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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 its foundation, but an article published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal of the 1st December 1785 announces that a spirit run had been successfully completed on the same site. If this information could be verified, it would place Glen Garioch amongst the very earliest of surviving Scottish distilleries.
The distillery was founded by the Manson brothers, who came from a respected farming family. 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 its frequent water issues, appeared to be more hassle than it was worth.
Fortunately, the distillery was purchased by Stanley P. Morrison of Morrison Bowmore fame. He set about tracing a reliable water supply. The matter was eventually resolved when a constant source was discovered 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 the 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.
Thoughts: 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 that more than justifies its price. To those unfamiliar with its output, Glen Garioch is a distillery that warrants further investigation. It has a typically honeyed Highland character with lots of malty character from its raw ingredients. The Founder’s Reserve is the ideal place to begin a new acquaintance with this interesting distillery.
*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.