Most Scotch Whisky distilleries have chequered pasts to say the least, but Glen Garioch (pronounced Glen 'geery') must rank as one of the most colourful. Its story is worthwhile recounting. The distillery is located just outside the center of Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, in Scotland's far east Highlands. The distillery takes it's name from the Garioch Valley, which provides shelter ideal for agriculture, and in particular the production of high quality barley. The distillery was purportedly established in 1797 by the brothers John and Alexander Manson, whose family enjoyed a very successful period thereafter. John Manson Junior, born 1804, fathered Sir Patrick Manson, who was widely credited for pioneering research into tropical medicine, including the discovery of Malaria, amongst other feats.
Initially, whisky produced at the distillery was transported to nearby Aberdeen by horse and cart, to be sold to blenders and wholesalers. The late 1800's saw a large parcel of the company purchased by William Sanderson founder of William Sanderson & Sons, which saw the whisky coupled with Grain Whisky from the North British Distillery and used in the hugely successful Vat 69 blend until the First World War, when the younger staff went to serve in the millitary. Low volume production was maintained throughout the period.
Prior to prohibition in the United States, which saw demand plummet, Sanderson & Sons purchased the remainder of the company. This would later prove to be a fatal mistake, Sanderson & Sons were forced to put the distillery was put up for sale in 1933 - the same year prohibition ended. Scottish Malt Distillers purchased Glen Garioch in the late '30s, but by the late '60s the distillery was again up for sale, due to frustration with Glen Garioch's limited capacity. In particular, the water source wasn't able to keep up with demand. 1970 saw the purchase of the distillery by Stanley P Morrison Ltd, who immediately started looking for an additional water source in order to expand production.
Glen Garioch's first Single Malt bottling was released in 1972, presumably from material distilled prior to Morrison's acquisition. Readers might recall a recent mention of the Scots being eager to save a dollar, which resulted in the widespread use of American ex-Bourbon casks. This same philosophy lead to Glen Garioch creating enormous greenhouses near the distillery for the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and flowers by employing the excess heat from the distillery. An ingenious environmentally friendly approach that would be applauded today! The greenhouses continued until the early '90s when the project was ceased. It seemed that the marketing of fruit and vegetables was slightly different to whisky, and juggling between the two in an increasingly competitive market place proved difficult. In 1995, following Suntory's purchase, the distillery was mothballed until 1997 when ownership was transferred to Suntory's subsidiary 'Morrison Bowmore'. Presently, Glen Garioch is producing very lightly peated East Highland malt of various ages.
Tasting Note: A few wood shavings interrupt the toasty barley. Really good bitter-sweet balance with honeycomb and butterscotch leading the line - pretty juicy, busy stuff. Dries as it should with some vague spices adding to the vanilla and hickory. An entirely re-worked, now smokeless, malt that has little in common with its predecessors. Quite lovely, though. 43.0% Alc./Vol. Rating 91 - tasting note sourced from Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2009
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