Glenfiddich is a staple in the whisky world. Seen by thousands, stocked in venues you frequent and no doubt in many a drinks cabinet at home, the brand is a pioneer in to be fair not only the world of whisky, but spirits in general.
For me, Glenfiddich will always have a certain place in my very own drinks cabinet, primarily due to it being one of the first ever distilleries I visited nearly 3 years ago, but also the willingness that the brand offers towards my work in developing the image of whisky and the versatility that comes with it, seen within the Malt Mastermind cocktail competition. It’s with this that I’ve taken a new look into the brand and replaced my original piece written back in 2012. So without further delay, lets head to Dufftown.
Dufftown is seen as the malt whisky capital of the world, located within the Speyside region of the Scotch whisky world. With its brother The Balvenie next door, it thrives as one of only a few family owned distilleries in existence, with William Grants & Sons still at the helm. William Grant had a dream in 1886 of creating ‘the best dram in the valley’ and looked to just one stonemason to build the distillery, using a staggering 750,000 stones and taking a year to complete. With help from his 7 sons and 2 daughters, the Glenfiddich (Gaelic for Valley of the Deer) distillery became fully functioning, with the first drops from the stills coming on Christmas Day 1887.
1923 saw Prohibition in full swing, but to the surprise of many, William’s grandson Grant Gordon increased the whisky production in view of the ban ending. The stroke of luck meant that once the ban was lifted, Glenfiddich were part of only 6 distilleries in Scotland ready to meet the surge. Another vision of genius came in the form of the now iconic triangular bottle, created by designer Hans Schleger in 1961. Two years later, and the world became introduced to not only Glenfiddich, but to single malt whisky. Before this, blended whisky was seen as the dram of choice in all establishments, but the proud Sandy Grant Gordon, great-grandson of William made Glenfiddich the first to be actively promoted outside the Scotland borders.
Innovation flourished again in 1998 as the fifth Malt Master created the Solera Vat, a pioneering process used to craft the 15 year old expression. Three years later, the family released the oldest single malt whisky. Cask 843 was laid down in 1937 and due to natural evaporation (or the Angel’s Share), only 61 bottles could be filled.
A rather cracking bit of history, and it’s amazing to still see it all family owned after so many years. If you wish to find out how Glenfiddich comes about, the methods of production, ageing etc, take a look at my feature on the Glenfiddich Distillery that looks at the time I visited a few years back.
For this feature though, we’re going to look at some of the expressions available within the Glenfiddich range. So below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Glenfiddich 12yr – 40%
Matured in American bourbon and Spanish sherry oak casks for at least 12 years. On the nose you receive fresh pear with citrus notes following. Plenty of fresh aromas. Plenty of pear on the palate with strong flavours coming through. Sweet bursts follow with hints of malt and a slight spice to give a smooth yet short finish.
Glenfiddich Rich Oak – 40%
After 14 years maturing in Spanish oak and American Bourbon casks, the Malt Master selects virgin Spanish and American oak casks to release extra layers of aroma and flavour.
Soft fruit notes on the nose with slight oak whispers. Rather soft and short on the palate, but a fruity offering with rich vanilla thrown in.
Matured in three casks – sherry, bourbon and new oak. Hints of vanilla and honey blended together on the nose. Warm sherry oak flavours coming through on the palate followed by a combination of ginger and cinnamon. A pleasant smoothness on the finish with a sweet, spicy end.
The Glenfiddich Solera system is a unique process amongst Scotch whisky. Glenfiddich 15yr from sherry, bourbon and new oak casks are married together into a large Solera vat, made of Oregon pine. The vat is always kept at least half full, so when topped up, it gives a consistent whisky quality.
Glenfiddich 15yr Non-chill Filtered – 51%
Ripe, fresh fruit on the nose with an aroma of pepper at the end. Rather dry on the palate with spice, rich fruit flavours creating a long finish.
Glenfiddich 18yr – 40%
Spanish Oloroso wood and American oak used to mature. On the nose, rich fruit aromas with wet spices dominate. Gentle spice on the palate, with red fruits and oak producing a warm follow-up to a short finish.
Glenfiddich 18yr Small Batch – % Unknown
Mahogany wood on the nose with wax scents, slight burnt orange and toffee notes. Incredibly smooth on the palate with a viscus texture, light bursts of cherry, honey and oranges creating a lingering, light finish with fresh apricots.
Glenfiddich 21yr – 40%
Spends 4 months in a Caribbean rum cask. Strong, intense banana and toffee aromas with hints of leather and a rich sweet follow-through. A smooth start on the palate with a slight smoke with ginger and lime extracts. Leaves a long warm after-taste with subtle spice hints.
Glenfiddich Excellence 26yr – 43%
A rare single malt Scotch whisky that has spent 26 years maturing in American Oak ex-bourbon casks. Plenty of green apple, cream and almond notes on the nose. Incredibly smooth on the palate, with a developing dry cinnamon cutting through the apple and soft red berry notes. Soft vanilla is also present on the warm lingering finish.
Glenfiddich Age of Discovery – 40%
A 19yr old aged in previously used Madeira wine casks. Deep orange notes on the nose with some hints of grape slowly released. Spice immediately hits the palate, but mellows to a smooth offering of caramel and ginger.
Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve 1974 – 46.8%
Glenfiddich’s first ever vatted Single Reserve. Rich with vanilla on the nose, with fresh hints coming through near the end. Sweet toffee engrosses the palate, with a bold, mouth-watering flavour of honey and spice leads into a long finish.
Glenfiddich 125th Aniversary Edition – 43%
Aromatic scents of wood on the nose, with plenty of ripe fruits following. A good citrus burst on the palate, with a developing richness of malt and sweetness, leading to a whisp of smoke on the finish.
Glenfiddich Malt Master Speyside – 43%
Soft toffee and honey combine on the nose with ripe pears. Very soft on the palate, with sharp fruit, spice and vanilla offered on a short finish.
Glenfiddich Rare Collection 1992 Single Cask Whisky Shop Exclusive – 56.3%
A refill bourbon cask filled on 13th March 1992, the year that The Whisky Shop was founded. Light on the nose with soft wood notes combined with lemon and macadamia nuts. Rich plum flavours combined with a growing black pepper and roasted nuts are present on the palate, with a long, soft kick of plums for a smooth finish.
Glenfiddich The Original – 40%
A limited edition release from Glenfiddich, The Original is based on Hamish Robertson’s 1963 Straight Malt recipe, considered by many to be the world’s first single malt.
Light notes upon the nose of soft fruits, followed by a subtle sea salt. Thick on the palate, yet offers a light, fresh sherry flavour that begins a long, warm, slightly dry finish with white pepper and oak notes.
The Experimental Series:
The Experimental Series from Glenfiddich is said to embody the family philosophy of freedom and possibilities, to create a range of ground-breaking single malts. 2016 saw the release of their first pioneering expression in the series: The IPA Experiment. In collaboration with IPA expert, Seb Jones, they created an innovative new craft ale and bespoke IPA barrels, to finish their single malt. Also released is their second, most ambitious expression to date: Project XX (Pronounced Twenty). This unusual single malt combines the top picks of their warehouse from 20 industry experts, to create an exceptional single malt.
Glenfiddich IPA Experiment – 43%
Toasted seasoned oak on the nose, with soft hops and subtle green fruits appearing. Those same green fruits follow to the palate, with hints of citrus creating a mouth-watering effect that leads to a bold, fresh finish of vanilla.
Glenfiddich Project XX – 47%
Subtle green fruits on the nose, with light oats following. A sweet orange rind appears on the palate, releasing a sharp tip of the tongue that turns into red berries and white pepper waves. A long, bold finish of almond and sweet oak.
A stunning range with some great limited editions and unique expressions. More than one surely worthy of a place within your drinks cabinet. The legacy of Glenfiddich is, to me, proven with the standing the brand has to this day and the opportunity to release more expressions that stand up to rival Speyside brands who contribute in the same market.
I suppose what I should outright say is, there’s a reason for the brand to be well-known. The spirits produced are exceptional.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.