Glen Garioch Drambassador Mystery Dram tasting
This has been one of the more exciting blogs I’ve written! I’d been lucky enough to be selected to be a Glen Garioch Drambassador and had been given the unique opportunity to taste a sample of their new, unreleased single malt whisky. There is something else riding on this though… should my tasting notes closely match those of Rachel Barrie (Glen Garioch’s Master of Malts) then I may be lucky enough to be join her for a VIP trip to the distillery… wish me luck!
The smart gift box, when it arrived, contained a sample of the mystery dram and a couple of pairing items (namely a bar of dark chocolate studded with crystallised ginger and a small jar of what appeared to be some sort of jam or jelly) and a scroll containing a number of clues. All of which were supposed to assist me on my voyage of discovery.
The clues were as follows:
1) The entire batch of this expression was distilled one summers day when Scotland took part in a global sporting event. The country where this event took place is closely linked to our tasting notes.
2) Our whisky is a perfect marriage of two regions and you may find our whisky’s robust structure and complex flavours remind you of something else.
3) The casks were previously stored in a cave 100km from the Atlantic Ocean.
4) The oak shares its name with a breed of cattle.
Ok, so not the sorts of clues where answers immediately pop into your head (unless you happen to be a cow loving arborist perhaps?) but over time ideas began to form and patterns began to emerge that kind of fitted in with what I was nosing & tasting. I’ll come back to the clues later, but on to the star of the show… the Glen Garioch mystery dram!
The dram appears relatively dark in the glass. It’s caramel coloured but with a pinky tinge, something I’d associate with a port cask finished whisky perhaps?
On the nose, the whisky is initially quite spirity… with quite a ‘festive’ scent. Like Christmas cake, specifically orange zest, dried fruits like currants & sultanas all enveloped in a rich spice.
Having left it in the glass for some time to develop, I found the dram had mellowed a little and was less spirity, giving rise to soft sweetness like demerara sugar.
On to the palate: Initially the whisky is quite sweet & rich like treacle… it’s what I like to call ‘thick’ in that it coats your mouth. It still retains that festive quality picked up on the nose, specifically juicy raisins and orange zest but with a gentle warmth of ginger and a whisper of cinnamon.
The finish is warming and satisfying, with more than a hint of caramelised banana.
I tried a little with a few drops of water, but it didn’t develop how I expected it to. It gave the whisky a nutty quality, but seemed to detract from the rich, sweetness. I much prefer this dram neat. The whisky is bottled at 48%, but it is easily drinkable at that strength without the need for water.
So… back to the clues! (with thanks in advance to my friends Google and Wikipedia) I believe that this lovely whisky has been aged in cognac or armagnac casks, using either Gascon or Limousin oak. Both species of oak which just happen to share names with breeds of cattle!
I’m also assuming that the casks started life as Bordeaux casks and were subsequently used to age either armagnac or cognac. This would mean they have been used in the Bordeaux and Gascony regions of south west France.
I’d say that if indeed the whisky has been finished in cognac or armagnac casks, then that (in my humble opinion) explain the richness and ‘festive’ quality discovered on the palate. Flavours I’d associate with a good brandy. If those casks did start life as Bordeaux casks then that could explain the pinky, reddy tinge to the whisky.
The dark chocolate with crystallised ginger mirrors the rich, sweetness with hint of ginger that I picked up on the palate. I’m still not entirely sure what the jelly or jam is though! However I’d already arrived at my decisions based on the remaining clues.
What sways me towards France more so however, is the clue regarding the sporting event. There were three major sporting events held in France in the 90’s or 00’s that I am aware of. The Rugby World Cups in 1999 or 2007 which started in October and September respectively. So you could say that technically the 2007 World Cup did start in the summer, but this would put the whisky at seven years old and I believe that is too young. And since summer ends in September that discounts the 1999 event. So, that leaves me to conclude that the sporting event in question was the FIFA World Cup tournament in 1998 which was held in (and won by) France. Scotland did indeed qualify for and complete in the tournament, so if this was the sporting event, that would put the whisky at 16 years old which given the complexity and maturity of the dram seems entirely feasible.
In summary, I’d have to say that I’ve really enjoyed exploring this mystery dram, and the additional challenge of considering how the numerous clues help piece together the puzzle has been fun! I may be off track with my conclusions, if that is the case, so be it! It wouldn’t detract in any way from the excellent whisky I’ve been fortunate to sample. I can’t wait to find out more about this mystery dram, discover its origins and history and see how close I am to the truth. The oak used in the barrels associated with this whisky may indeed share their name with a breed of cattle… but this whisky is no bull!
You can check out our selection of Glen Garioch whiskies on the website by clicking here . Glen Garioch will be one of the distilleries featuring in our June whisky tasting so sign up for our newsletter now to be sure of getting your tickets and try out some of these great malts for yourself.