Well, this is a new discovery for me. Having mostly concerned myself with old Leith blends over the last few years, old school brands hailing from Glasgow blenders and bottlers haven't been on my radar.
However, whilst searching on the various auction sites for relevant drams for the recent Leith Whisky Trail focussing on those pesky Pattison brothers, I noticed a litre bottle of Glen Garry from the early 1980s with the words 'Oban Distillery' on the label. It was duly purchased on the basis that Robert and Walter were directors, along with three others, of The Oban and Aultmore-Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd in 1898.
And what a cracking old blend this was! So, I picked up another. This time, a 75cl (or thereabouts) bottle from the 1970s and equally as delicious. Let's open The Schweppes Guide to Scotch and dig a little deeper...
John Hopkins & Company Ltd dates back to 1874 when it was established by - yep, you guessed it - John Hopkins. He was joined by his brother Edward and his cousin; also called Edward. Not confusing at all. And this brand - Glen Garry - was first registered four years later in 1878.
In 1896, the company built Speyburn Distillery in Rothes. Then, in 1916, the Distillers Company Ltd acquired the company making it a subsidiary and in doing so, also brought Tobermory Distillery, acquired by John Hopkins in 1888, into The Evil Empire (ah, you know I'm only joking).
The running of Oban Distillery, acquired by DCL in the 1930s, became the responsibility of John Hopkins & Co and hence why its name appears on the label.
During the 1950s and 1960s, John Hopkins & Co was also the licensee for Glen Elgin and Longmorn distileries as well as St Magdalene Distillery in Linlithgow. The latter explains why some of these blends now go for a fair sum at auction. With the prices of whisky on the secondary market continuing on an upward trajectory, the cost of a bottle from a lost distillery is out of reach for the vast majority of enthusiasts. But these blends are now probably still the only affordable way to try these whiskies of yesteryear. "For how much longer though?" is the question I keep asking myself.
But back to Glen Garry. Which is a real place by the way; just south of Loch Garry. And just north of Loch Lochy, which sounds far funnier. And if you have no idea where either of those are, it's about 30 miles north of Ben Nevis. But back to the whisky. What's it like? In short, delicious. But for those of you who'd like more tasting notes than that, read on.
GLEN GARRY SCOTCH WHISKY (1970s) - 70 PROOF
Nose: initial notes of red apple with a slight off milk note in the background (which sounds dreadful but it strangely isn't); throughout there's a damp, wooden floor note - if there's an 'old' smell, this might be it; there's a hint of aniseed followed by lemon cake and pencil sharpenings; the juxtaposition between fresh, lively aromas mixed with old, well-worn notes is quite unusual.
Palate: there's a creamy texture; plenty of white chocolate notes together with vanilla fudge; this is quite sweet to start; there's a slight hint of cinnamon followed by notes of red apple, lemon bon bons and lemon icing; this is much more balanced on the palate than the nose; there's a hint of fresh ginger on the finish which is quite drying and also quite short.
Overall: Well worth the 50 or so quid I paid for this at auction. Look out for these wee gems and get bidding. Just not against me though.
Fancy joining us on the Leith Whisky Trail to try some more old whisky of yesteryear? Book your place here: BOOK NOW. If you can't make any of these dates in July or August, feel free to get in touch and we'll see what we can arrange: CONTACT US.
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