Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Spirit Log: Glen Garioch Founder's Reserve

goddammn it! Had to borrow a pic from TWE for this one...
It was time to try something from the Highland region and some way or other (without the aid of a whisky guide) I arrived at the door of Glen Garioch. Reviews on The Whisky Exchange were favourable, but what swung it for me was that, with the desired criteria being no age statement/under 10 years and that I didn’t want to spend (much) more than £30, this one was both and a mouthwatering 48% - which turns out to be cask strength.It is  likely aged between 7 and 8 years and of course it also helps that it is non chill-filtered.

At the time of purchase they only did this, a 12 year old and a variety of vintage bottlings though that range has since been extended to include a 15 year old “Renaissance” edition which is the first of a 4 part series that is intended to chart “the fascinating progress of the spirit in the cask”. Fascinating? Over 15 years? More happens in the life of a cat over 15 years than happens in a cask sitting in a warehouse and you’d hardly call that fascinating would you? But you know what? I’ll go with it.

At around £75 the Renaissance edition seems a bit pricey, though I see you can also buy the pre-2009 15 year old edition at TWE for just a couple of pounds more. Interesting. For my Founder’s Reserve I paid £29.20 plus the P and the P.

In terms of presentation, it comes in a plain brown box with a bit of tartan trim while the bottle is pleasingly stout and sturdy.

While carrying out a little research on other peoples opinions of this expression, I came across one that raises a curious behaviour that, while whisky is considered to be the most complicated and perhaps worthwhile spirit, lauded and celebrated the world over, when people detect a note that isn’t entirely to their taste they seem to feel they have to improve on it – like, by adding “sweetened soda” – in this particular instance (naming no names).

I accept the stipulation that adding water can open up a spirit, and that it is necessary with higher cask strength bottlings (though the quantity to add is down to personal taste – I like to go for as little as possible), but… soda? How bad is it?

You get the impression that some reviewers treat their whisky like a puzzle; how can I make this right? - in the same way you add seasoning to a meal. I don’t think you’d ever get a wine enthusiast adding anything to their glass, would you? So why don’t whisky drinkers accept and enjoy an expression for what it is more?

The only instance in which I will try to “improve” a whisky is if I feel it’s so bad that I can’t drink it as is, and that rarely happens because in my experience, any bad spirit can be improved simply by sticking it in your hipflask or chugging it to get the party started… you don’t have to taste the fuck out of it. Mostly I’m happy to explore it and if I don’t like the trip, it’s more a case of finding a drink to use it up in.

It remains to be seen whether I’d feel anything needed to be added to the Founder’s Reserve, so let’s get around to seeing and open that bottle…

Since Jon had come round, who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, I needed to open something new, and this was it. We caned nearly half of it that evening before I set it aside for a while to finish the HP12 and appraise all that has to offer. See last week for that particular self-indulgence.

The Founder’s Reserve has a similar taste to the Glen Scotia 16 – a tang that due to my limited experience still strikes me as weird. I’m thinking it is probably going to be indicative of a style since I have now found it in two different places – Glen Scotia being a Campbeltown and Glen Garioch a Highland malt.

In further comparison to the Scotia, the Garioch’s flavour profile doesn’t edge so far towards the synthetic impression that I mentioned in my earlier post. Nor is it as smoky.

Sadly, as the weeks went by I started to enjoy this less and less, to the extent that I would prefer many a blend over it. Consequently, at around £30 it seems overpriced when a Ballantine’s, Grant’s and even Asda’s own brand McKendrick’s would be preferable.

I started to detect hints of lavender (a plant I don’t think has any business being eaten (or drunk)), and also found the extra strength (its selling point) to be ultimately unpleasant, requiring more dilution than I would like just to soothe the unpleasant burn and leaving you drinking an underwhelming whisky squash.


In comparison to the admittedly pricier Glen Scotia 16, it was falling by the wayside, and even in comparison to the vast majority of single malts in my index. In terms of price per centilitre I’ve previously paid less for the Glanfarclas 10, Glenmorangie Original, Talisker 10 and HP12, all of which I consider vastly superior. Sadly, that can only lead us to the conculsion that you can do a lot better for £30.