You may have seen the range of special-release whiskies following the Game of Thrones TV series. I had a lot of other whiskies to review stacked up so did not catch any of those when they arrived, but recently I stumbled across a discount shelf with this blend from Johnny Walker. I always keep some Johnnie Walker Black around, and I figured, why not give this a comparison to the standard. Also, I have read the SOIAF books and followed (suffered?) through the Game of Thrones series on HBO until the end. I even mused here on the blog about the annoying habit of showrunners sending their characters into danger without proper headgear. So, the buy was a no-brainer.
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.
I’ve covered the standard Ardbeg 10 and Corryvreckan whiskies on the blog previously. The 10 is a solid performer in the Islay peat stakes and a reasonable $55. They distillery releases some older whiskies and also a range of NAS offerings both on the value and premium and of pricing. The cheap and rascally Wee Beastie and to-be-tasted An Oa hold the low end of the line (under $50). The premium NAS offerings, Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, increase the stakes as they are priced here in Oregon at $82 and $92, respectively. Going into this testing I’m expecting a smoother delivery than the 10-year and the signature excellence in robust but balanced flavors I have come to expect from Ardbeg. I’m also very curious to see how the two premium offerings compare, and I’ve got an impressive competitor as well, the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10.
Auchentoshan, uncommon for being a lowland whisky, is also unique for using triple distillation. (Springbank’s Hazelburn line uses the same technique, but no other Scottish distilleries triple-distill routinely.) Triple distillation used to be more common, since with a mix of grains, you should get a smoother whisky with a third distillation. Over time, the rationale has become moot, as single-malt Scotch has been codified to use only barley malt for the grain, so the expensive extra step for a third distillation isn’t seen as necessary. Auchentoshan continues with the practice to produce a light whisky with fewer heavier oils and proteins from the mash. Since the mash uses only unpeated barley, we’re anticipating a delicate flavor.
Just a quick hit today as Brexit has happened. For the US-based Scotch drinker, this does not change anything (we’re still paying the Trump Tariffs, grr) but if you are in the EU or UK, you might be wondering what’s in the deal. iLaddie has a post where he’s begun to examine the effects of the Brexit deal on Scotch (and other drinks) HERE.