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!

Aug 242015

Built by television?

Well, yes…In 1955 Britain entered the television age, and with it, came TV advertising. Only there were no advertisements for Scotch whisky. The reason is the DCL, which pretty much dominated the industry, and it did not want to get into advertising in this new media. Basically, they took the view that if they weren’t going to advertise, nobody in the industry should.

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That view held fast until 1962, when Grant’s decided to use “the telly” to advertise their ‘Stand Fast’ brand (Today’s Grant’s Family Reserve). In retaliation, DCL was “suddenly overcome” by an unexpected shortage of grain whisky for the following year, and would thus – regrettably – be unable to supply Grant’s with grain whisky in 1963. Charles Gordon, though, wasn’t a man to back down, and he found a suitable site for a grain distillery in Girvan, and had this distillery up and running in nine months flat!

Grant & Sons has recently begun to market aged Girvan grain whisky, and this bottling by Douglas Laing would fit right in the official bottlings. In fact, it would be very interesting to contrast this expression with the Girvan Patent Still 25 year old….

Anyway, on to our tasting:

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Douglas Laing Old Particular Single Cask Grain Girvan 25 Year Old, Distilled December 1989, Bottled June 2015, Cask DL10805, 232 Bottles From a Refill Barrel (51.5% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Pale gold, very slow thin legs.

Nose: Very typical grain with earthy cereal, honey, candied apples from the carnival and some freshly mowed grass. A light hint of sweet spices comes through the sweetness, with a note of toffee.

Palate: Intensely sweet, with some pepper. Subsequent sips tip the sacles toward the pepperiness with the addition of a note of green cardamom and marshmallow.

Linger: A long lingering milky sweetness on the tongue, like after eating panna cotta, and a spicy after taste that lingers without overpowering. It leaves a warmth deep down the gullet for quite a long time.


Of the three I’ve tasted so far (I haven’t tasted the Cameronbridge at the time of writing), the Girvan is the most ‘typical’ grain whisky. It’s a little sweet, a little spicy and definitely delivers on a good sipping whisky. It’s not complex, and was really never meant to be…

Official sample provided by Douglas Laing & Co.

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 302014

There are certain distilleries that just can’t stand the idea of independent bottlings carrying their name. Glenfarclas and the Grant’s distilleries (Glenfiddich, The Balvenie and Kininvie) come to mind (with the exception of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, although the Balvenie and Glenfiddich have very few barrels in Society hands).

However, every once in a while there’s a barrel that just won’t fit anywhere (in a blend – be it a blended scotch or blended malt, like Monkey Shoulder), and begs to be sold off to an IB. In such cases, the distillery will put a teaspoon of another single malt whisky into the barrel, thus making it a malt blend that cannot be labeled a distillery single malt. A teaspooned barrel of 24 year old Balvenie was recently bottled by The Whisky Base under the Burnside label from Barrel 12452 yielding only 207 bottles, and my friend Ofer Ben Or got his hands on one of these quickly sold out beauties.


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Burnside (spooned Balvenie) 24 Year Old, Distilled 6.1989, Bottled 3.2014 (Bottle 148/207)(51.7% ABV, NCF, NC)

Color:  Gold, slow legs.

Nose: Honey, nuts, red berries, that Balvenie nose is unmistakable, flowers, fruit custard pie. Water opens up more of The Balvenie sweet spice akin to the 15 Single Barrel (at least those I tasted).

Palate: Mild honey, pepper and citrus notes. The palate is far less complex than the nose. It’s very good, just not overly complex on the palate.

Linger: Very long linger, staying with noticeable citrus notes on the tongue.



You can take David Stewart’s signature off the lable, but you can’t remove his signature from the spirit.

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.