Glen Garioch stands near the east coast of Scotland, about 25 miles from Aberdeen, in the area known as the Eastern Highlands. In this rather large part of Scotland, there are currently only five active distilleries (Glen Garioch, Glencadam, Ardmore, Royal Lochnagar and Fettercairn). The relatively near past saw four more distilleries that drowned in the 1980s whisky loch (Glenesk, Glenury Royal, North Port/Brechin and Lochside).
However, in yesteryear, the area was full of distilleries forever lost, and since I have said much and more about Glen Garioch, and you all know I’m quite fond of this distillery, so I’d like to focus on one of the ten other distilleries lost before 1945. I will say that this number includes some distilleries in Perthshire, at the time considered part of the Eastern Highlands. Other counts may be a little different, but either way, the distilleries on the list were around once, and are no more.
I’d like to pay tribute to one of those distilleries, who’s memory is still held dear with a whisky bar bearing the same name in Glasgow. The Bon Accord distillery (named for the password used by Robert the Bruce’s forces in Aberdeen in 1308) was opened in 1855, basically taking over the buildings and equipment of the Union Glen Distillery which had gone belly up in 1853. Alfred Barnard reported that the twin pairs of stills could produce some 1.14 million liters of spirit per year, making the Bon Accord one of the largest distilleries of the time.
By 1896, it was renamed North of Scotland Distillery Co. Ltd by it’s new owners, Dailuaine-Talisker Distillers Ltd (so had it survived the 1910s, it would have probably been closed by UDV in 1983). The distillery went up in flames several times, including a really bad one in 1885, and another in 1904, of which it was reported that it burnt for over 12 hours, and that the fire came off the ground “as from a huge Christmas pudding … the flames swirled and twisted with lightning like rapidity into the most extraordinary forms imaginable”. There is acutally a picture of that fire:
The distillery apparently produced quite a decent malt, the last of which was produced in 1910, after yet another fire. It was bottled for export as Cock-o’-the-North (not to be confused with Cock O’ The North Liqueur) which made a brief appearance some time back.
So I raise today’s very modern dram to the memory of the Union Glen/Bon Accord/North of Scotland distillery!
The concept of the Renaissance series is an interesting one. The official PR states that Glen Garioch wants to show the evolution of the house style, thus “The hearty Highland character of Glen Garioch has been captured in an exciting quadrilogy, charting the journey of the malt’s current house style as it matures over four years. The result is an anthology of four exclusive editions – 15, 16, 17 and 18 year olds – entitled the Glen Garioch Renaissance Collection, of which each will be released annually.”
Glen Garioch 15 Renaissance First Chapter, 12,000 Bottles (51.9% ABV, NCF)
Appearance: Amber, slow legs peel off slowly from a pretty sturdy necklace.
Nose: Heather honey, caramel, cinnamon and clove, and a hint of citrus peel. The nose is dry and chalky, typical Glen Garioch, with some sherry notes .
Palate: Thick and viscous, much more sherried on the palate, with a lot of wood spices (mainly cinnamon). The oak is noticeable too. It’s a little like biting into a bittersweet chocolate praline with a sour cherry filling (that’s much less sweeter than the liquor they put in the pralines.
Linger: Spicy all over the mouth, then a sweetness washes over the tongue, giving way to a bitterness, with a hint of 85% bittersweet chocolate. The sweetness keeps creeping up in waves.
This is Glen Garioch in form. A complex and rewarding dram, which will have you wondering when the 16 year old, chapter 2, will come out.