Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Glenfiddich: A Masterclass

Glenfiddich Distillery
I am a huge fan of Glenfiddich. Yes, they are the world's best selling single malt whisky. Yes, they are available in pretty much every pub, supermarket and off-licence from Scunthorpe through to Kensington. And yes, they are available worldwide. BUT! I argue. They are vastly misrepresented because of this proliferation. After being introduced to whisky by drinking Talisker and Laphroaig with my Dad, I drank Glenfiddich with mates in a variety of pubs. My point? I drink such a wide range of whiskies now, but it wouldn't be without the Glenfiddich 12 year old that I could have begun to afford to do this.

Stage One. Glenfiddich 12 year old with friends in rural pubs in sleepy but largely drunk Shropshire. Stage Two. I'm nineteen in a whisky bar in Edinburgh with limited funds and I try my first highly aged whisky. It's the Glenfiddich 30 year old; I begin to appreciate 'fine' whisky. Stage Three. I work in the whisky trade I sample the Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix... life is perfect. Glenfiddich for all its availability remains for me a motorway to whisky appreciation. So, yes, I will continue to drink whiskies from small, exciting distilleries. Yes, I will continue to drink obscure cask-strength bottlings. And, yes, I will continue to drink Glenfiddich because it represents two important facets of whiskies. One, it is accessible and affordable which invites new acolytes into our glorious world. Two, as demonstrated with bottlings like the Age of Discovery and the Snow Phoenix, it's rather damn good.

A selection of the stills
at Glenfiddich
Glenfiddich is a rather large distillery, boasting twenty-eight stills of three different shapes. It is still family owned which is something of a triumph for the world's number one single malt. To cap it off the family's blend, the renowned Grant's, is the third largest blend in the world. Despite all of this there is ingenuity within the company, demonstrated with the superb Solera Vat and Rich Oak bottlings. The first using the Spanish/Portugese system that means the vat is always left at least half full (potentially some whisky from the first dosage is still in there; fast forward fifteen years...); the latter uses virgin American and Spanish oak for excellent results. So yes we've all tried an array of delights from casks from Islay to Japan but where would we be without that Glenfiddich 12 year old in that pub smelling discreetly of cabbage and pumping power ballads out of the jukebox; I'd argue not here. Not in a world of singe casks and a whsky boom. So here's to Glenfiddich - the beginning!

I was lucky... quite a while back. Steve Rush of that there Whisky Wire invited me to a Twitter Twasting to try not one.. not two.. not even three.. but four Glenfiddich whiskies. I was happy to join, but curse my luck I had to host another tasting elsewhere and could not participate. Still, I am armed with the whiskies so a tasting is well in order! To top off my good luck, Jamie Milne of that there Glenfiddich kindly invited me to my Almer Mater's big brother, Boisdale of Canary Wharf, to taste a few more of this Speyside distillery's delights. So here follows a lot of tasting notes...

Firstly the Twitter Tasting samples:

Glenfiddich 12 Year Old
40% - Distillery Bottled
Nose: Nutty caramel at first, becoming vinous with stewed pears to compliment. With time a gooseberry element appears.
Palate: Soft and sweet with a slight bite. Biscuit and spice pleasantly massage the palate.
Finish: Malty with oaky vanilla and spice.
Overall: This is a whisky that has so much going for it, and is as great a Scotch for beginners as it is for the veteran wanting a relaxing dram.

Glenfiddich Solera Vat
40% - 15 Years Old - Distillery Bottled
Nose: Orange rind, raisins and currants, vanilla pods, mixed spice. After this Christmas cake fanfare there are pleasing notes of cider.
Palate: A burst of spice and fruitcake, very sweet, very rich. Then I get a suggestion of smoke?
Finish: Gentle oak, Christmas cake dough, stewed apples and dark brown sugar. A long finish becoming creamy and spicier with time.
Overall: I think this long tasting note says it all, a great whisky. Plus the use of the Solera system promises plenty for the future!

Glenfiddich 18 Year Old
40% - Distillery Bottled
Nose: Chocolate cake topped with fudge, on a bed of stewed pears scattered with mincemeat.
Palate: Rich Christmas pudding notes followed with plain chocolate and ground coffee. Finally some of that pear from the nose spins in.
Finish: Very gentle but lengthy with light spice, cinnamon maybe.
Overall: This whisky is more elegant than the above and arguably more refined. A pleasing dram that presents its age nicely but not as exciting as the Solera Vat.

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery
40% - 19 Years Old - Madeira Casks
Nose: In the nicest possible way; cheap dark chocolate. Then there is a storm of nutmeg, stewing Bramley apples metamorphing into Granny Smith's, and a dusting of cinnamon.
Palate: Intense rich stewed fruits with a fair dollop of wood spice. On top of this there is orange zest and essence of a sweet shop.
Finish: Chocolatey, with light fleshy fruit and in time sour sweets provide a fantastic encore.
Overall: A really interesting whisky here, I don't usually appreciate Madeira finishes, but the Age of Discovery demonstrates their use excellently. If I was nitpicking I'd argue for a higher ABV to give this great whisky more weight, but I quite like that Glenfiddich flys the bottle-strength flag proudly!

And the ones Jamie Milne kindly allowed me to try:

Glenfiddich Rich Oak
40% - 14 Years Old - Virgin American and Spanish Oak
Nose: Clear new oak influence, fresh orange juice and peel, leading to dominant vanilla and dried apple. With time - oat cake notes develop.
Palate: Very creamy, focussing on vanilla and lime zest flavours; with the oak perpetuating throughout.
Finish: Masses of oak here, with tempting hazelnut nuances on top.
Overall: The new make spirit really comes through. This dram is evidently oaky but the virgin wood influence never destroys the balance of the palate.

Glenfiddich Distillery Edition
51% - 15 Years Old
Nose: Grapes and gooseberries join a floral nose with strong yet clean vanilla notes.
Palate: Ginger and black pepper immersed in blackberries.
Finish: Ashy at first but followed by blackcurrant jelly and dried berry fruits.
Overall: The unusually high ABV is excellently disguised. This whisky tastes very different from the distillery norm but is very good for it.

Glenfiddich Gran Reserva
40% - 21 Years Old - Rum Cask
Nose: Banana with light heathery floral notes doused in brown sugar and heaps of figs and dates.
Palate: Fruity and peppery; with lime highlights and hints of anise and spearmint.
Finish: Citrus limes notes dominate with cardamon spice and a distinct fruitiness.
Overall: Intriguing; this Glenfiddich offers something different again, like the Distillery Edition. This whisky adds something once again to the Glenfiidich range.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Angus,

    The Carnival is over! Back to work tomorrow. Enjoyed your Glenfiddich post. Just bought the 12 and the 15 years in the Free Shop so I will be reviewing them shortly.
    Hope all is well.