...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glen Garioch 12 year old

My wife is sitting next to me playing a video of two HOT women working out on the beach.  So I'm a little distracted.  But...

Here's an actual single malt (remember those?) report.

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Ownership: Morrison Bowmore (Suntory)
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: Bourbon casks and Spanish Sherry casks
Region: East Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 48%


Scotland's easternmost distillery, Glen Garioch (pronounced Glen Gee-ree) has undergone a number of changes over the last two decades.

In 1994, Suntory took over the ownership of the distillery via its purchase of Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd.  In 1995, the distillery was mothballed.  Up to that point, they had their own malting floors onsite and dried the barley via peat smoke.  So up until this closure, the whisky was lightly peated (8-10ppm). Upon reopening in August 1997, the distillery outsourced its maltings and the spirit was unpeated going forward.

Thus, old stuff : peated; new stuff : unpeated.

In 2009, Glen Garioch did a complete overhaul of their range.  Gone were the 8, 15, and 21 year bottlings at 43%, replaced by the NAS Founders Reserve, 12yr, and a number of small batch vintage casks.  The first two are bottled at a hefty 48% and are unchillfiltered.  Brilliant!

In 2011, the awesome Rachel Barrie left Glenmorangie Plc (where she helped create the Corrvreckan for Ardbeg!) to become Morrison Bowmore's (and thus Glen Garioch's) Master Blender.


My Scottish buddy James introduced me to the old Glen Garioch 15 and I enjoyed it from the first sip.  I was sad to see it disappear from the shelves (though it can be found with some proper research), but I was curious to see what replaced it.

Two years later (last week), I took a little road trip to Rosewood Tavern on Fairfax in Hollywood.  First off:  Rosewood Tavern, recommended.  GREAT selection of all sorts of whiskies, a few of 'em priced very well.  I felt like a kid (on a budget) in a candy shop.  I picked this Glen Garioch 12 on a whim and received a very generous pour.  Thanks to Miss Swiss!

(Side note: Like most bars they don't have whisky glassware, so I recommend going for a wine glass, champagne glass, or a snifter if they have one.  Just not a flat tumbler!)


NEAT - The color is dark gold, more apple juice than maple syrup.  The nose is very malty. It gets fruitier (think white fruits), but not sweet, with time. Some bourbon oak effect, but not too heavy.  The sherry is very subtle, almost invisible.  The palate is malty and salty, lightly fruity with a little toffee.  One doesn't feel the big alcohol %. It finishes at a decent length, fresh and fruity with a touch of salt.

WITH WATER - A great nose, like a caramel tart.  The oak on the nose and palate takes a backseat to more vegetal notes.  The texture gets much creamier.  The finish actually gains strength......mysterious!

It's not a sweetie, it's not a peatie, so I suppose it's a maltie? It's actually quite similar to Oban, so perhaps this is the Highland character I often read about.  It has this sturdy burly element that drew me to single malts in the first place, many years back.

Now, if Oban was cranked up to 46% (not even 48%) and not filtered, my goodness what would that be like?  How about it Diageo?

Sorry, couldn't resist a little comedy.

At least I think the new Glen Garioch spirit gives us a hint of Highland greatness at a price that passes for reasonable in 2012.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - Considering the big ABV and no chill-filtration, the price is relatively reasonable at $50-$60
Rating - 88


  1. I will admit to having mixed feelings about the rather significant (50+%) price increases that we've been seeing as some single malts change over to higher ABV and non-chill filtering. On the one hand, I appreciate that they're being released in that fashion, as they're going to be better whiskies. On the other, I just can't see the costs of putting the whiskies out being that much higher to justify the price jumps. When your basic, 10-12 year old whisky gets above $50, you're going to start losing me unless it's really, really good. There are a lot of options for my booze dollars at that point.

  2. Hey Jordan, thank you for your comment.

    It pained me to call Garioch's pricing reasonable, because outside of the single malt world it's not reasonable. I have 1000s of feelings about the current single malt pricing. That'll probably need to be its own post or series of posts. But in general, I agree with you.

    But specifically, a whisky without chill-filtering and caramel coloring requires fewer resources in its production thus would cost less to bottle. But the bottlers charge more by advertising the "purity" and "old fashioned-ness" of the product. And the market seems to be buying it. So far.

    Glen Garioch IS a small distillery, currently producing 1/3rd the spirit that Bruichladdich does (according to the Malt Yearbook). So that almost excuses a higher price BUT they are owned by a conglomerate.

    The best excuse I can see for their pricing is the ABV. Had they bottled it at 40%ABV, they could have bottled 20% more product than they did at 48%ABV. That's the only defense I can think of at the moment.