A battle rages on the shelves of liquor stores in your community! You can almost smell the cordite as you gaze upon the shrapnel of gaudy advertising in the form of life-size, cardboard, bearded Scotsmen, clad traditionally in tartan patterns, which are only slightly less jarring than a TV test pattern. Of course, your Scotsman is wearing a kilt and has a big smile on his face as he plays the bagpipes, and at his feet lies a bottle of Glen Poison Malt on sale today for a very special price that is the same damn price everyday.
And what pray tell is this urban warfare for?
The contents of your whisky glass! War is never about justice or right or wrong. It's about money and competing economic interests. Similarly, the multinational spirits companies are at war with each other for your whisky buying dollars. Who is winning? Well, think about the most common single malts. C'mon! You know them. Glenfiddich 12, Glenlivet 12 and Macallan 12. The fighting is particularly fierce for the entry level single malt segment of the market: the 12 year old single malts.
I, of course, as unpredictable as a soldier gone AWOL, bought a malt that doesn't have a big chunk of market share in the 12 year old segment: Glen Garioch 12 years.
Dandelion, hops, lager beer, a little spirited.
Sweet porridge with brown sugar on top. What starts out ordinary builds quickly on the palate to become quite a whopper of flavors. The little train that could if you will. What happens? A massive railway car of flavors of golden wheat, ears of corn that have been freshly shucked, boiled to perfection and then drizzled with butter and salt! Hmmm! Wait, there is more. Oak, barley sugar, hops and lager notes.
Big salt licks, stewed apples, dried apricots, burnt toast and a flourish of peat. The salty tang hangs nicely. The finish is quite grippy and mouth coating. You'll be salivating like Pavlov's dogs! This is due to the high ABV.
Recommendation - Add a little water!
In light of the ABV of 48%, it does taste a little hot on the finish. The high ABV contributes to the big mid-palate and mouth tingling finish. I prefer this malt with a little water. Don't get me wrong. It is very enjoyable neat, but the addition of water just takes it down ever so slightly such that it is more pleasurable, and maybe more complex.
At an ABV of 48%, it's a little overpowering for many. Makes one's mouth literally water. Pour a 1 1/2 oz (4.5cl) of this impressive malt and add 3/4 of a teaspoon of distilled, non-carbonated water. Do that and you are tasting a Persian carpet of spiced honey bread with toasted rosemary that delivers a velvety texture that will divinely unroll on your palate.
Be careful with the addition of water because it is very easy to over-dilute this single malt.
I was surprised by how good this single malt turned out to be. A few years ago, this brand was a symbol for a decent malt, with no surprises. It was cheap, but decent. Nevertheless, kinda in the doldrums. However, recently the owners, Morrison Bowmore Distilleries, made the decision to re-make/relaunch this whisky on the 12 year old battlefield. Specifically, they boosted the ABV from 43% to a whopping 48%, and it is non-chill filtered. Subjectively, I think the quality of wood management has improved enormously. I have no direct knowledge other than what I taste as I have no contact with the distillery. But, this is my suspicion. I think the spirit is aging in quality American bourbon casks followed by some time in Spanish sherry casks. The result is a vast improvement.
Price Point - Ouch!
A few years ago, Glen Garioch was bottled at 10 years and could be had for the tidy sum of $20! Not any more. Non-chill filtered, higher ABV plus good wood management cost money. Moreover, they have probably hired new staff too. Maybe a master blender with better ideas. S/he costs money too.
The price point is now in the vicinity of $60. But, you know what? I am happy to pay that price because this malt delivers! But, there are a lot of guys who were accustomed to paying $22 for the 8 or 10 year old and are grumbling.
I recently reviewed Royal Salute 21 years and you know what? Glen Garioch 12 reminds me a lot of what Royal Salute 21 years should taste like and what made it a great blend. Besides that high end blend, if you like Glenfiddich 15 years Solera or Dalwhinnie 15 years, I think you will be a fan of Glen Garioch 12 years.
Where's the Smoke?
Not a lot of smoke or peat flavors in this single malt. If you are a peat head, you may not want to invest in a bottle of Glen Garioch. I do not think the lack of smoke and peat is a defect or detracts in any way from this well balanced malt. Just giving you a heads-up in case that is an important flavor component to you.
The enemy or should I say the competition better watch out because Glen Garioch has big guns in the relaunched 12 year old that will fight hard to take space on liquor store shelves everywhere!
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.