Mar 062017

William Grant and Sons has a brilliant marketing department.  Having two widely sold single malt distilleries in Speyside (I’m leaving Kininvie out of this post, as it’s really a blender for Grant’s), they have each catering to a different demographic. While Balvenie caters to the whisky anorak crowd, and does so successfully – despite my own misgivings about targeting that crowd with expressions at 40% ABV, a habit that is thankfully changing with the newer releases – as a boutique distillery, Glenfiddich caters to the masses.

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Indeed, until two years ago, Glenfiddich was the top selling single malt in the world, and despite losing that title to The Glenlivet, is nevertheless not only an entry malt, but one of the most accessible whiskies on the market. Anoraks tend to snub at Glenfiddich, but I have claimed before and do so again that this is the presentation that’s chill filtered and low ABV, and not the whisky. There is no doubt in my mind that Glenfiddich straight out of the cask is excellent, and the (sadly too few) tastings I’ve had of Glenfiddich at cask strength have confirmed that.

This expression is a travel retail exclusive, and has been out since 2014.


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Glenfiddich Rare Oak 25 Years Old (43% ABV)

Appearance: Pale bronze, thin and rather slow legs peeling off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Red apple and yellow pear, oak, it’s somewhat waxy, very sweet wood spices, it gets more sour and dry as it sits in the glass.

Palate: Spicy, with wood tannin bitterness. The age shows on the palate. Under the spice is a layer of sweetness, but it’s very mild. This is by no means a sweet dram. There’s a hint of dusty sherry there, but not more than a hint.

Linger: Predominantly bitter, yet not the citrus kind, rather more a woody kind. The bitterness is very dry, and  sits in a ring from the base of the tongue up the palate and to the back of the throat. The bitterness was almost too strong, even for me (and that’s saying a lot about bitterness), The finish is long with that bitterness, pepper, some sage and a hint of milk chocolate. The dryness will be with you for a long time.


On the one hand, this is a very well crafted whisky, on the other hand, some of its components need some softening. I think I’d add either a little more sherry influence, or possibly use some whisky from some less active casks to tone it down. Of course, one would assume that most of this whisky is from less active casks in the first place, if the whisky sat in them for a quarter of a century, but I would definitely tweak it a bit.

If, however, you’re traveling and have your mind set on getting a 25 year old from William Grant, get this one over the Balvenie Triple Cask 25 any day of the week!

Thanks Ishai for the dram. Slainte mate!

Jan 172015

Like so many other maltheads, I began my whisky journey with the Glenfiddich. It was 1976 or 1977, I was in second or third grade, and my father came back from a business trip with the Glenfiddich single malt. It must have been the Special Reserve, as I remember the bottle and tube very clearly.

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I was in love. But for many years my curiosity didn’t take me full blown into the wonderful world of malt, although it was always “my drink”. Just five years ago, it would have still been “my drink” (well, I did move up to the 15 by then), but I had not yet ventured beyond Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and the Macallan, that only happened in my 40s.

Funny, because until tasting it again yesterday to take notes for this post, the last time I had a Glenfiddich 12 must have been about 3 years ago…How palates evolve. Nevertheless, there’s something about this single malt, watered down and one dimensional as it is, that feels like coming home. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. I wonder what it’s like at cask strength, non chill filtered and uncolored (I did have a 15 year old at cask strength, but that’s for another post).

In any event, this is the classic beginner’s single malt, and given that every sixth bottle of single malt sold in the world is a Glenfiddich, more often than not, this is the first, or one of the first malts a new initiate will meet.

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Glenfiddich 12 (40% ABV)

Appearance: Gold, legs are quick and thick.

Nose: Green apples, creamy malt, honey and cinnamon. Not complex, but very clear.

Palate: Citrus, honey, heather and light indistinct spices. Smooth and easy to drink.

Linger: Medium with honey on the tongue and spice on the top of the palate.


While not a whisky that would satisfy an experienced palate, it’s pretty much what you’d expect of a gateway malt. Fruity and light, it has nothing with which to assault any of your senses, which is obviously why it remains a gateway malt.

I already said this once about Glenfiddich, but it bears repeating: Whisky bloggers and their readers are not the target market for this whisky, and as such, our preferences (higher ABV, no filtration) has always fallen, and will continue to fall, on deaf ears. And you know what? When it comes to Glenfiddich, they’re right. It’s The Balvenie where William Grant and Sons drop the ball. But that was the subject of yesterday’s post.

Jul 182014

This is the first mass market Glenfiddich foray into sherry casks. My excited first thought was “wow, here’s a sherry bomb from Glenfiddich”, and this is, indeed, the most interesting of the Cask Collection trio. This dram suffers, however, from two flaws, probably owning to the low ABV, chill filtration and coloring, which succeed in toning down some of the more classic sherry notes and highlighting the relatively generic “sweetness” I mentioned in my review of the Vintage Cask and the Select Cask.

Photo Credit: Glenfiddich

Photo Credit: Glenfiddich

This expression is, by far, the most interesting of the three, and has the most potential. I’d absolutely LOVE to taste this expression at natural cask strength (and obviously non chill filtered and with no artificial coloring), and I think that at cask strength this could be the expression to bring  the malt maniacs (back?) into the fold. Of course, I have previously ranted about the fact that Glenfiddich probably has no interest in bringing us into its fold, but I won’t go back into that.

Glenfiddich Reserve Cask (40% ABV)

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Color: Light bronze, quick and thick legs.

Nose: Oloroso sherry jumps up at you, with hints of sulfur and balsamic vinegar yet with the expected sherry nose of sultana raisins and dried fruit are somewhat toned down.

Palate: The basic barley sugar sweetness found in the other Cask Collection expressions, some sherry notes, with oloroso coming through. Notes of Coca-Cola (yes, you read that right…) and sugar water with a faint sulfuric note.

Linger: Long on the tongue and the back of the throat, with that generic sugar water sweetness lingering.



All three Cask Collection expressions are variants on the same theme. Different brush strokes on the same canvass. All three are drinkable, but none will rock your world. This expression – the Reserve Cask – has some promise, and at at a significantly higher ABV could be a fascinating dram. What a shame it is that only Brian Kinsman gets that pleasure – and I would ask Mr. Kinsman to please share it with us.



Jul 172014

The Select Cask is a single malt blending of ex bourbon, ex European oak and red wine casks. As I mentioned in the first post in the series, all three expressions in this series share an underlying sweetness, and are generally very gentle drams.

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With no further ado, I’ll review the Select Cask.


Glenfiddich Select Cask (40% ABV)

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Color: Straw, Quick and thick legs

Nose: Very warm nose, vinegar (not exactly the balsamic you get from some sherry matured whisky), hay, malt. After a bit of time the vinegar is almost overpowering with sake notes (Japanese rice wine).

Palate: Honey, barley sugar, hints of mango. The palate is not overly complex.

Linger: Medium on palate, long in the back of the throat, with sweet notes on the tongue. Some dry and tannic sourness on the inner cheeks.

Jul 162014

Readers of this blog will find it not surprising that had my relationship with Glenfiddich been on Facebook, it would have been classified as “it’s complicated”.

On the one hand, I have a special place in my heart for that first love, that green, mysterious, triangular bottle in the black tube I first saw when I was about seven. On the other hand, their expressions are just not interesting enough to captivate me as a whisky fan who is approaching the 70 distillery mark of single malt whiskys (69, to be precise, not counting any non single malts: bourbon, rye or Canadian whisky). So I keep trying, and I keep saying “it’s drinkable, but I wouldn’t buy it”, and go on excited to try anything new Glenfiddich puts out. I think I matured a bit when I held off on buying tickets (55 Quid, mind you) for the Glenfiddich Master Class at the Whisky show, preferring to allocate that money to tasting “dream drams”, tokens to which are 10 pounds each, and the drams are 1-3 tokens each, depending on the cost of the bottle.

To William Grant and Sons’ credit I will say, that you and I are probably not really the target market for Glenfiddich, and that’s what The Balvenie is for. Malt heads are a fraction of the global market, so I don’t think we’re that high on the distillery’s agenda, and they seem to know what they’re doing  as one out of every seven bottles of single malt whisky sold it the world, comes with a deer head on the lable.

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That being said, it is, thus, not surprising to hear that i returned from a recent trip with a miniature pack of Glenfiddich’s three new cask expressions, all are married after maturation in a solera vat and labled as a cask selection: Vintage Cask (lightly peated), Select Cask  (bouron, European oak and red wine casks) and Reserve Cask (matured in sherry casks). In this series, I’ll review all three expressions.

Before I get to the actual notes, I want to mention that all three are very similar under the superflous cask effect. All three are very sweet and have someting young-ish about them. I’m not saying this as a bad thing, but you meet someting really familiar once you hold the whisky in your mouth for a few seconds. The Vintage Cask is lightly peated. Now, when Glenfiddich says “lightly peated” it means LIGHTLY. So lightly peated, that you’ll almost forget it’s there if you are accuastomed to peated whisky. And this brings us to the tasting notes.

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Glenfiddich Vintage Cask (40% ABV)

Color: Gold. The legs take a long time to form and once they do, they run very thick.

Nose: Light peat and honey, malt, light notes of sherry sweetness, the Glenfiddich character is there, with notes of the 15 (my favorite of the core expressions). As time passes, the nose gets sweeter, with floral notes developing.

Palate: Citrus, light sherry and peat, fresh orange zest. Holding it in your mouth, it becomes extremely sweet.

Linger: Medium, sweet notes with the peat almost unnoticable (not quite matching my expectations and experiencee).


Conclusion: Neither fish nor fowl….It’s not enough of a peated whisky to satisfy the peat lovers, and it’s probably too peated for people who dislike peated whisky. The sweetness is independent of the peat, not bourne from it, like the Islay peated whiskys.  My verdict? This expression is strange….not undrinkable, just strange. It left me completely indifferent to it.