Glen Garioch 1997 (56.7%, OB 2012)

This Glen Garioch was distilled in 1997, shortly after the distillery reopened after almost two years of inactivity. It was matured in a combination of first and second fill bourbon barrels, and was bottled in 2012 to commemorate that reopening. It’s still available at The Whisky Exchange and is not bad value for a cask strength whisky at around 15 years old.

Nose: Vanilla, melon, and a hint of smoke. Water brings out banana and some very enticing pastry and confectionery notes. There’s also a quite sweet chemical kind of note that I can only describe as bubblegum – I know of others who like it (or indeed who wouldn’t describe it as ‘bubblegum’) but I don’t, personally.

Palate: Gets quite spicy, but also fruitier than on the nose. I’ve seen reviews mention that initially it’s quite harsh and spirity, but it’s drinkable at full strength. It does need water to release its full potential of course – it’s quite a fruity profile with banana and melon dominating again, supported by spices and pastries in the background and that ever-present hint of smoke that feels very Glen Garioch indeed. Arguably it veers too far towards the fresh bourbon cask profile, with that bubblegum note that doesn’t really agree with me.

Finish: Long, nutty (almonds) and sweet.

Comments: On paper I should’ve really liked this – if only it didn’t have that bubblegum note! I’m not in principle against sweet whiskies, but I prefer it when the sweetness manifests itself as, for example, ripe fresh fruit rather than this somewhat synthetic taste. Not really sure how that’s fixed – whether it’s more time in the casks (the bubblegum note I get from fresh bourbon casks eventually matures into something that resembles nectarines/apricots in my experience of older whisky) or a different cask make-up, but it’s a bit too prominent for me in this case. It’s a pity, because it’s otherwise a very interesting whisky.

Score: 79/100

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