Glen Garioch (pronounced ‘glen geery’) is an interesting place. The distillery is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1797 with just a couple short periods of closure, in 1968 and 1995. The distillery has been part of Morrison Bowmore Distillers (Auchentoshan and Bowmore) since 1970. Morrison Bowmore was acquired by Suntory in 1994. There are some great details about the distillery on Morrison Bowmore’s site. There is a lauter for the mash tun and they use stainless steel washbacks. They have three sizeable stills, of which two are presently used, according to various sources. Their production is small, at about 1M liters per year. That’s one-third the size of Glenfarclas, for example. On the Glen Garioch web site, they state they produce without chill filtration, and play up the small batch aspect of the spirits. Their 3-minute video gives some views of the well-tended distillery.
Glen Garioch have a 12-year (which is on my radar), but this review is for the Founder’s Reserve, a low-priced NAS offering ($47 here in Oregon). That’s even less than Talisker’s Storm or Highland Park’s Magnus.
As this is a Highlander it should be compared to another Highland whisky. I’ve got on hand Edradour 10, a very small batch Highland whisky I reviewed favorably. The Founder’s Reserve is quite a bit lighter in color than the Edradour, so I’m expecting ex-Bourbon casks were used to mature the spirit. It’s a very aromatic dram: upon opening, I get a pleasant fruity and mildly floral aroma before I even pour—that’s a good sign. The fruit is honeydew melon, there are hints of fresh bread dough and a decidedly fruity floral element, which reminds me of a certain organic shampoo from my childhood. It is quite a nose and as you press deeper you’ll find lightly toasted whole wheat bread, cinnamon and a light backing of mineral from the water. Quite a lot going on! My Edradour is low in the bottle and I fear I’ve lost some of its more volatile elements as it’s nose does not have the strength of the Glen Garioch. The sherry and apple are there, but muted now.
On the palate, the Glen Garioch opens with the fruit carried on the nose quickly followed with a chunk of toffee, then some spicy oak. I thought I tasted the barest touch of peat, which is odd as there is no peated malt in the mash. The 48% ABV is evident. It is lively, runs right up to the limit of harsh but does not go over, and cleans up that toffee quickly with tasty and balanced tannins. The floral overtones carry all the way through to the finish, accompanied by the tannins. Overall, pretty impressive, but you have to like that fruity floral bouquet, as that is quite forward from nose to finish.
The Edradour in contrast has a much smoother, unctuous palate, thanks to 5% lower ABV and a syrupy base that does not overwhelm. It is a tasteful, stylish gentleman to the flashy young parvenu of the Glen Garioch.
I added a small amount of water to the Founder’s Reserve, and that brought forward the toffee and caramel (not being overwhelmed by alcohol) and the result was mixed. The 48% delivery covers over some rough edges that show up when the spirit is lightly watered: the tannins come across as more sharp edged, and the floral aroma seems detached.
Glen Garioch 1797 Founders Reserve, Highland Single Malt, 48% ABV
Nose: Very full nose: honeydew melon, bread dough, and a notably forward floral element (tropical flowers).
Palate: Melon gives way quickly to toffee which gives quickly over to a mid-palate full of spiciness from lively alcohol and well balanced tannins. The floral aroma maintains throughout.
Finish: Fairly long, with the tannins balancing the sweetness well; the spiciness hangs on for a while, and the fruity floral aspect lingers quite long.
Bottom Line: This dram has a lot of flavor for $47. However, it is very forward with one aspect of the profile, and if that floral taste reminds you of shampoo, it can be a bit off-putting. The younger whiskies in the NAS vatting gives it a not-unpleasant liveliness however and the tannins are well balanced. For under $50, it’s certainly worth a try.
(Note, extreme weather delayed my weekly post, thank you for your patience!)