I always have a little trepidation when trying a distillery’s whisky for the first time. I don’t know what to expect – will it be bland and uninteresting? Will it be unique, and require me to mentally add a new category to my “types of whisky” catalog? Will I have to come up with new words to describe it? This is my first Glen Garioch (usually pronounced ‘Glen Gee-ree’, which is probably not quite right, Scots-Gaelic-wise). The ‘Founder’s Reserve’ is the baseline malt for this distillery, and is bottled at the unusual choice of 48% ABV, without chill-filtration, after maturation in ex-bourbon casks. There is no age statement, but it’s probably around 8 years of age. It retails for $44, which I consider to be a respectable price in the current overheated whisky market.
Nose: Elegant and nuanced. While the aroma is of a classically American oak-matured malt without any of the trappings of cask finishing, there is a lot of depth here. Vanilla in fine balance with lemon peel and a faint fruitiness, like white raspberries. The required butterscotch/caramel notes are present, and not at all cloying. The alcohol nose tickle comes across as tart, rather than chemical. Very nice.
Palate: Medium-bodied, with a initial hefty rush of tongue burn. The 48% ABV really packs a punch without much sugary sweetness to pad it. Some drying oak tannins, and a pervasive nuttiness.
Finish: Medium length, with some of that vanilla returning in the form of crispy wafer cookies, and the citrus peel in the form of lemon curd. The finish flirts with the edge of bitterness, but resolves instead as lightly wooded and slightly drying.
With Water: Several drops of water add an herbal note to the nose – white tea? The water does nothing to tame the torrent of alcohol on the palate, perhaps even increasing its burn. This doesn’t really need water for flavor enhancement, but you might want to consider adding more than a few drops if you want to reduce the burn via dilution.
Overall: I generally grow bored with malts aged only in ex-bourbon. However, while the Founder’s Reserve doesn’t stray far from the mark in terms of character, it has a grace and nuance that keep it interesting, and a powerful right hook in that 48% ABV – it wakes you right up. This is priced right, at $44. A good baseline dram with a little something extra – a rarity these days.