I have tried very little whisky from Glen Garioch (pronounced “Glen Geery”) which is currently owned by Suntory, who also own Bowmore and Auchentoshan. Far more experienced drinkers and reviewers swear by the quality and reputation of Glen Gariochs of an older period (from the mid-80s and before and apparently peated) but nobody seems to get too excited about anything produced in recent decades. The official distillery bottlings used to be a 8 yo and a 15 yo (with a stag on the label and a staple of airport duty-frees) but the lineup was revamped a few years ago. Unfortunately, but predictably, at one level this took the form of fancier bottles with younger whisky in them at higher prices. On the plus side of the ledger the abv was also raised, to 48%, and chill-filtering was dispensed with.
At the low end of the range the 8 yo was replaced by the Founder’s Reserve, a NAS malt (and the 15 yo was replaced by a more expensive 12 yo). It is generally a good principle to be sceptical of any whisky (especially without an age statement on the label) whose name has anything to do with founders, reserves or estates, and so I was not particularly tempted by this one at its introductory price which was quite a bit north of $40. Later, reality seemed to assert itself and it is now possible to find the bottle in the low $30s, which is an acceptable risk/reward threshold for an entry-level malt.
Glen Garioch, Founder’s Reserve (48%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Gingery maltiness; sour in a medicinal (non-phenolic) kind of way–aspirin? some sweetness too.
Palate: Very much as advertised by the nose, but with a little more sweetness; a touch of white pepper; a little spirity.
Finish: Long’ish with astringent notes that give way to a malty sweetness which in turn yields to tingling notes of wood-spice.
Comments: No complexity here, unsurprisingly, but also not very much of anything to recommend it. I liked it a bit more when I first opened the bottle but since then I’ve come to think of it as a serviceable young malt, nothing more. The bottle is now at the 1/4-full mark but it’s only been a few months and there hasn’t been any real change. Might be good with a mixer. Oddly, it has some notes in common–on the nose and palate–with some of the whiskies produced by the Indian distillery, Amrut, particularly the Fusion. I’m referring here mostly to what I identified as a “gingery maltiness”. This leads me to think that much of the whisky in this Founder’s Reserve bottling may be very young indeed (Amrut’s whiskies are bottled very young on account of the climate). Nothing offensive, but no reason to buy this over most of the entry-level expressions from other distilleries out there at a similar price point. I do have a sample of the new 12 yo as well as the old 8 yo and will likely do a head-to-head-to-head comparison of all three in coming weeks.
Rating: 80 points