Glen Garioch distillery, sitting on the eastern end of the Scottish Highlands, is in isolation from other distilleries. About 20 miles south-east of the Glen Dronach distillery, Glen Garioch sits in one of the finest barely-producing regions in the world. Currently in the Morrison Bowmore portfolio (and hence under the Suntory umbrella), Glen Garioch has had a storied history starting over 200 years ago, including several years with no production in the late 1960’s due to water shortages, and a transition from lightly-peated to non-peated whisky in the late 1990’s. With these changes in the past, it seems Glen Garioch’s biggest hurdle is the mis-pronunciation of their name: If you ever try ordering “Glen Geery” in a (North American) bar, you might get a confused look from your server; but have faith, you are indeed pronouncing the distillery’s name correctly.
The 1797 Founder’s Reserve (often just called Founder’s Reserve) is the mainstay of the distillery’s offerings, and comes bottled at a nice 48% ABV. The company’s official tasting notes are as follows:
Nose – Sweet vanilla and butterscotch show the influence of North American Oak with fruitier green apple and grapefruit coming through at the rear.
Palate – At first the palate is sweet with hints of buttercream and vanilla. As this begins to ebb, the fruitiness of the green apple skin and citrus cleanliness leaves the palate refreshed.
Our take was slightly different. With an amber colour and nice legs in the glass, the Founder’s Reserve’s nose starts with vanilla and almond highlighted by a slight oaky smokiness. Following this first impression is a doughy or yeasty undertone not unlike starchy potato, complemented nicely by roasted apples. On the palate, the vanilla tones are rounded out by light cinnamon and chili, with ginger hiding in the background. The finish, given it’s 48% punch, has a lingering bite, with bitter unripe pear and dark chocolate notes pervading.
Overall, this is a pleasant whisky, and is a good higher-alcohol dram to venture into. The nose is full of complexity and delight, with the palate coming in nice and spicy. The finish, however, is a bit dry and can’t quite deliver on the promise shown by the nose.