Cadenhead Glen Garioch 1991 25 year old


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 fight.

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. 

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