Despite being one of the most fertile parts of Scotland, Aberdeenshire has very few distilleries. In 1995 it looked likely to have one less when Morrison Bowmore (MBD) mothballed Glen Garioch, in the little town of Oldmeldrum. Much to everyone's surprise they reopened it two years later - in time for its 200th birthday - and gave Fraser Hughes his first managerial job.
Fraser is overseeing a radical shift in Gier. Garioch's style. For years, MBD had hammered on the peat, but now the malt i-unpeated. A new yeast strain is being usec and the cut has been narrowed, resulting :r. i gorgeously-sweet and fragrant new make. 'Not many people get the chance to be in charge and be in at the start of such a huge transformation,' says Fraser. 'I'm really excited about it. 10 years down the line this will be a winner.'
The superb malt barns could produce three-quarters of the distillery's needs and Fraser is clearly itching to get them going again. Successful trials mean it is a distinct possibility that the smell of kilning malt could once again waft over the village, whici has been rejuvenated since the reopening. 'Five of the original staff came back when we reopened, even though they had taken new-jobs elsewhere,' he says. 'That shows the faith they have in us. We have to repay that, by making good spirit.'
Eleven jobs have been created and, if malt barns and warehouses reopen, more could appear. It seems to run counter to industry practise. 'I don't believe all that computerisation is whisky making,' says Fraser. 'You need that personal touch. It's hard to explain, but it should never be likes conveyor belt. Nothing beats being hands« it's graft and sweat that makes whisky.
'I've worked my way up from the floor. Not many people can say that these days and, sadly, not many people will have that chance. I'm lucky and it keeps your feet on | the ground.' A manager and a whisky to watch out for.
Glen Garioch 8-year-old
Some turfy/peaty notes, with bonfires and a bint of sherry. Smoky, roasted flavour with a lick of ginger on the finish.
Glen Garioch 15-year-old
Pungent, intense mix of fresh ginger, fabric conditioner and leather car upholstery.