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There is some debate over the origins of Glen Garioch distillery in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire. Official records show 1797 as the date of it’s foundation, but an article published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal of the 1st December 1785 announces that a first spirit run has been successfully completed at the same site. If this information could be verified, it would place Glen Garioch amongst the very earliest distilleries in all of Scotland.
The distillery was founded by the Manson brothers, who came from a respected farming family local to the area. They chose their location well, for the valley of the Garioch was known as ‘the granary of Aberdeenshire’ and was blessed with 150 square miles of fertile land, over which countless fresh water springs flowed. The perfect setting then, for a malt whisky distillery.
Despite this abundance of water however, Glen Garioch struggled to maintain a constant supply and was forced to cease production altogether in 1968, following a particularly dry summer. DCL, who owned the plant at the time, felt that Brora distillery in Sutherland was able to meet their requirement for a peated highland malt and Glen Garioch, along with it’s frequent water issues, appeared to be more hassle than it was worth.
Fortunately, the distillery was later purchased by Stanley P. Morrison of Morrison Bowmore fame, who set about tracing a reliable water supply which he would eventually discover on a neighboring farm in 1972.
Glen Garioch ceased production again in 1995, but re-opened two years later, producing an entirely unpeated spirit for the first time. Today, a core range comprises of a flagship 12 year old malt, a ‘Virgin Oak’ finished No Age Statement offering and the entry-level ‘Founder’s Reserve’, all of which are bottled at the intriguingly high strength of 48% alcohol by volume. While frequent ‘vintage’ releases can occupy the more ‘premium’ end of the market, the Founder’s Reserve retails in the UK for the very reasonable price of £35 per bottle.
Smell: Floral Honey, Vanilla, lots of Malt, Toffee and Buttery Apple Pastries.
Taste: Creamy Toffee, Buttery Malt, Vanilla, Chocolate Orange, Lemon and zingy Lime.
Value for Money: There can be few complaints at just £35 a bottle. Quite simply it’s a great little buy.
The Founder’s Reserve may lack an age statement, but the decision to bottle at the higher strength of 48% ensures a robust, flavoursome dram which more than justifies its price. To those unfamiliar with it’s output, Glen Garioch is a distillery which fully warrants further investigation and the Founder’s Reserve is the ideal place to start.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.