Located in Aberdeenshire, in the small town of Old Meldrum, the Glen Garioch Whisky distillery is the oldest operating distillery and the most easterly in all Scotland. Such a special place deserved to be represented in our Whisky Flavour Tasting Box.
Some of our previous costumers had the pleasure to receive the original branded miniatures of the Glen Garioch 12 Years Old and the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve. However, what make them these expressions so special? And what makes Glen Garioch whisky such a fine dram?
We’ll tell you all about the distillery, the history and the core range of this Scotch whisky brand and respond to some of the frequently asked questions in this article!
Table of Contents – Sip this Article
- The Glen Garioch Distillery
- The Features of Glen Garioch Whisky
- Glen Garioch Whisky Range
Despite being one of the most fertile parts of Scotland, Aberdeenshire has very few distilleries. One of them is, of course, Glen Garioch, situated between Aberdeen and Bannf, in a small village called Old Meldrum, where it stands tall, but alone.
The date is 1797, printed in every bottle and the official year claimed by the brand. Initially, the distillery also had a brewery but it was their spirits that have putted the brand’s name in the map.
As it happened with a lot of distilleries that are more than 200 years old, Glen Garioch went through rough times, was bought and rebought by several people and entities, survived two world wars and Prohibition (and lack of exportation for the USA) and it’s still here to tell their story through their fine drams.
Besides passing by through all this, there is a few big details that make Glen Garioch whisky what it is today. The first is the discovery of a new water source, in 1972 – The Silent Spring of Coutens Farm. As it is known, the water used to make the whisky mash – the fermenting stage -, and diluting the spirit. There are also experts that advocate that the water used to make a whisky influences its mouthfeel and flavours. Truth is that, after Joe Hughes found the Silent Spring, Glen Garioch whisky was not the same.
And it did not remain the same for another reason: it stopped being peated scotch whisky. In 1995, the Glen Garioch distillery closed for two years, being the Vintage 1995 the last expression the brand released. The distillery reopened in 1997 for its 200 years anniversary, releasing only unpeated whisky since then.
From the time it was founded until now, Glen Garioch distillery was purchased several times. In 1937, it was bought by the Scottish Malt Distillers and, in 1970, it was purchased by Stanley P. Morrison.
Nowadays, the Glen Garioch distillery belongs to the Suntory and it is operated by the Morrison Bowmore Distillers, which also belongs the Japanese industry giant.
As stated before, the Glen Garioch whisky is made in its distillery, located in Old Meldrum, in Aberdeenshire, which is part of the County of Aberdeen, in the East Coast of Scotland. It is also part of the Highlands, one of the 5 scotch whisky producing regions of the country.
As so, Glen Garioch whisky is a Scotch whisky that produces Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
As the primordial grain in whisky production, the best barley produces the best whisky expressions. And it is in the granary of Aberdeenshire where these crops grow. Being located in the same area, it is only plausible for Glen Garioch whisky distillery to get their barley from this granary.
The valley where all stages of production happen is, indeed, blessed by sunshine and just enough rain to turn the soils fertile and grow the finest barley one might find in Scotland. Besides, it is also there that runs the Silent Spring. These two factors are the perfect combination to create the mash that will turn into the unique Scotch whisky that is Glen Garioch.
So unique, most of the brand’s expressions are vintage, produced in small batches and, therefore, numbered. People who have a bottle of those expressions are truly the lucky ones. And, so no one is left behind, we have already provided original branded miniatures of the Glen Garioch’s core range to some of our customers in their previous whisky tasting boxes.
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The Glen Garioch Whisky has already won several awards. The latest awards were given to Glen Garioch 17 Year Old The Renaissance 3rd Chapter (Gold Medal), Glen Garioch Minnesota 2012 (Silver Medal) and Glen Garioch 1999 Wine Cask Matured (Bronze Medal) at the Scottish Whisky Awards 2021.
Scottish names are not always what they seem. And a lot of Scotch Whisky brand’s names are written in Gaelic, which means that they are not pronounced as they are written. However, this is not quite what happens with Glen Garioch, given that, ‘Glen’ is the Gaelic word for valley, but ‘Garioch’ comes from the Doric dialect and means “granary”.
Glen Garioch is then pronounced Glen “Geery” (which phonetically is written geeuh·ree).
As a Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky brand, Glen Garioch creates their whisky to become fruity, exotic and sweet drams, with a creamy mouthfeel. As a northern Highland’s brand, it is possible to find some sweet cereals and spicy flavours as well.
The core range of the brand (The Founder’s Reserve and the 12 Years Old) are unpeated, non chill-filtered and bottled at 48%. This gives the whisky a natural colour without losing any of its wholesome flavour.
The Glen Garioch Vintage expressions, however, may be peattier, as they started to mature before 1995, year in which the brand stopped using peat smoke to malt their barley.
As stated previously in this article, Glan Garioch is a quite unique Highland Single Malt Scotch whisky brand. Not only because of the location of its distillery and the raw materials used during all production stages, but because of their premium range.
Glen Garioch whisky has only two expressions that never change in its core range, and those were the ones made part of previous whisky tasting boxes sent to our customers. The other expressions are all vintage and rare finds.
Here’s a list of the most wanted Glen Garioch drams and the features of what make them so exquisite.
The whisky that is a celebration of the brand’s founders – the Manson brothers. The Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve is a no age-statement with sweet and spicy aromas, with hints of citrus and apples.
It has a creamy mouthfeel, with sweet flavour notes as vanilla. One can also taste fruit flavours, such as green apples and lime. The finish is oaky with more green apples and citrus notes.
Launched for the first time in 2010, the Glen Garioch 12 Years Old is a non-chill filtered dram, matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks and bottled at 48%.
Regarding its tasting notes, this expression has sweet and floral aromas, with notes of honey, malted barley and pears. On the mouth, one can taste sweet flavours, such as dried fruit, banana and Crème Brulé. The finish is long with a creamy mouthfeel.
The year the brand started the Greenhouse Project is celebrated in the releasing of a limited edition vintage expression. The Glen Garioch Vintage 1978 was distilled in the homonymous year and bottled in 2009 after its maturation in ex-bourbon casks. There are only 1320 bottles with this dram.
In 1978, the brand still used peat smoke to malt their barley, which means this is one of the few Glen Garioch’s peated expressions left.
On the nose, one can smell dark chocolate, red apples and sweet poached fruit. On the mouth, it has oaky and citrus flavour notes, and finishes in a wave of spices.
Another vintage expression that carries Glen Garioch reputation is the 1986 expression. Bottled in 2011 with 54,6% ABV after 25 years of maturation, this whisky feels like velvet while having a distinct smokiness.
Regarding its aromas, it is possible to smell coconut and smoke. On the mouth, it is full of character, with smoke and wood spice as well as pear and banana flavour notes.
The expression that better resumes the Glen Garioch comeback, in 1997, as an unpeated whisky. Matured for 15 years in a mix of first and second fill bourbon casks, this whisky is non-chill filtered and was bottled at a 56,7% ABV.
The Glen Garioch Vintage 1997 mouthfeel is creamy and one can taste fruity flavours, such as banana and pear, sweet flavour, with honey and toffee notes and hints of nutmeg.