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.
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.