Tag Archives: 17yo

Glen Garioch 1995 Vintage

Glen Garioch (pronounced GEAR-ee) is not exactly a house-hold name in the Scotch world, but the distillery is actually one of the oldest in Scotland. Today, it is known for its relatively mild and gentle single malts, most especially the inexpensive NAS Founder’s Reserve and 12 year old expression.

Glen Garioch also regularly produces a number of limited edition, small batch, vintage releases – typically every couple of years.  The one that I am reviewing here (1995, batch No. 10) is from the final year of Glen Garioch old-make, before its temporary closure in 1995. This is significant, as when the distillery reopened, it no longer peated its whisky.  So the 1995 and older vintages are of a different style from the current Founder’s Reserve, 12 yo and newer vintages (i.e., the 1995 is lightly peated, whereas the current offerings have no peat).

There are still a few bottles of the vintage 1995 available across the LCBO, so I thought I’d get this review in while you still had a chance to pick one up, if interested.

Here’s how the various Glen Gariochs compare in my Meta-Critic Whisky Database, in relation to other lightly peated single malts:

Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve: 8.34 ± 0.40 on 16 reviews ($$$)
Glen Garioch Virgin Oak: 8.09 ± 0.50 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Garioch 12yo: 8.62 ± 0.33 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Garioch 1991: 8.94 ± 0.14 on 3 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Garioch 1994: 9.03 ± 0.36 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Garioch 1995: 8.92 ± 0.34 on 8 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Garioch 1997: 8.53 ± 0.15 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glen Garioch 1999 Sherry Cask Matured: 8.37 ± 0.97 on 7 reviews ($$$$)

Benromach 10yo: 8.69 ± 0.26 on 20 reviews ($$$)
Bowmore 10yo Tempest: 8.78 ± 0.22 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Bowmore 12yo: 8.39 ± 0.28 on 17 reviews ($$$)
Bruichladdich Islay Barley 8.54 ± 0.23 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated: 8.78 ± 0.28 on 14 reviews ($$$$)
Caol Ila 12yo: 8.70 ± 0.19 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Caol Ila 18yo: 8.66 ± 0.51 on 14 reviews ($$$$$)
Oban 14yo: 8.42 ± 0.40 on 15 reviews ($$$$)
Oban 18yo: 8.72 ± 0.18 on 12 reviews ($$$$$)
Springbank 10yo: 8.68 ± 0.24 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Springbank 16yo Local Barley: 9.02 ± 0.18 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Springbank 18yo: 8.96 ± 0.19 on 17 reviews ($$$$$)
Talisker Distiller’s Edition: 8.95 ± 0.25 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Talisker 10yo: 8.91 ± 0.17 on 21 reviews ($$$$)

As you can see, the Glen Garioch 1995 gets a very high score for this class, especially for the price (i.e., it one of the highest ranking cluster I malts in the $$$$ group). It doesn’t have as many reviews as many of the others, but I find the average score of most whiskies is pretty stable once 7-8 reviews are in.

Glen Garioch 1995 is bottled 55.3% ABV. My sample was provided by Redditor WDMC-905. Here is what I find in the glass.

Nose: Honey. Light fruits, mainly apple and pear (and some starfruit). Sweet peat, with just a touch of smoke. A bit woody (evergreens). No real off notes. Some water helps it open up, and brings up sweet butterscotch and dried banana.

Palate: Initial tingle in the tip of the tongue, anesthetizing. Definite antiseptic notes, lightly medicinal, with those woody notes turning to menthol now. Honey again, and some dry grassy notes. Not very fruity. With water though, you get a lot of sweetness – toffee, butterscotch and vanilla in particular. Pancake syrup. The fruits are back as well, along with a touch of citrus (lemon). This is one where water is really required to bring out the maximum range of flavours, as well as a nice buttery mouthfeel. Very nice.

Finish: Medium long. Nice, slow linger of the pancake syrup notes, with whiffs of smoke right to the very end.

glen-garioch-1995

The Glen Garioch 1995 is great malt for fans of flavour cluster I – lightly smokey, but packing a good range of subtle flavours. But it is also one that definitely needs some water in my view – otherwise, it is too closed off and anesthetizing.

The highest scores I’ve seen for this whisky come from the guys in the Quebec Whisky club, and on Reddit (see for example muaddib99 and xile_). Serge of Whisky Fun hasn’t reviewed this specific vintage, but he has most of the others from this time period – and gives them all an above-average score (e.g., see the 1994 vintage). Similarly, Ralfy hasn’t reviewed this vintage, he did give a very good score to the earlier 1990 vintage. More moderate on the 1995 vintage is Gavin of Whisky Advocate.  Jim Murray gives this 1995 vintage a lower than average score.

 

Hibiki 17 Year Old

Hibiki 17yo bottle

Note: This commentary has been updated with the expanded scores from the Oct 2015 build of my Whisky Database.

The Hibiki 17 year old is an interesting whisky to profile. It is exceedingly rare outside of Japan, so there were initially very few reviews of it in my Whisky Database. I initially hesitated in including it in the list at all, given how oddly low three of those reviews were – although the overall average is now a more reasonable 8.75 ± 0.43 on 8 reviews. The more budget Hibiki 12 year old (which until recently was more widely available) gets a reasonable 8.65 ± 0.27 score on 13 reviews.

Personally, I was so impressed with the 17 yo on my first trip to Japan that it became the one bottle that I chose to bring back through duty free (Canada has strict import limits). There were a number of other whiskies that I had thought I might return with – but the Hibiki 17 yo was a surprise hit for me. Since then, everyone who has sampled from my bottle has been very impressed – from newbies to experienced scotch drinkers alike. In fact, I’ve had to ration tastings from that first bottle, to ensure as many as possible could try it at least once. 😉

The Hibiki line is actually blended whisky, not pure malt. This surprises almost every experienced whisky drinker who tries it, as you do not taste any of the typical “graininess” or rounding-off of flavour common to traditional Scottish blends (even higher-end ones). Again, the age statement is only a minimum – everything in there (including the grain whisky) is at least 17 years old. Suntory certainly seems to know how to age grain whisky well. Everyone who has tried mine just assumes this is a single malt, given its flavour and quality.

Here’s what I find in the glass:

Nose: Sweet and rich aromas of raisins, sultanas and plums. Lots of toffee and butterscotch. Definite honey. A great nose, it’s a pleasure to come back to it between sips

Palate:  Same flavours as the nose, initial sweetness with the raisins/sultanas and some softer tropical fruits, like honeydew melon (although that could be the honey poking through again). Caramel/butterscotch again as well. It has a somewhat oaky backbone, with the sweet vanillins yielding to dryer woody/paper notes over time. A pleasant tingle as it goes down, with the hint of something spicy/peppery at the end. A very well balanced palate.

Finish: Remarkably long-lasting, with a good mix of after-glowing sweetness from the caramel/butterscotch, balanced with a slightly bitter oakyness, and a touch of cinnamon to round it all off.

Although heavily over-used in the whisky world, the best word I can use to describe this whisky is “smooth”. The main flavours are consistent across the nose, palate and finish (which is actually rare in the whisky world). Sweet but never cloying, well balanced with a slightly bitter hint of wood and spice at the end. There is also nothing “sharp” here either – the flavours are well balanced, leading to a very enjoyable experience (with a very prolonged finish).

This gets back to why I think it gets mediocre scores from some reviewers – it doesn’t have strong characteristics that come out and attack the senses at any point. Those craving unique experiences typically want something distinctive and unusual (i.e., sharp, not smooth). But almost everyone who has tried it in my house wants a second glass – and that is pretty rare in the structured tastings I’ve done. It definitely grows on you.

Note that the Hibiki 17 yo comes in the same decanter-style, glass 24-sided presentation bottle as the 12 yo (with a parchment paper label and heavy glass stopper). This is unusual as well, given the rather minimalist presentation of most Japansese whiskies (lucky owners of any of the Nikka pure malts – or Nikka from the Barrel – will know what I mean).Hibiki 17yo bottle

The Hibiki 17 is famous for another reason – it is the actual whisky that Bill Murray’s fictional character is seen promoting in the 2003 film, “Lost in Translation“. I can only assume the filmmakers chose the whisky given the cachet it has in Japan.

Regardless of the metacritic score here, I think anyone lucky enough to get their hands on a glass of the 17 yo (or failing that, the quite decent 12 yo) will definitely be inclined to “make it Suntory time”! 😉

For a fair review of the Hibiki 17 yo, I recommend you check out one of the best english-language Japanese whisky sites: Dramtastic’s The Japanese Whisky Review. Thomas of Whisky Saga also has a good balanced overview of this expression. Josh the Whiskey Jug has recently reviewed it as well.