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Glen Garioch 1994 Vintage

Review: Glen Garioch 1994 Vintage   84.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 01, 2018

The Glen Garioch Distillery (pronounced ‘Glen Geery’) is located in the town of Oldmeldrum, approximately 20 minutes from Aberdeen. It is the Eastern-most distillery in Scotland, in the Valley of Garioch, which is apparently one of the best barley growing regions of Scotland. The distillery was established in 1797.

Glen Garioch’s Vintage bottlings represent Single Malt Whiskies which were distilled in the same year. In the case of Glen Garioch 1994 Vintage the whisky was of course distilled in 1994 and laid down in American Oak casks. Seventeen years later the mature whisky was bottled at 53.9 % alcohol by volume.

Most of my review is in the form of my actual tasting notes which were written during a recent private tasting of several Scotch Whiskies. I have added limited commentary to these tasting notes as well as new tasting notes for serving the spirit over ice and in a cocktail which I did on my own after the event using small minis which were provided to all of the guests at the tasting.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

My sample for this review was a small 2 oz sample given to me after a Scotch tasting for me to re-taste the spirit after the event in isolation from the other spirits we had also been sampling. As such I do not have my own bottle to photograph so I had to be content with this bottle shot from the producer’s website.

As you can see the squat bottle is designed to be easy to hold, easy to pour, and of course easy to store on the bar shelf. The bottle and label are simple but professional. I am pleased that the closure is a high density cork topper which seals the whisky, and gives me that nice satisfying ‘pop’ when I first open the bottle.

Given the wide range of styles of Scottish Single Malts, I also like that there was a display box (not shown) which contains tasting notes that allows the consumer some insight into the Single Malt Whisky flavour profile prior to purchase.

In the Glass 8.5/10

Colour: The pale straw colour which is unusual for a 17 Year Old Whisky. Barrels do not impart a consistent amount of colour to a whisky; however, this whisky was constructed from more than one barrel so there should have been at least a few which imparted a darker colour unless the American Oak barrels used for aging the whisky had been well-used before. Perhaps 2nd fill or 3rd fill barrels?

Legs: Medium fat droplets which develop into medium-sized legs which fall slowly. Here we have some indication of age, although the high alcohol proof of the spirit also accounts for the medium fat droplets.

Initial Aroma: Candy, butterscotch, vanilla and lots of fine oak spice

Decanted Aroma: Grain and fine wood spice pour out of the glass. Straw and chaff abound. Fruitiness develops with green apples, and almond notes also begin to appear.

The disproportionate amount of fine oak spice verses caramel/butterscotch sweetness indicates that the barrels used to age the whisky had spent much of their life aging other spirits. The caramel and toffee flavours which come from young charred casks are all but gone leaving just fine spicy sap and very light vanillans. One could easily mistake this Malt for a much younger spirit.

In The Mouth 51/60

Alcohol push and Spice: Almost biting as the combination of  53.9 % abv and the intense fine oak spice reach out and grabs the tonsils. This is not for the faint of heart.

Initial Taste: Fine oak spice and barley grain with leather and burlap. Grainy Sweetness which together with the barley flavour reminds me of graham wafers.

Follow up: Butterscotch and grain sweetness intensify with vanilla, orange peel, and almond stepping up to the plate. Green apple and pears pop up.

With Ice: The intense spice and sweetness disappear replaced by bitter fruit pith and woody flavours of poplar and willow. I also taste glimmers of peat smoke.

Mixed: Old Fashioned Cocktail made with Fees Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters is spectacular.

In The Throat: 12.5/15

Body and Length: Medium bodied at best with a mid-length lingering finish

Flavours during Swallow: butterscotch, vanilla, orange peel and almond

Lingering Flavours: Lingering butterscotch sweetness, barley grain and malt whisky, green apples. There is also considerable heat from the alcohol, the grain and the wood spices

The Afterburn  8/10

Final Thoughts: A whisky which has the look, feel and taste of a younger dram. The high alcohol strength confuses the palate making the intense grain and wood spices feel like burn rather than spice. I was hoping the orange peel and almond flavours would show development towards marmalade and marzipan but this does not happen.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail I made with the rest of my sample saved the score and indicates to me that there is more complexity and flavour within the dram than I have given it credit for. Still I am disappointed that the sipping potential is so limited.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Old Fashioned Cocktail

1 1/2 oz Glen Garioch 1994 Vintage
1/4 oz  Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
2 dashes Fees Barrel Aged Bitters
2 large Ice Cubes
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the first four ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may (loosely) interpret the scores I provide as follows:

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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