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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Glen Garioch, Oldmeldrum, Scotland

Perhaps one of the hardest distillery names to pronounce correctly (other contenders include Bunnanhabhain and Bruichladdich) Glen Garioch is 17 miles from Aberdeen and only about  11 miles from my office, so this was my nearest distillery when I lived in Scotland.  However a combination of limited visitor hours and my first tastings of Glen Garioch at a conference in 2009 leaving a less than positive impression meant there were many others distilleries I wanted to see before this one.    Then a couple of things happened, including in 2010 Glen Garioch revamped their line and produced a no age statement Founders Reserve and they were at Whisky Live London in March 2011 and I got try some of their new expressions and liked them.  A few weeks later I was driving through Oldmeldrum and on whim I stopped by the distillery (I didn't even have my note book so very little notes) and did the tour.  They still have their original floor maltings, kilns and even the tools used in maltings, although they are no longer used, so it makes an interesting part of tour as few other distilleries still have these.  As they now produce unpeated single malts, I bought a vintage bottling of their peated whisky and enjoyed it very much.

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Bowmore, Islay, Scotland

Bowmore, Islay, Scotland

Probably my favorite distillery tour and experience to date. I visited in July 2010 and after a couple of days touring Islay’s distilleries Tammy and Eleanor had seen enough and let me go alone, with a plan to meet in the tasting room at end of the tour. It turned out it was the last tour of the day and I was the only person who signed up, so it felt like I had the entire place to myself and my guide was happy to indulge every question I had, and without larger group I could indulge myself in the minutia of the place. Effectively it was a private tour of Bowmore, and the notes I took that day show that being alone had liberated my inner “whisky anorak” who normally stays safely hidden in the group tours. Not only was the tour perfect, but the subsequent tasting in a great room overlooking the Loch was well organized, fun, informative and innovative (they gave food samples like coconut, chocolate and raisins to help match tastes in the whisky). We tried a range of whiskies from their parent company, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and of course Bowmore. Perhaps with it being the last tour of the day they were also generous with pours and allowed us to retry samples while giving our daughter sweets and juice to keep her happy as well. Personally I fell in love with the rich, highly sherried Bowmore Darkest 15 year old that afternoon, and while it has never tasted quite as good as it did that perfect day in the distillery, it is still a 4 star whisky for me and my “go to” Bowmore.

If you go to Islay and only do one tour (which would not be a great idea in itself, stay and do more) I would say do this one and I can only hope you have same great experience I did.

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