Glen Garioch Whisky Distillery
The Glen Garioch Distillery was established in 1797 in the village of Old Meldrum, near Aberdeen, by John and Alexander Manson. Old Meldrum is at one end of Valley of the Garioch, pronounced Geery. The area is traditionally the finest barley growing area of Scotland. Glen Garioch distillery and a brewery were built on the site of an old tannery and water came from the Percock Hills. The mellow granite buildings today are a harmony of tradition, modern processes and innovative conservation ideas.
The distillery changed hands several times in the first decade. In 1886 William Sanderson of Leith, of VAT 69 fame, purchased a 50% interest in JG Thomson & Co, the owners of the distillery. His son took over the entire distillery in 1921 and founded the Glen Garioch Distillery Co Ltd. They used the malt in their Vat 69 blend. However, Glen Garioch was sold in 1933 to Booth’s Distilleries Ltd, gin distillers, who in 1937 sold it to Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD), part of DCL.
Production stopped during the Second World War, but SMD restored working at its end. Unfortunately due to shortage of water SMD closed the distillery in 1968. It was bought in 1970 by Stanley P Morrison Ltd who restarted production. There followed a couple of decades of pioneering work at Glen Garioch. A new source of water was found when they dug a well in a neighboring field at Coutens Farm. It became the first distillery in Scotland to gas fire its stills in 1972.
In 1973 the distillery was expanded from two stills to one wash still and two smaller spirit stills. Glen Garioch whisky was marketed for the first time as a Single Highland Malt. Till then it was only blended into brands like Bell’s, Grant’s Standfast and Drambuie. A small visitor center was opened but Glen Garioch distillery was best known for its pioneering greenhouse project that ran for two decades. The waste heat and carbon dioxide from the distillation and fermentation process was conserved to heat two acres of greenhouse where fresh vegetables were grown. It was stopped in 1997 when they felt that drawing heat from the stills was affecting the character of the final spirit.
Suntory Ltd became the owners of Glen Garioch in 1994 but closed the distillery in a year. In 1997 Morrison Bowmore Distillers Ltd, a subsidiary of Suntory Ltd, took over Glen Garioch and reopened the distillery.
Glen Garioch is an attractive cluster of well preserved stone buildings with slate roof and wooden beams and the distinctive pagoda heads. This self-sufficient distillery had a malt barn, kilns stillhouse, courtyards and storage for whisky. Since production resumed in 1997 malted barley is sourced and its floor maltings have stopped. The traditional farmhouse that holds the mashtun and the seven stainless steel washbacks has a computerized system to run the mashing process.