Glen Garioch Distillery Information

Glen Garioch (pronounced “Geery”, to rhyme with cheery) in is the most easterly distillery in Scotland, found on the edge of the Highland region, 17 kilometers east from Aberdeen. It’s actually located in the valley of the Garioch, surrounded by lush fields hosting ample amounts of grain and barley (earning it the nickname “The granary of Aberdeenshire”) as well as an abundance of springs, so it seemed natural to establish a distillery here. In fact, the area once was home to six distilleries, but in the present day, only Glen Garioch survives.

The Glengarioch (note how that was one word, rather than the modern spelling using a space between “Glen” and “Garioch”) distillery was establish in the town of Oldmeldrum by John and Alexander Manson in 1797, making it one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Originally the premises included a brewery and tannery, but they have long gone. In 1837, John Manson’s son (also named John Manson) joined the team. A year later John (the father) passed away. His son took over the business as well as control of the distillery.

Close to 50 years after the founding of the distillery, Glen Garioch was sold to JG Thomson & Co., a firm dealing in win and spirits from Leith in 1884. 2 years later, they were joined by another gentleman from Leith; William Sanderson, who shortly before was appointed as managing director of the North British distillery in Edinburgh; at the time the largest distillery in the world. Sanderson had launched his own blend, V AT 69, in 1882, who was basing the blend around Glen Gariochs’ whisky.

Sanderson died in 1908 and was succeeded by his son, William Mark, who had been acting as a partner in the form since 1982. Shortly after taking over the reigns, he started exporting overseas to Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and Sweden, and from 1908 on also to the United States. Newly imposed taxes in the UK caused a drop of demand in Scottish whisky, but sales in the US allowed the distillery to remain open. The prohibition starting in 1920 caused a further dip in sales, and while many distillery owners were closing shop, William Mark Sanderson gambled that it would end sooner or later, and he purchased all shares in the Glen Garioch  distillery. While his assumption was correct, Mark died in 1929 at the height of the great depression before seeing his bet pay off. His son Kenneth sold the distillery in 1933 to Booth’s Distilleries Ltd. The prohibition ended only 8 months later. Booth’s was taken over by the Distillers Company Limited (which would ultimately become Diageo), and later transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers(SMD)  in 1943.

War broke out in 1939, and while this initially meant a drop in production, in 1943/1944 the distillery was forced to shut down altogether. After the war production resumed, but due to grain being rationed, it took until the 1960s for production to climb back to pre-war levels. Water shortage caused it to be shut again in 1968, and SMD sold the distillery to Stanley P Morrisson (a whisky broker, as well as the owner of the Bowmore distillery) in 1970. Under his guidance, production resumed, and an alternative water source was discovered on a nearby farm, ensuring production could be increased ten-fold. The source could not be seen or heard, earning it the nickname “The Silent Spring”.

In 1972, a third still was added, followed by a fourth one in 1973, when the majority of the distillery was rebuilt. In the same year, Glen Garioch was released as a single malt for the first time. When fuel costs increased sharply during the 1970s, an innovative waste-heat recovery system was installed, which, besides heating part of the distillery, also provided heat for large greenhouses added in 1977. The distillery soon  after not only was known for its whisky, but also for its vegetables grown in these greenhouses. In 1984, Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd was taken over by the Japanese company Suntory.

Suntory closed Glen Garioch in October 2005 and subsequently attempted to sell it. This failed, leading Suntory to reopen the distillery two years later. Currently, only 1 wash still remains, leading the Glen Garioch only actively using their biggest spirit still.

Glen Garioch whisky

Glen Garioch’s core range is matured in American Oak ex-Bourbon and European Oak ex-Sherry casks, bottled at 48%, and consists of:

  • 1797 Founders Reserve
  • 12 Years Old

There are also the Vintage Releases, almost all bottled at cask strength:

  • Vintage 1978; matured in Bourbon casks, and bottled in 2009 at 57.8% ABV
  • Vintage 1986; matured in North American oak casks, bottled in 2011 at 54.6% ABV
  • Vintage 1990; matured in Bourbon and Sherry casks. Bottled in 2009. 54.6% ABV
  • Vintage 1991; matured in North American oak casks, bottled in 2010. 54.7% ABV
  • Vintage 1994; matured in North American oak casks, bottled in 2011. 53.9% ABV
  • Vintage 1995; matured in First Fill Bourbon casks. Bottled in 2012 at 55.3% ABV
  • Vintage 1997. matured in Second Fill Bourbon casks. Bottled in 2012, at 56.7% ABV
  • Vintage 1999; matured in Oloroso Sherry casks. Bottled in 2013, at 56.3% ABV
  • Virgin Oak; matured in virgin American Oak, and bottled in 2013 at 48% (non-cask strength)
  • 15 Years Old Renaissance, bottled in 2013 at 51.9% ABV
  • 1998 Wine Cask matured. Bottled in 2014, at 48% ABV. Limited to 6,000 bottles

Distillery info:

NameGlen Garioch
Water sourceThe Silent Spring of Coutens Farm
Owned byMorrison Bowmore Distillers

Glen Garioch Distillery,
Distillery Road,
AB51 0ES

+44 (0) 1651 873450

Visitor centreYes

Distillery Setup:

Mash tun4.4 tonnes1 Stainless Steel, full lauter
Washback22,5000 litres8 (Stainless steel)
Wash still25,000 litres1
Spirit Still11,000 + 12,000 litres2 (only the biggest one actively used)
Expected yearly output in LPA (Litres of pure alcohol)1,000,000