The Glenfiddich Festival Experiment is back. What started as a thank you to 350 members of the Scottish on-trade in 2017 is gearing up for a bigger and better round two. Hosted at the single malt’s spiritual home in Dufftown, Glenfiddich will be opening its doors to 850 members of the hospitality industry and beyond.
The two-day festival includes a stellar line-up of music acts, with Razorlight and Example taking to the main stage, as well as last year’s crowd favourites Twin Atlantic making a return, all supported by up-and-coming Scottish artists across the weekend. The full line-up will be revealed in the lead up to the festival.
As a backing track to the main stage, there will be non-stop entertainment throughout the festival. Additional artists can be found at The Forest Stage, along with an incredible selection of local street food vendors from The Pitt, distillery tours, live comedy from Gary Little and Leo Kearse, and a newly added Acoustic Lounge.
Mark Thomson, Glenfiddich’s Ambassador to Scotland, commented: “Last year the Glenfiddich Festival Experiment was just that, an experiment. We honestly had no idea how the event would go, but the result was truly epic. So it was a no brainer to bring it back in 2018. This year is going to be bigger and better than ever, so if you want to attend, get in touch!”
Gwilym Cooke, Senior Brand Manager at Glenfiddich, added: “Experimentation is at the heart of all we do, and bartenders play a key role in bringing our experimental story to whisky-lovers across the country. The Glenfiddich Festival Experiment is our way of thanking bartenders for their continued support of our brand, and we’re happy to be able to host them for another year of festivities at our home in Dufftown.”
This year’s festival is open to members of the on-trade from across the UK and anyone interested in attending The Glenfiddich Festival Experiment #2 should contact their local Glenfiddich representative.
The Glenfiddich Festival Experiment #2 will take place at the Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown from Sunday 9th – Tuesday 11th September, 2018.
William Grant & Sons UK brand, Glenfiddich, the World’s Most Awarded Single Malt Whisky, launches the Glenfiddich Experimental series, a new range that combines the brand’s passion for pushing Scotch Whisky boundaries and collaborating with trailblazers from the whisky world and beyond. Glenfiddich can do this because boldness is in their DNA: they are still family run and owned after 130 years, they started the entire single malt category and they are the World’s Most Awarded single malt, no wonder they are called the Maverick Whisky Makers of Dufftown. The Glenfiddich Experimental Series is designed to inspire unusual and unexpected variants, and today sees the unveiling of two new innovative expressions:
Glenfiddich IPA Experiment: The first single malt Scotch whisky finished in IPA craft beer casks Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman created the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment in collaboration with a local Speyside craft brewer, who shares a passion for innovative flavours. They worked together to pioneer a new single malt Scotch whisky imbued with zesty citrus and tangy hops from the oak casks that had previously held a bold Speyside IPA. In the process of Glenfiddich crafting a new whisky of the Experimental Series, the pair also created a new IPA craft beer.
To pioneer a new malt, the collaborators first had to design and create a new IPA craft beer that would go into whisky casks, which would later be used to finish the first experimental variant. The intensive experimental process involved creating three separate brews of different strengths and levels of hops. Brian seasoned up to nine American oak casks at a time with the IPA brews, varying the time the IPA craft beer spent penetrating into the oak casks, before filling the casks back up with whisky to access the flavour profiles.
“The idea behind the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment was quite unusual but one we were passionate about – we wanted to really play with the flavours to see what we could create. Glenfiddich’s first whisky finished in IPA craft beer casks is testament to us challenging ourselves to produce something vibrant and unusual. The result is a liquid with a zesty citrus note followed by soft, sweet vanilla and ahint of fresh hops. The innovative flavour comes from carefully hand selecting the right malt whiskies to complement the extra hoppy notes.”– Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman
Project XX: Created by 20 of the world’s greatest Glenfiddich Experts
Project XX (pronounced ‘twenty’) is the result of one of the most ambitious malt experiments of Glenfiddich’s 130-year history. The expression is the collaboration between the 20 Glenfiddich Brand Ambassadors from 16 countries from all over the world and Brian Kinsman, who developed one unexpected, extraordinary whisky by bringing together 20 very special single malts.
Going against normal whisky conventions, Brian invited the ambassadors to explore and each select a cask from a warehouse at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown. Many of these ambassadors are the foremost experts on Glenfiddich in their respective countries, introducing single malts to whisky connoisseurs, enthusiasts and novices, imparting knowledge and information. Brian’s ambition was to create one remarkable single malt, by combining the curiosity and knowledge of these 20 experts.
This freedom of choice resulted in a 20-strong collection of some of the most unusual whiskies from Glenfiddich’s unrivalled stocks, amassed and carefully nurtured throughout the brand’s 130-year history. After each expert had chosen a single cask, from aged malts matured in port pipes to ancient sherry butts and first fill bourbon casks, Brian skillfully produced the final variant to reflect their individual tastes and interests. Expertly married together in a small batch vatting, the final flavour profile defined even his expectations.
“The final liquid was exceptional – and a special tribute to each individual cask the malts came from. The Glenfiddich Project XX we’relaunching today is a recreation of that initial small vatting. It has the warm summer fruity character of a classic Glenfiddich but thenits ‘multiple personalities’ are revealed as the flavours of candy floss, cinnamon spice, almonds and rich port tannins kick in withthe odd hint of liquorice.”– Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman
There are only a few times in your “whisky life” that you get to do something so creative as to develop a whisky that will eventually carry the Glenfiddich family name – Project XX is one of those rare moments.
When the 20 Glenfiddich ambassadors from around the world gathered in Dufftown, they each had their own idea of what they wanted to add to the whisky. This led us all on a crusade to choose oak casks that reflected the consensus of the group. To witness Brian’s undeniable skill to marry them into something with deep concentrated flavours, yet with such unmistakable finesse and DNA of our distillery, was magical. – Glenfiddich UK Brand Ambassador, Mark Thomson
The Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, at ABV 43%, 70cl, will be available in Tesco’s and specialist whisky stores at £45.00 from 6th September and the Glenfiddich Project XX at ABV 47%, 70cl, will be available from specialist whisky stores nationwide from September at £50.00.
Ian Millar, Global Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich, is taking up a newly created role of Prestige Whisky Specialist for William Grant & Sons, based at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown.
Ian has spent the last decade as global brand ambassador for the World’s Most Awarded Single Malt, building love and desire for Glenfiddich around the world with consumers, bartenders, whisky collectors and connoisseurs, journalists and bloggers. Ian will now be giving his well-travelled passport a rest as he takes on a crucial role in delivering world class whisky experiences at the distillery.
Enda O’ Sullivan, Global Brand Director for Glenfiddich said: “On behalf of the entire team, I would like to sincerely thank Ian for his many achievements and accomplishments over ten years as global brand ambassador and I have no doubt he will continue to be a success in his new role. During Ian’s tenure Glenfiddich has gone from strength to strength and he has played a pivotal role in helping to grow the World’s Most Awarded Single Malt in to what it has become today.”
Ian said: “After ten years of sharing the joys of Glenfiddich around the world it`s time to step back into a role that will give me more time with my family. I have enjoyed my time as global ambassador immensely I will miss working with the various teams and in particular our world class team of ambassadors. They can’t get rid of me that easily however and I’m very much looking forward to the new role as the prestige whisky specialist for the company.”
Ian has over 40 years’ experience in Scotch whisky, having worked for a number of distillers in various technical and production roles, including mashing, distillation and warehousing before joining William Grant & Sons, where he was distillery manager for both Glenfiddich and The Balvenie before embarking on his journey as global brand ambassador.
Ian will commence his new role on March 1st 2016 and the search to fill Ian’s very large shoes has begun. The aim is to recruit Ian’s successor from within William Grant & Sons’ team of ambassadors.
Everyone has their opinion, but when it comes to a blended whisky, opinion is very much divided. It’s more down to stigma I think, and the fact that many pubs and bars back in the day only really stocked the blends because they were cheap and satisfactory. These days however, they are so much more. Blends have now been branded as superb, exciting, and even one has been targeted towards that fickle age group of trends in young adults.
Monkey Shoulder came to light in 2005 from the family of William Grant & Sons. Experts in whisky themselves, they are home to such names as Glenfiddich and The Balvenie, with the Kininvie Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland the location of William Gran & Sons blended malts alongside fellow blend Clan Macgregor.
The adventure of Monkey Shoulder and the following it has gained stems from the selection of three of the Speyside’s malts and mature them in ex Bourbon barrels. The length of maturation is unknown, but Malt Master David Stewart will choose the best 27 batches and start the blending process after testing each one. Once blended, it is further aged before being bottled and stamped with the signature metal monkeys.
Speaking of the monkeys, how did the name come about?
Monkey Shoulder refers to a temporary injury suffered to the malt men who turned the barley by hand. Of course, these days the injury has been consigned to the history books, although William Grant & Sons still having a malt floor.
So how does the Monkey fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Monkey Shoulder – 40%
Soft fruit nose with hints of citrus and vanilla. Smooth on the palate with a slight spice lingering. Sweet toffee flavours mix with the vanilla nicely to create a long finish.
A tried and tested cocktail also brings out the Monkey Shoulder superbly –
Martini / Rocks
50 ml Monkey Shoulder
25 ml Sweet Vermouth
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
2 Dashes Angostura Orange Bitters
10 ml Grand Marnier
In a mixing glass, stir all the ingredients together until ice-cold. Strain into an ice-cold Martini / rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge & fresh cherry.
Two great ways of enjoying this blend. Monkey Shoulder is a mainstay when it comes to an introductory whisky. Perfect for those who have never tried or want to get into whisky, but don’t want to ruin their experience by heading for something harsh. Monkey Shoulder ticks all the boxes, so give it a go!
The last of the distillery tours from our Scotland trip was Glenfiddich’s sister distillery, The Balvenie. Located just down the road from Glenfiddich, we were able to visit soon after finishing the Glenfiddich tour, where David Mair, the Balvenie distillery ambassador, greeted us. The Balvenie distillery is hidden away a little from the main road, but the shear size of the place comes into view, mainly due to the fact that Balvenie are part of a rare breed, they have their own malting floor, and are the only Scottish distillery who do it ‘traditionally’, which is a sight to be seen.
The malting floor was our first port of call, with David explaining that they use barley from the Balvenie Mains farm. He took us into a huge building which comprised of two floors. The top floor housed the newly brought in barley, where it is stored for a period of time and then steeped in spring water for 2-3 days. It then gets dropped down onto the germination floor where it is spread around by the malt men (or malt monkeys). This allows the barley to convert into natural sugars, and is turned by the four malt monkeys so that all the barley can get an even chance to germinate. Once the grains have sprouted, they’re transported back upstairs and across to the malt kiln. The malt is spread across a metal floor where a fire below, using anthracite and, to begin with, a small amount of peat, heats up the malt. All the resulting heat passes through the barley, and then out through the pagoda roof, a staple for all whisky distilleries. We were lucky to visit the malt kiln, as it had yet to be used since the re-start of the New Year production. The wooden beams towering above were covered in barley, and the strong smell of dry barley and peat was still lingering around despite the winter winds blowing through the pagoda roof.
David then showed us the underneath of the malt kiln, where their were piles of anthracite and peat, ready to be thrown in to heat the kiln above.
Once dried, the malt is then transported to the next building, housing the mash tun. First however, the malt is grinded through rollers and turned into grist. It’s then mixed into the mash tun with spring water from the nearby Conval Hills and is heated to around 63-64°C. This is done three times so it can extract all the sugars present. The result of the heat turns the mixture of starch into fermentable sugars, or wort. where David then took us to one of two rooms that held the washbacks. Each washback is 5 metres high, and combines the wort with yeast, which rises the temperature and the production of carbon dioxide. We were shown how the washbacks are never full, despite a layer of foam being produced from the reaction, rotating blades attached to the top of the lid of the washback help keep the level consistent. The process takes around 2-3 days and has a ABV of around 7-9%. We were able to taste a little from one of the washbacks, as at this stage it’s very similar to the production of beer. It gave a rather hot, very malty taste which, as you can imagine, gave very little taste to roam on the palate.
The next room housed the 6 copper pot stills. A very warm room, David showed the pipes that run the wash from the washbacks to one of the copper wash stills, where it is then heated, causing the alcohol vapour to rise up the neck and into the condenser where it is cooled by water. This liquifies the alcohol and is known as low wines. Once ready for the second distillation, a mixture of the low wines, foreshots and faints are heated up and again the alcohol vapours rise. The foreshots and faints are from a previous distillation, the parts that were not deemed pure enough, and is taken from the spirit safe where the stillman decides which is the purest portion of the spirit run. Once the ‘heart’, or new-make spirit, has been taken away, it is then ready to be matured in casks.
First though, we hopped in to a Land Rover and made our way to Balvenie’s own cooperage. Housed in a giant warehouse, they maintain all the casks so that they are ready to be used for the maturation process. All stages of the cooperage were their, including re-firing the inside of American oak barrels and making sure the barrels have no leaks from the reassembly. Outside, their were literally hundreds of barrels stacked tall, all ready for our next port of call, the warehouse.
We were driven to the famed ‘Warehouse 24’, where the dark, cold environment masked around rows of different aged barrels. David explained that Balvenie use American oak barrels as well as European sherry oak, which when married together to create their range, give off the flavours that Malt Master David Stewart is after.
Then the part that we had all been waiting for, the chance to sample The Balvenie range. Laid out to us in The Balvenie hut were DoubleWood, Signature, Single Barrel, PortWood, Tun 1401 Batch 2 and Peated Cask. So i present to you below my tasting notes:
Balvenie Signature 12yr – 40%
Matured first in bourbon, then refill bourbon and finally in sherry casks. On the nose, a very soft aroma of corn with honey and vanilla essences coming through later. The palate enjoys dried fruit balanced out with a soft spice that drives into a warm honey after-taste.
Balvenie DoubleWood 12yr – 40%
Starting its maturation in a traditional whisky cask, it is then transferred to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Sweet, rich aromas of fruit and honey mix together in your nose, but mellowing out into a smooth blend of raisin, nut and a slight cinnamon hint.
Balvenie Single Barrel 15yr – 47.8%
Created using only a single oak whisky cask of a single distillation. Each bottling forms a limited edition of no more than 350 hand-numbered bottles, meaning each bottle is unique and unrepeatable! The nose of soft corn and citrus with heather blended well in the nose and made its way onto the palate in the same manner, but a kick of oak and spiced apple hits you at the end. Sam recommended adding a drop of water to the dram, which gave it a spicier longer after-taste.
Balvenie PortWood 21yr – 40%
A blend of rare Balvenie is moved to port casks to create a strong yet fresh floral aroma with sweet notes and a hint of smoke on the nose. An extremely smooth and creamy flavour of fruit and honey on the palate.
Balvenie Peated Cask 17yr – 43%
Hints of smoke and soft peat blend gently on the nose, with a slow subtle hintness on peat on the palate mixing with vanilla. Short spice aftertaste with a sweetness lingering.
Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 4- 50.5%
Taking its name from the traditional tun in which it’s married, a blend of 7 traditional whisky casks and 3 sherry butts ranging from 1967 to 1989 give off a heavy oak nose with slight smokyness mixed with oranges and a ‘old warehouse’ smell. An instant sweetness hits the palate which gets the juice buds flowing into a long blend of dried fruits, spice and slight hints of peat that mellows nicely.
So the last of the distillery tours was a lengthy yet intricate view of Scotlands only malt floor distillery, with a real appreciation from all the visits of how whisky is created. I can now talk about whisky with more confidence now i’ve see the sheer scale of the equipment used, the climates the workers work in and length of time whisky takes to get to our lips in a bar or restaurant. If you ever get the chance to visit any distillery, it’s highly recommended, even if whisky isn’t for you. It’s a fascinating experience, and one that i will defently be doing next year.
Check out the rest of the photos of the distillery including Warehouse 24, the malt floor, the malt kiln and the cooperage here.
OTHER THE BALVENIE EXPRESSIONS
Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 5 – 50.1%
Blended together in a vat consisting of 5 whisky casks and 4 sherry butts. A bold start with lots of sherry and spice mixing well. Very spicy from the beginning once it hits the palate. Mouth-watering with a sweet yet light flavour of vanilla. A long, smooth finish that dries a little at the end.
Check out photos from The Balvenie Master of Craft via my Facebook page.
The third distillery of my Scotland tour was a visit to the world’s most awarded Single Malt Scotch whisky, Glenfiddich. Taking a short walk from Dufftown, the malt whisky capital of the world, in rather blustery conditions, we arrived to a rather picturesque setting. With mowed lawns, lakes and wide open spaces, it was as if you were walking in to someones front garden! Greeted by Katya, our tour guide for the morning, we started out with a brief talk on Glenfiddich itself, including the history of William Grant and his dream in 1886 of creating ‘the best dram in the valley’. She explained that William Grant had the use of one stonemason to build the distillery, using 750,ooo stones and only a year later, with the help from his 7 sons and 2 daughters, Glenfiddich distillery was up and running with the first drops flowing from the stills on Christmas Day 1887. To expand the ever growing vision, Charles Gordan (William Grants son-in-law) in 1909 travelled from as far as Lahore in Pakistan to the vast empire of China and to countires like Brazil and Hong Kong inbetween to make sure that Glenfiddich could be enjoyed by everyone world wide (over 180 countries enjoy Glenfiddich to this day). Glenfiddich is still owned by the William Grant & Sons company, with 5th generation Peter Gordon taking the helm since 2008.
We made our way to the ‘Lauter Tun’, where Katya showed us the malt that Glenfiddich use. Specialist maltsters are used due to the high demand, where barley is steeped in fresh water for two days. The reaction of germination occurs where it is then left for four to five days before being dried. Glenfiddich then take delivery of the malt barley and taken to be mashed. The malted barley is grinded into grist which is then poured into huge ‘mash tuns’. These huge steaming vats combine Robbie Dhu spring water from the nearby Conval Hills where it is then slowly rotated using a set of mash knives that lift and sift the mash to ensure the sugar doesn’t settle. The hot spring water completes the conversion of the starch to sugar, which dissolves into the water, producing a sweet liquid called ‘wort’. The whole process takes around six hours later. The next stage involves the draining of the mash tun and once cooled, it is pumped to the fermentation room. Katya mentioned that the ‘draff’, which is the left over barley from the mashing process – is sold to local farmers to feed to their cattle.
We entered the fermentation room where lines of wooden ‘washbacks’ house the wort. All of the washbacks are made from Douglas fir and stand at 5 metres high. Yeast is added to the wort which raises the temperature from around 19°C to about 33°C. The resulting carbon dioxide gas created by the reaction creates a hot frothing head to the wort. This creates a layer of foam that takes up around a metre from the top of the washback and has to be kept down with mechanical beaters. After spending around 64 hours fermenting, a ‘wash’ is created, with an ABV of 8-9%.
Katya then showed us to one of the warmer rooms on the Glefiddich site, the still house. 14 copper pot stills are housed in the heart of the Glenfiddich distillation. She explained that if any of the stills become damaged or are deemed out of action, a cast of the still is made so that the exact same still can be made again for continuity of the flavour each one produces. Each still is heated by ‘directed firing’, a huge flame that is located underneath the still, which causes the alcohol from the wash to rise and turn into vapour. As the vapour rises, its guided towards the neck of the copper still and is collected in the condenser. Cold water condenses the vapour into an intermediate liquid, known as ‘low wines’. The low wines contains around 21% ABV and are pumped to smaller ‘spirit stills’ and heated again. The vapourised alcohol rises again and trickles down into the spirit safe. Here, the spirit can be controlled and the stillman then decides the ‘heart’ of the distillation which is chosen for maturation. This new batch is reduced to around 63% alcohol with the natural spring water from the Robbie Dhu springs, and then filled into oak casks.
Katya took us to one of the warehouses, a damp, dark and very cold store that housed row upon row of various aged casks. Glenfiddich only use one time filled sherry and bourbon barrels because the oak helps mature the whisky and create subtle flavours. Katya mentioned that they sometimes char the inside of the cask with a blast of fire to re-open the grain of the wood. This aparantly allows the Scotch whisky to interact more easily with it. Also, around 2% of the whisky is evaporated each year because of the climate that Glenfiddich endures.
When the spirit has matured to requirement, the casks are emptied and the whisky is ‘cut’ using pure Robbie Dhu spring water. This reduces the alcohol by volume once more to around 40% ABV and then nearly all of the Glenfiddich range is then bottled on site at Glenfiddich.
The final part of the tour was to enjoy the work that Glenfiddich create. We entered a rather grand room with a round table laid out in the middle. Here, 12yr, 15yr, 18yr and 21yr waited for our approval. So below, I present to you my tasting notes on each:
Glenfiddich12yr – 40%
A pre-dinner drink, on the nose it gave off a fresh pear aroma with a lemon and lime citrus follow through that gave the 12yr a rather fresh smell. Upon tasting it gives you an instant mouth-watering sensation with the pear coming through stronger with a sweet surrounding. Hints of malt are thrown in for good measure although the pear is clearly the dominant flavour. A slight spice tingles your mouth but it gives a smooth finish that lasts for a good few seconds.
Glenfiddich 15yr – 40%
The Glenfiddich 15yr is matured in three casks – sherry, bourbon and new oak and the process is called the Solera system. Because of this, the aromas coming out are softer than the 12yr, with hints of vanilla and honey blended together. You get a warm tingle to begin with when tasted, with the sherry oak flavours coming through followed by the ginger and cinnamon. It leaves you with a pleasant smoothness 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 18yr – 40%
On the nose, the 18yr gives you a rich fruit aroma with an almost spiced rum effect. The spice becomes a little gentler upon tasting with the flavours of the fruit coming out with the mix of oak to give this a slight warm yet gentle short finish. With a little splash of water, you get a smoother drink although the spice remains.
Glenfiddich 21yr – 40%
The Glenfiddich 21yr spends 4 months in a Caribbean rum cask to give a strong and intense banana and toffee aroma with hints of leather and a rich sweet follow-through. Upon tasting, it enters your mouth rather smooth with a slight smokiness and ginger and lime extracts. It leaves you with a long warmth after-taste with subtle spice hints.
For other Glenfiddich expressions, click here.Yet another fantastic insight into the workings of a whisky distillery, where after visiting two already, both myself and my father started to understand the lenghty process that is endured to create something that is sometimes just taken for granted. I’ll be back!
Take a look at the rest of the photos taken at the distillery here.