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Glenfiddich 2017

posted Dec 7, 2017, 2:48 PM by Whisky Belles   [ updated Dec 21, 2017, 3:36 PM ]
Our Glenfiddich evening evolved in part because of the recent attraction of the Experimental Series and also because the Belles had discovered some unique bottles lying around in our collections. Glenfiddich is a well recognized name when it comes to single malt whisky produced in Scotland. One of the most well known brands in whisky circles; Glenfiddich 12 is frequently the first bottle many whisky drinkers are exposed to. With that said, there is a tendency for this whisky to be very traditional and conservative in its approach, resulting in an overall lack of excitement for the brand in some circles. That doesn’t mean there is a lack of innovation by any means.

Glenfiddich is a family owned and operated distillery. Championed by William Grant, the distillery was built with the help of his 9 children and a stone mason. The first drop of spirit was produced by the copper stills on Christmas Day 1887. The name Glenfiddich is Gaelic for ‘Valley of the Deer’ and references the location where the distillery was built. Their brand logo is a representation of a stag.

We didn't have a particular order in mind for the evening, so we decided to start with Glenfiddich's standard expression, their 12 year old (40%), as out baseline. This allowed us to determine how the flavour profile of their whisky range changes and evolves through their various bottlings.  

Next, we moved on to an older bottle of Glenfiddich Pure Malt (40%). A suspected pre-cursor to the standard 12 year old expression, this bottle was passed on to a Belle by a family members and has a fair bit of sentimental value around it.  We're uncertain of the year it was produced and know only that it was purchased in Scotland sometime in the mid to late '80s or early '90s (pre 1993).  The bottle had been open for a number of years, so we dove into the bottle to see what it had in store for us.  

After savoring the Pure Malt, we moved on to the Experimental Series. There are currently three (3) expressions in this series; IPA, XX and Winter Storm. 

We began exploring the expressions with the IPA (43%) released in 2016. Malt Master Brian Kinsman in collaboration with Seb Jones of Speyside Craft Brewery created a single malt expression infused with IPA notes. This is not the first time that beer and whisky have crossed paths - it brings fond memories of the story of the accidental creation of Innis & Gunn brews.

The second bottle we tasted was the Project XX (twenty). With an ABV of 47%, this was the strongest whisky in the tasting line-up. Instead of a single malt master selecting the barrels to make the whisky, 20 whisky experts were masters involved in the creation of this expression. These 20 individuals, hailing from 16 countries around the world, had access to thousands of maturing casks and were tasked with selecting one that would be combined into a final product by Glenfiddich's Malt Master Brian to produce one final expression. We enjoyed this whisky so much that we stopped our tasting to search the local liquor databases to see how many (if any!) bottles of XX were still available on the local market. After tracking down a few bottles in a store not far from home, we had out trusty designated driver take us out on a shopping trip.

Back from shopping, we dove into the third bottle in this series. Winter Storm (43%) was released in 2017 and has roots a bit closer to home. This 21 year old Glenfiddich was finished for up to six months in Ice Wine casks from Peller Estates. The winery happens to be located in in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, the home town of a Belle's husband. A unique combination, We were interested to see how the whisky would stand up to the sweetness of the flavors of the ice wine. While we did not have a bottle of Peller Estate Ice Wine at hand we did pull a bottle of BC ice wine to use as a comparison as we tasted this whisky.

After taking a break for snacks, we moved on to the Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera (40%). This standard bottling from Glenfiddich pulling malts from three different types of casks together in one vat. An interesting concept that seemed to fall flat in the execution. Overall we were very disappointed with the 15 year old.

To finish the evening we decided to tackle a few of the rum-finished bottlings released by Glenfiddich. These are all 21 year old expressions with different years of production. We tasted the 2012-ish Gran Reserva/Cuban Rum Finish (40%),  and the 2015 and 2016 Gran Reserve/Rum Cask Finishes. Luckily for us, we decided to start with the elder statesman of the line-up. It was a treat!  Finished 4-6 months in rum casks, both the older and youngest bottles were well received. The 2015 expression was definitely the black sheep of this whisky family.


Our overall favourites for the the evening were the Pure Malt and Project XX.  As mentioned previously, Project XX was such a surprise and enjoyment we stopped our tasting evening, started to Google available local stock and found a DD who could take us to a local store so we could buy additional bottles. We also enjoyed the 2012-ish 21 year old Gran Reserva/Cuban Rum Finish so much we did do a second pour. This dram we allowed to sit for a bit to get a good idea of its varied aspects. In the end, we recognized this was a bottle that was destined to be  be killed during the tasting.