The Glen Garioch distillery in Aberdeenshire (at times known as 'Old Meldrum' and
sometimes spelled as Glengarioch) was built in 1797 by Thomas Simpson. This makes
Glen Garioch one of the few remaining distilleries that was founded in the 18th century.
The first change in ownership occurred in 1837 when the owners of the nearby
Strathmeldrum distillery (John Mason & Co.) bought the Glen Garioch distillery.
Strathmeldrum continued to operate until 1884 when it was closed and Glen Garioch
was sold to J. G. Thomson & Co of Leith. Details on the decades after that are slightly
vague, but early in the 20th century William Sanderson gradually took over control
and ownership of Glan Garioch.
The main reason for Sanderson's interest in Glen Garioch was the fact that the malt
whisky was an important ingredient of the popular VAT69 blend that was introduced
by Sanderson in the late 19th century. In 1933 Sanderson & Son (what a lovely name)
merged with Booth's Distilleries Ltd., a company involved in the production of gin.
This new company was taken over by the DCL (Distillers Company Limited, a predecessor of Diageo)
and then transferred to SMD (Scotch Malt Distillers) in 1943. A little over two dacedes later, in 1968,
Glen Garioch distillery was decomissioned & closed. This could have been the end for Glen Garioch,
but fortunately Stanley P. Morrison Ltd. stepped in.
Glen Garioch resumed production again in 1973 when some peated malt whisky is produced.
The new owners extended the number of stills from two to three in 1978 and made quite a few
other upgrades to the production process, including floor maltings and greenhouses heated
by waste heat. A visitor centre was added to the distillery as well.
In 1982 Glen Garioch was the first distillery in Scotland to convert its stills to gas-firing - a
move that was followed a few years later by many other whisky distilleries. Two years later (in
July 1984) the company Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd. was purchased by Suntory from Japan.
Rumour has it that Glen Gariochs produced after Suntory took over are notably different in
character than those that were distilled earlier. I'd have to agree; the 'old style' Glen Gariochs
(distilled between 1973 and 1985) are notably peatier than more recent 'Suntory' expressions.
Recent bottlings of Glen Garioch show more fruit and I've even been told that Suntory made an
intentional effort to change the profile of the whisky to suit their needs. Judging from the changes
that occurred at Bowmore distillery on Islay after the take-over, this seems like a very plausible
scenario to me. Suntory closed the distillery in October 1995, but re-opened it again in 1997.
Glen Garich distillery is located in the Eastern Highlands with
Glenugie, Ardmore and Glendronach as its closest neighbours.
Water is obtained from springs on Percock Hill, as well as a
source on Coutens Farm.
The distillery has a visitor centre which was refurbished
in 2005. It’s opened Mo-Sat from 10:00 to 16:00 PM
1) The name of Glen Garioch is pronounced as ‘Glen Geerie’.
2) The Glen Garioch malt whisky distillery was established on the
site of an old tannery - and there probably used to be a fairly
significant brewery in the area as well.
6) In 1982 Glen Garioch became the first Scotch whisky
distillery to be heated with North Sea gas .
3) In November 1972 Glen Garioch was released as a single
malt for the first time. Previously the malt whisky had only been
used in blends such as VAT 69, Bell's, Grant's Standfast - as
well as in the liqueur Drambuie.
7) A visitor of MM recalled a visit to Glen Garioch in 1982;
"I visited the distillery in approximately 1982 and was shown around as a tourist. At that time they had tomatoes
growing in the greenhouses, but the tour guide did at that time say that they also grew kiwi fruit."
4) As far as equipment goes, Glen Garioch uses a stainless
steel (full lauter) mash tun, 8 stainless steel washbacks, one
wash still and 2 smaller spirit stills. The malt whisky is matured
in both American oak bourbon and European sherry casks.
5) Glen Garioch stopped using its own floor maltings in 1994.
Unlike the (relatively mildly) peated whiskies that had been
produced until that point, the whiskies that were distilled in
later years were unpeated.
2004 - The oldest official bottling of Glen Garioch so far
is released; the Glen Garioch 46yo 1958/2004 (43%, OB).
The malt whisky in the cask was distilled in May 1958; in September 2004 no more than 336 bottles were filled.
2009 - The Glen Garioch whisky portfolio is reinvented.
The cornerstone bottlings of the new range are the 1797
Founder's Reserve without an age statement and the 12
years old, both bottled at 48% ABV. The first ‘vintages’
are introduced as well; a 1978 and a 1990.
2013 - The official range is expanded with the ‘Virgin Oak’, a 1999 vintage and more than 10 single casks.
2018 - The third ‘chapter’ of Glen Garioch “The Renaissance” is releases at 17 years old.
2005 - The Glen Garioch visitor centre opened its doors
for the first time in October.
2010 - Another vintage bottling (a 1991) is released.
Glen Garioch NAS 'Founder's Reserve' (48%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Starts nondescript and a little harsh. After a few minutes some very faint herbal notes emerge.
I wasn't very impressed, although it grows maltier and a little more accessible with time.
Taste: Smooth, fruity start, exploding on the palate. Towards the finish it grows drier and quite harsh.
Score: 72 points - did they increase the proof to disguise a certain lack of character?
Glen Garioch 12yo (48%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Odd start. Shoe polish? Clay. Very faint grapes and raspberries before it grows more herbal.
Taste: Very smooth start, followed by a fruit centre. The finish with quite a few tannins kicks in early.
Some chocolate and a whiff of smoke. Herbal. The mouth feel is excellent, actually - lifting it above average.
Score: 77 points - although it needs some time to get there; it started out around 75 points for me.
Glen Garioch 1991/2010 (54.7%, OB, Batch #38)
Nose: Fairly restrained start, followed by a bitter sweetness like old tawny port. Some dust and clay. Spices.
Unusual, but very interesting. A little cheesy? It grows surprisingly complex over time. And a hint of sulphur?
Taste: Smooth start, followed by the same odd fruits I found in the nose - and then some meaty notes.
Score: 86 points - a very nice whisky that responds well to time and air.
Glen Garioch 17yo 1990/2007 (55,8%, Adelphi, Cask #2689, 285 Bts.)
Nose: Nose: Smooth & refined, but not a lot of 'definition' initially.
Some fruity complexities slowly emerge. Then organics pop up. This one needs time!
Taste: Sweet and smooth. Touch of oil and some fruits.
Not very expressive, but a great mouth feel. Fairly gritty finish. Salmiak?
Score: 83 points - this is a dram that requires a little work...
Glen Garioch 1988/2006 (56,1%, Celtic Whisky Co, Spirit Safe & Cask ed, Hogshead #1538, 234 Bts.)
Nose: Smooth, nutty and relatively oily. Mocca after a few seconds. A little sharp in the back of the nose.
Much better with citrus and other fruits during a second try. Minty? Alltogether it's pretty great stuff.
Taste: Oily start with an herbal twang. Hesitant start. Needs water.
Score: 87 points - which makes it highly recommendable in my book.
Glen Garioch 10yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Fruity - seems like a typical 'new style' GG that reminded me of the 15yo OB I tried a while ago.
Metallic. Faint hint of Granny Smith. Bakery aroma's. Pleasant enough, especially if given enough time.
Taste: Slightly gritty in the start. A tad thin in the centre. This obviously lacks some 'body'. Too bad.
It remains flat and gritty throughout and becomes a tad bitter in the finish. It loses a few points here.
Score: 68 points - but that's just because it loses some point on the palate. The nose is quite OK.
Glen Garioch 15yo Bordeaux Finish (50%, OB, 7yrs Finish, Bottled 2005, 1800 bottles for Taiwan)
Nose: Ah... Much more subtle than I expected. Sweet at first, then the wine effect comes forward.
After I found sake on the palate I thought I detected it in the nose as well. Power of suggestion?
Taste: Velvety smooth. Fruity and creamy. Clearly a 'new style' Glen Garioch. Hint of gooseberry.
Towards the finish I detected the faintest touch of oiliness, reminding me a bit of sake. Funny...
Score: 81 points - Given the 'new' Glen Garioch style the 15yo age statement must include the finish.
Glengarioch 15yo 1988/2003 (46%, Whisky Galore)
Nose: Smooth, fruity and quite mellow. Veggy. Big, but not really expressive.
There's something vaguely dusty between the fruits. Hint of oil, perhaps?
After some five minutes I got something like molten candle wax. That's odd...
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Hint of smoke; big and sweet in the centre too.
Pleasant, although it grows bitter in the finish. It's hard to get a handle on this one.
Score: 83 points - this is another malt that slowly but surely grew on me over time.
Glen Garioch 1984 (55%, OB, Bottled +/- 2000)
Nose: Spicy with a hint of apple at first, grainier after a few seconds. Very nice.
With a splash of water some more and more organics drifted to the surface. Smoke?
Taste: Very sweet, growing fruitier and maltier in the centre. What a lovely mouth feel.
After a few minutes I got some 'pine' - too bad. It seems to grow grittier as well
Score: 84 points - not especially complex at first, but very pleasant on the tongue.
Glen Garioch 29yo 1968/1997 (57.7%, OB, Cask #7) - this one proved to be a BIG WHOPPER!
Nose: Wow!!! Another sherry monster - woody, fruity and wonderfully complex. Tea. Baklava?
Spices and organics too. Smoke. All sorts of subtle and seductive action in the background.
Salami with garlic? Rubber? An exceptional profile, although it doesn't seem all that 'old'.
The organics grow ever more complex - what a ride! Should I add water? I could spoil it...
When I finally dared to add a few drops of water, it seemed to release more smoky notes.
Simply flabbergasting - this could very well be the best heavily sherried malt I ever tried.
Taste: Hey, that's funny. I get some 'antiquity' on the palate. Smoke. Winey, fruity and chewy.
Almost perfect on the palate as well. With a stronger start it might have reached the upper 90's.
Score: 94 points - definitely the very best sherry monster I ever tried. The stuff of legends.
And once again this knockout malt was selected and shipped by 'supernose' Serge.
Glen Garioch 29yo 1968 (53.7%, OB, Cask #627, Hogshead, Bottled +/- 1997)
Nose: Ooooh... Lovely deep, sweet sherry notes. Polished oak. Pipe tobacco. Organics. Magnificent!
It grows 'dirtier' over time - which is a good thing here. Sweaty socks. Altogether it's right up my alley.
Taste: Fabulous sherry on the palate as well, with the distinct smoke that betrays an 'old' Garioch.
This one almost takes a medicinal direction but also has a minty freshness to balance the smoke.
Score: 91 points - a very suitable 1500th dram, if I may say so. Thanks a lot, Ho-cheng!
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glen Garioch malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Garioch I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glen Garioch.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
The official portfolio of Glen Garioch
consisted of five different bottlings
around the year 2005; a 10 years old,
a 15 years old and a 21 years old, as
well as two expressions without an
age statement; the 'Archive' and the
In 2009, the 1797 Founder's Reserve
(depicted at the left, no age statement)
and a 12yo 'standard' expression are
released, along with two vintages;
one distilled in 1978 and another one
distilled in 1990.
One curious feature of both the 'Founder's Reserve' and 12yo expressions is the unusual ABV of 48%.
As far as I know, no other whisky brand uses that ABV for any official bottling...