950’s and 1960’s. These were
pre-computerised Scotch and the amalgamation of companies into the slick beasts
we see today.
Glen Garioch has always been a survivor. North of the wall
in Aberdeenshire it has since 1797 concentrated on producing a whisky that was
enjoyed locally and beyond. This all came crashing to a halt in 1995 when it
was deemed surplus to requirements and its owners decided that residential
housing or another usage would be far more appropriate. Except that their
sources were wrong and soon by 1997, Glen Garioch was revived to continue the
A wonderful fairy tale, best accompanied by a dram of the good
stuff. Except the distillery character has changed forever. The kilns closed
and Glen Garioch became unpeated and an extra dimension was lost to time.
Distilleries bend to the will of their owners. We’ve seen it of
late with Mortlach and GlenDronach will soon follow this dark path. For Glen
Garioch the distillery character was being slowly tinkered with since the 1980’s
when it was toned down somewhat. Making it a remarkable whisky to explore through
the decades as a demonstration of interference.
Thankfully the fashionistas of the global community are
engulfed in all things peat. Let them lap up the latest annual release, box set
with a new label design or a limited edition outturn equivalent to an initial pressing
of the Thrones blu ray boxset. Things will eventually turn and some sense of
normality will be sought. Empires will crumble and decisions will be mocked.
For Glen Garioch it continues to exist and we should be thankful for this.
Whilst its kilns sit patiently and the maltings stand idle there is always a
chance however small.
This Glen Garioch is pre-1997 and comes from Cadenheads who
have been slaughtering the competition in epic fashion throughout 2017. Truth
be told, I actually had a bottle of this put aside in Edinburgh but due to the
financial death zone that many of us are being dragged into trying to
experience all of these whiskies. I stepped away, and opted for a bottle share
sample. Whether I regret this choice we will see below, but sacrifices have to
made in the pursuit of whisky nowadays.
This Glen Garioch when was under £100 and bottled at a perfect 47% strength. It may have sold out in London and Edinburgh, but search and you may find...
Colour: a windswept blonde
Nose: a light floral introduction followed by a sugary lime. There's sweet cinnamon and mint leaf with ginger. There's a gentle smokiness in-between the orange essence and vanilla marshmallows. Returning again, a noticeable citrus refreshment with resin and with water more pine and Kiwi fruits.
Taste: very assured with a gooey meringue, a twist of lemon, a touch of the cask char moving into charcoal with milk chocolate and a hint of smoke.
Overall: very enjoyable, refined and perfectly approachable. A halfway house between the Glen Garioch of today and what once was.
Labels: cadenhead, glen garioch