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Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve

Surprising, isn’t it, that I haven’t posted any notes of my most significant distillery, my more-than-whisky distillery, or what I suppose others call their favourite distillery? Expressions are hard to come by and I wasn’t blown away by their new 12yo. Whilst pleasantly sweet, citrussy and peppery, I always suspected this, the Founder’s Reserve and restorative-and-a-half at the distillery in April last year, was the more rewarding dram.

The new entry-level expression following the relaunch in late 2008, this has no age statement but is non-chillfiltered and bottled at 48% abv. It’s potent stuff and boasts its ex-Bourbon maturation. I filled a little sample flask from my 70cl bottle – purchased by my aunt for my 20th birthday – earlier in the year so that I might have some Glen Garioch in St Andrews when the anniversary of my Aberdeenshire purgatory and redemption struck, and it was what I sipped at the end of last month as we raced away from St Andrews and the end of my first year there for the Rush Time Machine concert which was taking place in Newcastle that night. In short, it has featured in a few singular moments over the last fourteen months or so.

Glen Garioch Founder's ReserveGlen Garioch Founder’s Reserve 48% abv. £29

Colour – Rich full gold with peachy tones.

Nose – At first, sugary-sweet draff/worts notes and sticky but firm honeycomb. More cerealy draff appears with a stab of alcohol then medium grade dark chocolate. I always detect a strawberry note and it is joined here by a sweet nuttiness. Crumbly earthiness and hedgerow berries. Very clean and citrussy with good body to it.

      Water lightens the spectrum although the oakiness becomes richer with more toffee and creamy vanilla shortbread. Stewed red fruits appear with sweet malt and dryness. Stem ginger and lemon boiled sweets. Chunks of butterscotch. A bit more time reveals heather honey, toasted oak and strawberry jam. Overall very chunkily malty.

Palate – Rich malt and oak, then lighter cereal sweetness and a flash of clean citrus. Spicy. Red fruits and red apples emerge.

      Water makes for a richer and even fruitier experience. We begin with fruitcake although this morphs into slightly burnt oat biscuits. Lemony and syrupy notes come in later with more stewed fruit.

Finish – Chocolatey and biscuity. Soft malt with the dryish draff note from the nose reappearing. Honey on thick toast. Clean and firm.

      Water accentuates a smoothness and juiciness. Things become heathery with some delicate sweet spice from the oak. Vanilla and cinnamon, too. Stewed fruits and especially apple. Caramel and citrus.

I don’t go into the cupboard for this dram terribly often, but when I do it always surprises me. The barley malt profile is deep and complex, with a fruitiness, earthiness, caramel sweetness yet also dustiness. It is a shame Glen Garioch no longer malts its own barley but I can imagine the atmosphere of aromas that must have existed when it did, just by nosing this whisky. That dustiness is something I noted with the 1991 Vintage and I’m not sure how to account for it: it is at once a note which distinguishes it from other Highland malts but is also slightly alien at first.

Following my unforgettable experiences to get there last year, and the very different kind of tour I received once I arrived, my spiritual side wants to explore more of the whiskies from Glen Garioch. Matt and Karen at Whisky For Everyone have just tasted the new 1994 Vintage, and John Hansell at What Does John Know? has recently opened a 21yo from the 1970s as one of his very special drams. As is the case with these oft-overlooked single malts, there are many incarnations kicking around that are just astonishingly good. That they are oft-overlooked does mean, however, that those who do apprehend their potential and charm have a greater chance of being rewarded for their faith.

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June 25, 2011 um 2:10 pm
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