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Glen Garioch

No: 19
Producer: Morrison Bowmore
Region: Highlands
District: Eastern Highlands
OS Sheet 38 ; Map reference NJ 80 27 ; Latitude 57 19° N, Longitude 2 22° W
Founded 1798 ; Operating Status: operating; mothballed 1995

Between Speyside and the east coast, Glen Garioch (pronounced "Geery") is [] on the road from Banff to Aberdeen at the quaintly named town of Old Meldrum in the sheltered Garioch valley, traditionally the grain-growing district for this part of Scotland. The distillery, founded in 1798 is a chunky stone building that looks in part like a village school. It is very traditional in that it has floor maltings but innovative in the manner in which it has sought to re-use the heat generated in the distilling process. The heat is used to warm greenhouses in which a variety of flowers and salad items have been grown and ripened. The distillery was acquired by Stanley P. Morrison Ltd in 1970.
© Michael Jackson 1994

Gleaned from the Malts mailing list:

The SMWS Autumn Bottling list (which fell onto my doormat this morning) brought the following good news concerning Glen Garioch "After a patchy history of closures, this distillery near Old Meldrum in Aberdeenshire has just reopened".

I was aware that it had closed some four years ago, but had not heard of any plans to reopen it. Presumably it's still in the hands of Morrison Bowmore, as I haven't heard of any change of ownership? Have MB decided that they need its capacity after all? Is this a permanent reopening or just a temporary one, like at Bruichladdich? Does anyone out there know anything more? [ib 110/q3.98]

It is still owned by Morrison Bowmore i.e. Suntory [bs 110/q3.98]

Good news about Glen Garioch indeed - especially for me as that is my home 'neck of the woods' (stretching the point in a Glenlivet fashion, but it's pretty unlikely we'll ever get Glenury back so I have to bang the drum for Glen Garioch and Fettercairn).

I dearly hope that they also bring back the greenhouse and the famous Glen Garioch tomatoes. [rs 110/3.98]

3 years ago, I talked to an engineer, who lives now retired in Dufftown. He was member of the team, which replaced the old firing system at the Glen Garioch and Macallan pot stills. He told me the following tale:

The greenhouse with the tomatoes were born out of the inefficient old firing system at Glen Garioch. The question was: What shall we do with the excess heat? Finally someone got the idea to use it for the heating of a greenhouse. But this turned out to be quite expensive and they were not able to cover their costs with the sales. They used special plastic nutrition bags, filled with soil and fertilizer. I do not believe, that they were better than normally grown tomatoes. In 1995 you could still see the reminances of the greenhouses (Two) and the bags (hundreds).

This year in March, I visited Glen Garioch and saw a lot of work finished at the distillery. They really spent money on it, so I think they will operate it for longer. But perhaps intermittent like the Auchentoshan Distillery, which has to make some pauses from time to time. But I missed to look at the place, where they used to grow the tomatoes. [hl 110/3.98]

Never having had the opportunity to taste the tomatoes I can't say whether they were uncommonly good or not. It just strikes the ecologist side of me that it was an imaginative way to utilise the waste heat. They did take it seriously enough to employ on an consultative basis the famous (around here at least) gardener, Jim McColl of TV's Beechgrove gardener. He's now still employed by Morrison Bowmore in Public Relations. I think would be good if he were to use his green fingers for them again instead of simply his golden tones: [rs 123/3.98]

Distillery rating: 4*

The Distillery
Glen Garioch
Old Meldrum
Aberdeenshire AB5 0ES
Tel: 01651-22706


SMWS bottling 19.3 - Glen Garioch 1982, aged 12 years
The first of my Top Three. Extraordinary and unfamiliar flavours, with a sharp edge that could cut through almost anything. The tasting panel writes of "lovage" and "woody", but I didn't get any of that. Their "limes in caramel" is a good description, though. [jw, 1995]

Glen Garioch 12 year old; standard bottling; 40%
I feel the nose has a distinctly honeyish aspect, but without the sweetness(?). A beautifully malty smell. The taste is strange. Not a typical Whisky at all and with a wonderfully long aftertaste, if a bit dry. A splash of water makes it fragrant and makes it less dry, but reduces the aftertaste. Don't overdo it.

No age statement; distilled 1984; 40%
I'm never happy when they don't tell you how old it is - why hide it? Glen Grant and Macduff aren't ashamed of their 5 year olds. Macallan makes an age statement on their 7 year old. How young will a company go that they don't want to tell us?

This bottling isn't a patch on the 12 year old. The distinctive smell and flavour just isn't there. It's far from unpleasant, however, and the 13 pound price tag (early '93) is far from unattractive. It does have a slightly unpleasant aftertaste - more heartburn than cuddle. Buy it rather than supermarket own labels, at least you know something about what it is, but its a toddy/hip flask Whisky rather than cut crystal.

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