Category Archives: Glen Garioch

Glen Garioch 2011 Carn Mor Strictly Limited 5yo

Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 27th March 2017

80/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

I do love the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. It’s a nice wee shop in my home town with great staff but….OMG, the website! It’s been sitting there with one page saying, “online shop coming soon” since about 2013. But this is a perfect example of how crazy the whisky market has gone in recent years. The statement “you must be online to make money” doesn’t apply to whisky. If you have a shop in the centre of Scotland’s third largest city you get enough walk-in trade to make ‘online’ become ‘on hold’ until market forces change. But it is frustrating if you find the Aberdeen Whisky Shop online and you don’t live anywhere near the city. At least they give regular updates about new stock via their Facebook page.

I hadn’t intended on buying this Glen Garioch but I was in the shop, it was there, and the rest is history. Generally I’m not a fan of immature whisky but after visiting Glen Garioch in 2016 I was keen to get more examples from the distillery. Distilled in 2011 and bottles in 2017 this 5-year-old was limited to 665 bottles. It has no added colour, and it’s non-chillfiltered but it’s a shame it isn’t cask strength. I suppose it’s a lot to ask for a mere £36 and 46% is a decent enough potency. Definitely one to be drunk as I don’t see this making much as an investment. The bottles aren’t individually numbered and it comes from 2 bourbon barrels rather than single cask. There’s no box and the label is very basic, which all says, “drink me” rather than “keep me for 10 years then sell me”. The independent bottlers Morrison & Mackay that make this whisky certainly know their marketing.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Coconut, white oak spice, vanilla-forward barley.
Palate: Freshly cut grass, mint leaf and more sweet coconut notes.
Finish: Soft citrus and toasty oak.

Glen Garioch 1997 ‘Batch 12’

Bought: Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, 12th September 2016

89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 24 member votes)

I bought this bottle of Glen Garioch from the distillery shop following my tour in September 2016. My blog about this visit can be found here. Initially I fancied buying a hand-filled bottle but at £135 a pop it seemed rather extravagant. The pre-packaged 1997 ‘Batch 12’ was a more pocket friendly £51. Bottled in 2012 it’s 14-15 years old and cask strength at 56.7%. I’d seen it at airports and online so I knew it wasn’t very exclusive but I wanted a memento of my visit and 1997 was a significant year for Glen Garioch. The distillery fell silent in 1995 but started production again in 1997 so a bottle from that year celebrates the rebirth of a historic and treasured Aberdeenshire business.

Scoring 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dynamic dram from Glen Garioch as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. It’s only 0.5 points away from being ‘brilliant’ according to the author, Jim Murray. His review consists of “I have to say: I have long been a bit of a voice in the wilderness among whisky professionals as to regards this distillery. This not so subtly muscled malt does my case no harm whatsoever.”

Reaching nearly 83/100 on Whiskybase suggests a very good single malt. Comments about the Glen Garioch 1997 include “very tasty, nice bourbon-barrel whisky”, “I liked it a lot” and “a very clean and fresh Glen Garioch, on sweet barley and tasting rather young”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt (where it’s still available for £75.65):

Nose: Creamy and sweet, with notes of vanilla ice cream and banana fritters.
Palate: A kick of cinnamon and pepper, but this remains firmly in ‘caramel and orchard fruit’ country.
Finish: Apple turnovers dusted with brown sugar.

Here’s Horst Luening of with his thoughts about this Glen Garioch 1997 (August 2015):

Glen Garioch 12-year-old

Bought: Amazon, 16th April 2016

88/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 354 member votes)
91/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)

As a fan of the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve I jumped at the chance to get the 12yo when Amazon reduced it to £32. That’s cheap for any 12yo whisky let alone one as hefty as 48%. Once open the 12yo certainly is a lovely dram but I slightly prefer the Founder’s Reserve, which seems less ‘designed’. I tried the 12yo again when visiting the Glen Garioch distillery and it stood up well against the 15yo, which I also got to sample. It’s hard to go wrong with spicy dark fruits, vanilla and a hint of smoke when presented at 48%. Delicious!

Scoring 88/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Glen Garioch 12yo as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “sticking, broadly, to the winning course of the original 43% version, though here there is a fraction more toffee at the expense of the smoke.” The Founder’s Reserve scores 87.5/100 in the Bible and the 15yo 86.5/100 so not much in it.

Getting over 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. The Founder’s Reserve scores 80.6/100. Comments for the 12yo include “very solid uncommercial style and very nice strength for a standard bottling”, “well crafted….perfect daily dram” and “overall it’s good, enjoyable and showing complexity”.

The Glen Garioch 12yo is a hearty Highland hidden gem that’s well worth seeking out.

Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her thoughts on YouTube about the Glen Garioch 12yo (May 2012):

Glen Garioch Distillery Tour

Visit: September 2016

Glen Garioch Distillery

If you’re visiting Aberdeen, Scotland’s third largest city, and you fancy a distillery tour, I’d recommend a trip to Glen Garioch. The distillery is situated in the town of Oldmeldrum, which is about 18 miles from Aberdeen. If you’re driving then the distillery has a strict policy that you can’t drink a dram at the end of a tour but you get to take away samples. Thankfully there’s a bus service from Aberdeen to Oldmeldrum and Glen Garioch is a short walk from the town centre. The No.35 bus takes about an hour, which is a lot longer than by car but gives you time to take in the scenery and drink without fear of prosecution.

At the time of writing, tours are available all year from Monday to Saturday, with Sunday tours from June to September. They do a Founders Tour (£7.50, which includes a dram), Wee Tasting Tour (£15, which includes two drams) and for £50 there’s either a VIP Tour or a Whisky & Cheese tasting. My brother and I opted for a Wee Tasting Tour, which lasted for 90 minutes. Details can be found on the Glen Garioch website here:

The tour kicks off with a short video in the Visitors Centre about the history of the distillery. Glen Garioch is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd (MBD) who also own Auchentoshan and Bowmore. MBD became part of Beam Suntory in 2014, the third largest spirits company in the world. Not that any of this was apparent at Glen Garioch, which felt very grounded in its Aberdeenshire community. When I initially booked the tour online I spoke to a lady called Fiona but a different Fiona took us on the tour. Apparently there are four different Fionas working at the distillery in a very ‘family’ atmosphere, which was clearly evident from the staff we met.

Glen Garioch had its own maltings in use until 1993. The distillery fell silent in 1995 with production starting again in 1997. It was because of this historic rebirth for the distillery that I bought a bottle at the end of the tour distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012. The website mentioned a ‘bottle your own’ for £80 but during the tour the only options available were £135 and £190 per bottle. The lesson learnt here was not to trust their website with regards to the ‘bottle your own’. Email them beforehand if that’s something you’re interested in.

Fiona our tour guide was very knowledgeable and the tour itself was thorough and enjoyable. We went into the old maltings and walked through all the buildings step-by-step, following the creation process of whisky. At the end my chosen drams for tasting were the standard 12yo and 15yo, both of which were excellent, with honey, spice and hints of heather. I’d also recommend the entry-level Founder’s Reserve, which is delicious, affordable and a generous 48%.

Since my visit it has been discovered that the distillery is actually older than originally thought. Instead of 1797 an article from the Aberdeen Journal published in 1785 refers to the sale of spirits from the Oldmeldrum distillery, which is Glen Garioch. It’s still not the oldest distillery in Scotland but not far off.

Overall I’d thoroughly recommend visiting Glen Garioch. If you’re considering moving to Oldmeldrum and looking for work, change your name to Fiona and apply to the distillery. It’s bound to work!

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Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s Reserve

Bought – Justminiatures, 13th November 2013

87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
86/100 – Ralfy, of
Review video: – Ralfy – Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve – YouTube

Over 4 years since Ralfy’s review and the good news is that this Founder’s Reserve is still bottled at 48%. Unfortunately there remains no mention on the bottle of “natural colour”. Oh well, maybe one day! The Whisky Bible 2013 rating suggests that standards have remained much the same but it’s not always that Jim Murray and Ralfy agree. That’s the joy about whisky – one person’s jam is another person’s marmite. Actually, it’s a pain in the backside because no two sets of tastebuds are the same. So you can’t be certain you’ll like a whisky just because someone else says it’s delicious, such is the complexity of a whisky’s taste. Reviews can help as a guide but it’s up to everyone’s individual taste to discover what they like.

Glen Garioch 1797 5cl