Time Machine – Part I
The past is the past, they say. We need to move forward; think about the present moment; live in the now! Yes, yes, yes; I know. But I can't help but think about the good old days every now and again. Back when we could actually buy single casks directly from an actual distillery! Back when you could actually go into a major company's warehouses, meet with the blender, and put together something cool and interesting that had yet to be done. Today the demand for this type of bespoke whisky is through the roof, so most distilleries—now completely overrun by requests like these—have backed away from private bottlings. Everyone wants their own exclusive barrel or their own customized blend to distinguish their bottle from the pack. Everyone needs their own special story, their own unique experience. It's too much! System overload! Abort! Let's just go back to selling regular old whisky, they began telling us. We can't manage this type of program fairly or consistently. Shut it down. Shut this all down! Welcome to 2016.
But let me bring you back to March of 2013; back when whisky kids could still be kids. David and I drove to Glen Garioch to meet Rachel Barrie. We picked out a delicious 15 year old cask from the Morrison-Bowmore stocks. We toasted to a successful journey, placed our order, and left with a smile. Then a funny thing happened in between the time our cask was bottled and the time our cask was due to be received: Suntory and Beam merged, Campari (who was acting as an importer to the U.S. for Suntory) was given the boot, and all hell broke loose. We never got our cask. We never knew what happened to it. After a few years went by, we kinda just forgot about it.
About a year ago I reached out to Beam to see if maybe they could figure out what had happened. They recommended I ask Campari. Campari recommended I ask Beam. It didn't go much further than that. However, for the past six months I've been working with a new team at Beam-Suntory that is incredibly detail-oriented and proficient. These guys are serious pros and are motivated to make deals happen. I mentioned to them the story about the lost cask of Glen Garioch. "Maybe you guys could track it down?" I asked. Two weeks later they had found it.
Three years and three months in the making, our cask of 1997 Glen Garioch, distillery-direct, cask strength single malt whisky is here. More importantly, it's here for the same price I was quoted in the Spring of 2013: $89.99. I LOVE THIS WHISKY. There's a particular flavor in Glen Garioch that I love that I don't get in any other single malt (kind of like Clynelish) that's inherant rather than the result of specific cask maturation. It's a sweet grainy note, almost like butterscotch and oatmeal, and the whole town of Oldmeldrum (where the distillery is located) smells this way. I remember getting a chicken salad sandwich at a cafe nearby that came with a side of "mealie." Mealie? "What's that?" I asked the woman working behind the counter.
You take a finely-chopped onion, fry it in oil, and then gently add in some oatmeal. You finish it off in a steamer until the consistency comes together and, voila, you've got mealie. It has a semi-hard texture, almost like Grape Nuts after they've soaked up a bit of milk. Apparently, it's wonderful with chicken dishes as well as with mince and tatties. That's Oldmeldrum in a nutshell. That's Glen Garioch. That's the flavor in this fifteen year old K&L single barrel selection. Here at last.