A few kilometers from Aberdeen we find the Glen Garioch distillery. It is one of the oldest distilleries of Scotland and the most eastern active malt whisky distillery. Read more about it below.↓
The most easterly of all scotch distilleries in the world, the highland distillery of Glen Garioch, has a selection of both official and independent bottlings. The official bottlngs include the 8-year-old, 12 year-old, and a 15-year old Founder's Reserve withour an age statement as well as a 12-year old bottle. From time to time there are vintage bottles available, which sell fast and have a limited availability. There is also a small handful of independent bottlings to choose from. Douglas Laing and Co bottled a 1991 Malt old
cask which was well received critically, and Gordon & MacPhail bottled a “Secret Stills” 1988 edition which is believed to be a Glen Garioch. Glen Garioch is not currently used in any blends, although it was previously a major component of “VAT 69”, the famous blend cre
ated by whisky giant William Sanderson.
Glen Garioch draws its water from the beautiful burns in the Percock hills, also located in Aberdeenshire. These burns are particularly rich in minerals, which contributes to the
depth of the flavor of the whisky. The distillery’s production capacity stands at 1’000’000 liters of pure alcohol a year. In the year 2014 however, it operates at about three quarters of its actually capacity, producing 700’000 liters a year.
Glen Garioch has two wash stills, with one standing at a capacity of
20’000 liters, and the other at 10’000 liters. The two spirit stills both operate at a capacity of 11’000 liters. In terms of the distillation process, Glen Garioch has stayed true to its roots. There are a few unique methods used at Glen Garioch that contribute to its distinctive spicy and meaty character. The copper pot stills have a classic Highland style at their base with the typical
short neck, but their lyne arms are extremely long, particularly on the wash stills, which is a very unusual characteristic. Another defining characteristic is the use of a lauter mash tun to create fairly cloudly wort.
The site on which Glen Garioch is built was chosen for its proximity to excellent barley. The nearby town of Old Meldrum has become known as the “Granary of Aberdeenshire” over the years, famous for producing some of the finest barley in all of Scotland. Glen Garioch sourced it’s maltings locally and used it’s own floor maltings until as late as 1979, when they were decommissioned. Glen Garioch uses unpeated malt, which is a big contributor to its unique Highland style.
Until around of the millennium Glen Garioch sold a 15 yers old bottle with a slightly smokey character. But with the appearance of the Glen Garioch own bulgy bottle the smokey whisky disappeared.
Glen Garioch has a bonded warehouse onsite, and uses a mix of sherry and bourbon casks. It is a flat dunnage with the casks stored in three layers.
Glen Garioch has the distinction of being one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1797. The distillery has an eventful past, having survived over two centuries of change and development.
After the distillery’s founding by Alexander Manson in 1797, the distillery changed hands several times during the first half of the nineteenth century, until it was finally returned to the Manson family in 1837. It remained in the families’ hands until 1884, when it was sold to T.G. Thomson & Co of Leith. Two years later they were joined by William Sanderson, the owner of the self proclaimed “the largest distillery in the world”, North British. Sanderson was one of the most influential members of the whisky trade, and in 1882 he launched the “VAT 69” blend, which Glen Garioch later became the heart of. A couple of years later, in 1886, Sanderson purchased a 50% interest in Glen Garioch. After Sanderson’s death in 1908, his son William Mark Sanderson took control of the operation of the distillery.
During the 1920s, as Prohibition drastically affected the international whisky market, William Mark decided to buy the entirety of the shares of Glen Garioch to save it from amalgamation. Tragically, this did not improve the financial situation of the distillery, and William Mark died in 1929, at the very peak of the Great Depression. Four years later, in 1933, William Mar’s son, Kenneth, sold his family’s company to Booth Distilleries Ltd in a final attempt to avoid bankruptcy. Prohibition was repealed a mere eight months later.
In 1937, Scottish Malt Distillers, a subdivision of DCL, purchased Glen Garioch. Two years later, production had to be suspended due to the Second World War. After the war, production resumes and the distillery, although the second half of the 20th century brought it’s own fair amount of changes. In 1968, production was suspended again, due to what the management of the distillery described as “chronic water shortages”, forcing the distillery to alter its water source. In 1970, the distillery was sold to Stanley P Morrision, who undertook a series of major renovations at the site, which included Glen Garioch becoming the first distillery to gas fire its stills in 1972.
Today, Glen Garioch is operated by Morrison Bowmore Distillers, who are owned by the Japanese company Suntory.
Glen Garioch has a critically acclaimed visitor’s centre which is open year round, and includes a tour of the working distillery.