I sometimes forget how little time it’s really been – relatively speaking – that I’ve been heading north of the border to Scotland. I went once almost seven years ago to an insurance conference back when I was writing about that industry, and it wasn’t until 2012 that I returned to explore the world of whisky. Since, I’ve been countless numbers of times, constantly finding myself taken aback by the beauty of the land, the friendliness of the people and the wonderful distilleries that produce my favourite spirit.
And one of the most beautiful distilleries I’ve been to in Scotland this year has to be Glen Garioch. I think I love its unassuming, down-to-earth nature, which possibly comes from the fact it’s just far enough away from the popular Speyside Trail to keep under the radar.
Since trying the range for the first time last year, I’ve come to really appreciate this spicy, bold Highland single malt whisky. But it’s one that goes unnoticed by a lot of people, consumers certainly. I use it is tastings fairly frequently and it’s often the case that no one has heard of it.
This is a shame in my view – it’s wonderful, and you can stay tuned to the site this week to get my views on a new release from the brand.
But back to the distillery. Set near the village of Oldmeldrum, Glen Garioch has been in operation since 1797 – interestingly, its master blender – Rachel Barrie – is from the same town, making the spirit blended by a true local.
The distillery itself is on cute little grounds on Distillery Road, dotted with old stone warehousing and buildings right in the middle of town. It was nearly lost to the fates of time twice: once when it was shut down in 1968 before being bought by Stanley Morrison (of Morrison-Bowmore) in 1970, and once more when it was shut down in 1995, after parent company Suntory decided to park its production for a couple of years. It came back online in 1997, with the main difference being that the whisky stopped being peated – it’s, therefore, rather fascinating to try the brand’s older whiskies side-by-side its newer releases, since the latter ones offer up a very different, slightly sweeter, spicier flavour profile than their older, smokier cousins.
The distillery today only produces around 1 million litres per annum, so it’s on the small side for Scotland. During my visit, I was taken around with Kenny ‘Digger’ Grant, and as a change up here on the site, I’ve put together a behind-the-scenes video with him to give you an insight into how things once were and how they operate now.
It was a wonderful visit to yet another of Scotland’s gems. One of my favourite whiskies from the company is still the 1995 Vintage, and I bought a bottle a little while back from The Whisky Exchange. It won’t be around long, I don’t expect, and I’m surprised it’s still out there so I can highly recommend it. Otherwise, I’m a big fan of the Founder’s Reserve, which is a cracking way to get into this brand if you’re keen to try something a slightly lower price point – at 48% ABV it’s great value for money (£32) and a perfect winter warmer.
And as always, I can only encourage you to head up to Scotland if and when you ever get the chance. I’m always amazed at how many people I know who live in England have never been – though, it wasn’t so long ago for me either, I suppose, that I still was blind to its incredible charms.
For more information on Glen Garioch, head to: www.glengarioch.com
With thanks to Glen Garioch team for inviting me along to head behind the scenes.