Tucked discreetly away among neat cottages in the village of Oldmeldrum, Glen Garioch (GEAR-ee) isn’t a distillery you just stumble upon; you have to want to find it. “The Garioch” is the Doric (a dialect of Scots) name for this agricultural pocket of Aberdeenshire, which has been a rich barley-growing region from the late 1700s, when the distillery was founded, to today.
Closed for two years in the mid-1990s, Glen Garioch experienced a metamorphosis upon reopening in 1997, when it switched from using its own peated, floor-malted barley to commercial unpeated malt. Pre-1995 Glen Garioch is criminally delicious (look for independent bottlings as well as occasional vintage releases from the distillery), but its contemporary counterpart maintains many of the best characteristics: rich cereal notes and a weighty mouthfeel, buttressed by incense aromas and flavors of ginger, spice, and nuts. It’s proofed to 48% ABV—higher than the average 43% to 46%—and non-chill filtered. Glen Garioch pulls no punches; it’s assertive and shows a clear personality of spirit, typically unencumbered by assertive cask influence.
And the distillery is soon to evolve yet again, with a nod to the old ways by reintroducing floor maltings, installing direct-fired heating on the wash still, and increasing fermentation times. All this should make it a darling among scotch lovers, yet just as the distillery is hidden in plain sight, so too is its single malt. But now you know, and you’ll recognize it when you see it.
Glen Garioch 12 year old
90 points, 48% ABV, $65
Sandalwood perfume and incense on the nose, with a brawny palate of bright citrus, hazelnuts, milk chocolate, and tobacco.