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Kensington Wine Market's 2023 Whisky Calendar UBER EDITION Blog Day 3 - Whisky Sponge Glen Garioch 1988 - 33 Year

Posted on December 3, 2023

by Evan

Onto Day Three for our 2023 KWM Whisky Calendar UBER Edition. We started back on day one with a 25-year-old. Day two gave us a 28-year-old. And now, today, we have a 33 year old! Say hello to the Whisky Sponge Glen Garioch 1988!

What is a Whisky Sponge? Great question, and a bit of a complicated one. One on hand, the Whisky Sponge is the man/myth/legend/pseudonym/alter ego of a gentleman named Angus MacRaild. Angus somewhat anonymously wrote a blog called Whisky Sponge that poked fun at the whisky industry as a whole. His satire-driven columns came from a place of love and sometimes frustration, and provided hot takes on the ridiculousness of silly marketing, special releases and the giant egos that can sometimes tarnish the adoration whisky fans have for their favourite distilleries, people, and brands.

The blog has run for more than a decade at this point. It wasn’t always known that Angus was behind the blog posts, but it is now, and he is the Whisky Sponge. But the Whisky Sponge is also the name of a series of bottlings that he selects and labels through Decedent Drinks Company. This 1998 Glen Garioch is one of his selections.

This 1988 represents an intriguing time for the Glen Garioch Distillery, and harkens back to a different time in its history. The reason for this is Glen Garioch, at that time, had its own floor maltings on site. The Distillery stopped using its own floor maltings back for the last time in 1996, though the use of them was very limited in the early 1990s as well. This malt is a trip back in time to the style of whisky Glen Garioch used to make until the floor maltings were left unused for two decades: a fruity, lightly peated spirit.

On a side note: Glen Garioch has recently been undergoing a revamp that hearkens back to its old-school style. The floor maltings have been reinstalled and are back in use as of 2021, accounting for about 25% of the distillery’s malted barley needs. No word on whether they will be doing any lightly peated runs again or not, but the work that Beam Suntory has done to recreate some of Glen Garioch’s old character is interesting and thumbs its nose at cost-effectiveness and production efficiency.

This is a good thing in my opinion: great Single Malt Scotch is usually made with a combination of hands-on hard work, patience, and nods to the past. I am not saying that whisky always needs to be made as inefficiently as possible, but when you look at the love Springbank gets, there might be something to that…

It is a pleasant surprise to see Glen Garioch getting some love from Beam Suntory. The distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland, having been founded way back in 1797, though it has had a few multi-year production hiatuses over the past half-century. I have often called it the red-headed step-child of the company’s Scottish Distillery Portfolio because Glen Garioch doesn’t have the cache of Auchentoshan, or the reverence of Bowmore and Laphroaig. In Beam Suntory’s portfolio, Glen Garioch and Ardmore Distillery have always seemed to get less love from Beam Suntory – and whisky fans -alike.

So, what does old-ish Glen Garioch taste like? Let's give this 33-year-old a try!

Whisky Sponge Glen Garioch 1988 - Ed No.68 - 33 Year Old – 44.6%

A single refill hogshead of Glen Garioch, distilled and filled in 1988, matured for 33 years and bottled at natural cask strength. 

Evan’s Tasting Note

Nose: A fruity and funky mix with coal dust, creosote, grilled pineapple, honeyed teriyaki sauce, candied carrots and yams, blackberry compote, and a squeeze of lemon. All in all, this noses like a crazy but intriguing plate of turkey dinner with the different servings all mingling together.

Palate: Soooo soft on entry. There is a slight ashiness to it all, but plenty of fruit underneath including more blackberries, cranberries, apple and pineapple juice, a touch of ginger, and a hint of citrus. It is all so fragile though, like it might fall apart at any moment.

Finish: The fruit and other notes mute fast, but stick around as soft cereal notes on the fade. There is a slightly creamy yet gritty dryness to the finish that makes you want to lick your teeth. Kind of like the texture of matcha tea.

Comment: I feel like this whisky would have gone a bit plain if left in the cask for much longer, but the soft fragility of the palate carries an enticing beauty that makes you focus. Whisky, like life, can be frail sometimes. Hold on to what you have until it's gone.

Sure, we might be done with this bottle, but there are plenty more to come! See you tomorrow!

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Facebook & Instagram: @sagelikefool

You can find all blog posts for the UBER EDITION of Kensington Wine Market’s 2023 Whisky Calendar Here

Want more information on Angus MacRaild/The Whisky Sponge? Check out Andrew and Angus Talkin' Whisky on YouTube!

This entry was posted in Whisky, Whisky Calendars, Independent Bottler, KWM Whisky Calendar 2023 UBER EDITION



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