Glen Garioch, Founder’s Reserve

One of my friends from University, who helped me through my training, saw me through times good and bad, would probably best fit into the stereotype currently known as a hipster. Although I’m sure he’d tell you that he was a hipster before it was cool. He’d also probably hate me for making that joke. The defining feature for me labelling him as such, besides the skinny jeans and ridiculous hair, was his insistence that once a band became mainstream and became popular, they couldn’t possibly be any good. Even if the same song he had been listening to just weeks before became popular, he would stop listening, seemingly out of spite.

Greg Paterson, whilst still with Errors

My worry is that I have become a whisky hipster. I don’t mean to be, but whenever I get access to a range of whiskies to try, my immediate response is to steer clear of anything I’ve had before (which seems perfectly sensible) or anything I consider too mainstream which is where my problem lies. I haven’t tasted very many of the Glenfiddich, Glenlivet or Glenmorangie ranges. At whisky festivals, I have tried one or two of their more unusual expressions but I appear to have actively avoided the core range. I think I have done this because of their popularity and to expand my own experience. But how can I expand my experience by ignoring single malts considered to be at the core of the industry? I have now decided I must rectify this, as there is presumably a reason they are so popular. I have some samples in my possession, so expect some reviews soon.

However, I went to Trafalgar Square’s Albannach again last weekend and, despite my decision to try the staple malts, set out to find something I didn’t know. Glen Garioch (another brand seemingly destined to cause verbal faux pas – pronounced “Geery”) is owned by Morrison Bowmore, under Suntory, the same group that owns Auchentoshan and Bowmore. While these two distilleries seem to have had massive expansion recently with regards to the number of expressions available in both travel retail and domestical bottlings (fifteen for Bowmore, eighteen for Auchentoshan), Glen Garioch seems to be remaining relatively compact. It has just five expressions: three vintages, a twelve year old and the expression I tried, the latter being the 1797 Founder’s Reserve, a non age statement “standard” expression.

Glen Garioch isn’t utterly unheard of and it has been around for some time; there just haven’t been many easily available bottlings since their mothballing in the mid 90’s, which also resulted in the permanent closure of their four floor malting house. Fifteen years on from their reopening, their presence is starting to become more obvious. The twelve year old and Founder’s Reserve are both whiskies fully produced from new stock since reopening and the “small batch release” vintages are all from before the closure. I suspect, given Morrison Bowmore’s current aggressive expansion, we will see more releases as their stock builds up.

So, what about the whisky? It was infinitely better than the music that Greg used to force upon me – with effort and work, one could always learn to appreciate aspects of the music, the cleverness of the arrangement, the techniques used in recording, or sometimes just singular phrases. The music was never just enjoyable, easy and untaxing. Thankfully, however, the whisky was enjoyable, easy and untaxing. The nose was amazingly inviting, fantastic earthy spicy warm notes, beautiful honey and vanilla notes, mixed in with a little spice and, on the palate, it still delivered and the honey notes were really rather wonderful.

So, all in all, it was a very easy, drinkable whisky. It might not have anything too clever or complicated about it, but, really, who needs whisky to be difficult?

Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s Reserve

Nose: honey, vanilla, peaty spices, a suggestion of marzipan
Body: smooth and soothing
Palate: spices, honey, warm peaty oak, sugared citrus slices, a hint of pipe smoke
Finish: relatively short and drying, sweet, toffee and caramels.

6 thoughts on “Glen Garioch, Founder’s Reserve”

  1. Hi LT, I enjoy your blog and your photos. Glen Garioch is still one of the best kept secrets of Scotland, the Old Pulteney of two years ago. For my taste, it has the best body in the industry, and it’s one of those whiskies that you can just drink all night and it will not interfere with the conversation – next morning you stare at the mostly empty bottle and realize how good – no, great! – it was!

    I’m with you on avoiding certain distilleries — just not the ones you indicate. I happen to love Glenlivet, respect Glenfiddich (let aside their role in single malt history, have you had the 15 Solera Reserve?) and really like Glen Moray (incidentally, it’s virtually unknown in the US). But I find Macallan, Glenmorangie, and Dalmore overpromoted and crass, and avoid their bottlings, not having been impressed with what I tried. As for Ardbeg, my body just doesn’t agree with it for some reason, which is all the better. (Laphroaig, Caol Ila: bring it on!)


    1. Glen Moray isn’t hugely well known here either – I’m still genuinely unsure how I ended up with the bottle that I have on my shelf and other than the very large supermarkets, it’s generally only available through specialists.

      I should have added Dalmore and Macallan to my list, I have tried a very small amount, one or two expressions, some time ago – I want to try them again, as I’m sure there are some expressions that are excpetional, there must be something to deserve the reputation, but I do see what you mean, they are trying very hard to be noticed.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I think I’d get on with your friend Greg.

    I don’t think you should be apologetic about wanting to try to discover something unique and special that you can then introduce to people who probably won’t appreciate it! I do the same with music. Objectively speaking it does mean I try a lot of things that ultimately turn out to be rubbish when I could have been settling down with a well-loved old album. I imagine you do the same with whiskies. Swings and roundabouts … sometimes there are hidden gems that wold go unappreciated if it weren’t for ‘hipsters’ or whisky explorers! Someone’s got to do it, we can’t let the mainstream become the only stream. That would just stifle creativity.

    1. Thank you, i think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. My only slight concern is that I still need to seek out and try this core selection of mainstream whiskies, if only to expand my knowledge, whereas with music, the mainstream music is often nigh on unavoidable, if you see what I mean…

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