Glen Garioch Founder's Reserve: 48% abv
Background: Glen Garioch (Pronounced “Geery”) is a Highland Single Malt Scotch distillery in Aberdeenshire. These guys have been around a while, having been with us since 1797. That being said, here in Michigan, we don’t see a whole lot of them on our shelves. Although Glen Garioch offers a number of “small batch” releases, and what looks to be a standard 12 Year offering, the most common evidence of this Distillery is the Founder’s Reserve No Age Statement whisky. Of all of the statements seen of Glen Garioch, none of them appear to be below 48%. Why don’t we see more of this stuff?! A few observations: at 48% and Non Chill-filtration, this is not a whisky to look away from, not to mention the fact that it is a really affordable buy. Don’t be deterred by the fact that you might not have heard of this whisky. And we’re about to tell you why.
Nose: This Highland malt displays a very fresh, grainy smell up front, with a very mossy, green smell mixed with the aroma of malt carrying through. Slight vanilla and cookie dough layers on top of the intense grain smell, but is mostly overpowered by a rose water floral scent. The fresh grain and floral scent over-dominates the nose, but pear skin is also noticeable after the whisky opens up.
Arrival: The arrival starts sweet, and then opens up with some intense spiciness. The spiciness includes cinnamon and nutmeg, before leading into a gingery and grassy flavor. There is a slight hint of malt in the arrival, with some herbal flavors as well. After a few sips, the alcohol content of this whisky neat starts to overpower the flavor slightly. There is still some slightly fruity flavor, with grape and pear rind being most prevalent.
Body: As the body progresses, a very green flavor unfolds. There is a some bitter greens and black pepper notes that contribute to a spicy character. The whisky seems young and intense in the body, with some slight citrus zest and mild pear rind.
Finish: The finish becomes malty and contains sweet flavors of vanilla and sugar cookies. There is also some bitter greens and very subtle peat smoke and wood smoke coming through at the end. The finish is dry and fairly complex, contributing a very pure grainy flavor to the whisky. There is an amount of black peppercorn and other spices in the finish, but the higher alcohol content makes it difficult to pick out the complexities.
Nose: With just a little bit of water, this whisky starts to open up quite a bit. There is a more open fruitiness, with slight lemon and stronger pear notes coming through.
Arrival: The arrival brings on the spiciness a little bit earlier now, with a brilliant mix of sweetness and spice. This plays a perfect balance, and with a bit less of the vegetal greenness that was dominating the whisky beforehand. The whisky still demonstrates a lovely complexity, but balances the whole ensemble a bit better. Some caramel is noticeable after water as well.
Body: The spice in the body is really dominant now, with an almost salty presence. There is still the sugar cookie sweetness in the body, contradicting the spiciness, but it still balances really well. It isn’t as ideal as in the beginning, albeit it maintains an enjoyable status.
Finish: The finish maintains the grainy, vegetal quality from before, while leaving a trail of intense, hot spiciness to enjoy. There is still a major peppercorn and classic Highland malt grain, with a tinge of wood smoke and oak char.
Final Comments: In general, this is what I would describe as a great entry level Scotch for the more mature Scotch drinker. This is the opposite end of the spectrum from your sweet Speyside Glenlivet 12 Year, having earthy, vegetal flavors aplenty and a warm, strong spiciness to enjoy. Although this whisky isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart, it is a very good offering. I think it would be a treat for anybody who had a more eclectic pallet for Scotches. If we ever see another bottle of Glen Garioch in Michigan, there is no doubt we will want to try that one too.
Why you’d buy it: You are looking for the complexity and quality of an affordable Highland malt with earthy flavors.
Why you wouldn’t: You still haven’t realized that Glenlivet and Glenfiddich aren’t the only Scotch whiskies out there.