Monday 24 December 2012

Tasted #5: Glenfiddich 40yo

It's not too often you get to taste a 40yo whisky (especially one that retails for $3,299AUD per bottle), but thanks to the very generous blokes from William Grant & Sons Australia (who I shared a long chat with about all things 'fiddich at a recent Shirt Bar Scotch Club), that's exactly what I did recently.

Two days after the Scotch Club, a hand-delivered package arrived at work containing a taste of the highly-regarded Glenfiddich 40yo. Wow, I'd been told to expect "something special", and this exceeded my expectations. Certainly rarer than anything I'd ever tasted before.

Wanting to compare the 40yo to something a little more familiar in the range, I decided on the Glenfiddich 18yo as my comparison dram - as it's a solid, smooth, trustworthy dram yet still very much a 'fiddich. The day before Glenfiddich's 125th anniversary seemed as fitting a day as any, too...

With the Glencairn glasses charged, and most of the 15mL taste poured out (I had to leave a few mL for my best mate) it was time to try the 40yo.

Glenfiddich 40 year old (45.8% ABV, 40 years old)
Nose: Big, leathery, reminiscent of an old leather lounge. Aged oak, rich dried saltanas. Incredible.
In comparison, the 18yo (right, below) is harsh, brash, and just smells young and fresh (a pity really, given the 18yo is a great dram on its own).

Palate: There's that oak again, and the leather. And more. So complex, so much going on here. Not to get too wanky here, but if I had a grandfather who owned an old leather chesterfield in a room filled with 'rich mahogany", and I was sipping whisky, sitting there there, soaking up the atmosphere...this would be the whisky. I cant think of another whisky that has ever "transported" me somewhere, yet this has*. This is a very, very special whisky. After some time, the raisin/saltana taste comes through, and the smallest hint of smoke towards the end.
The 18yo is all about the spice, toffee and a hint of pear. A tasty drop, sure, but not a touch on the richness or complexity of the 40yo.

L: 12yo Glenfiddich (50mL): ~$7
R: 40yo Glenfiddich (15mL): ~$70

Finish: So incredibly long (I think it's still going as I write this). Oak and leather. Just incredible. A hint of peat too, as with the palate. I'm nosing the glass 25 minutes later and the nose still has all these characteristics.
The 18yo in comparison is over in the time it takes to read this sentence. Enough said.

Wow, there it goes - the most special whisky I've tried, ever. It's going to be a tough one to beat.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 98/100 (18yo: 93/100).

 - Martin.

*Actually I lie - there is one other whisky that instantly transports me somewhere, but for the wrong reasons. Ballantine's reminds me of my Schoolies cruise, over a decade ago (even the excellent 30yo, unfortunately, which to me still has that painfully obvious Ballentine's taste). 

Thursday 13 December 2012

Shirt Bar Scotch Club - Glenfiddich (December 2012)

Has it really been a month since the last Scotch Club? Time flies.

Shirt Bar's Scotch Clubs have been steadily growing in popularity in 2012, and the final event for the year was no exception. With not a single free seat in the house, everyone was keen to try the offerings from the most popular distillery in the world, specifically:

  • Glenfiddich 12yo Signature Malt
  • Glenfiddich 15yo Solera
  • Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition
  • Glenfiddich 18yo Ancient Reserve
  • Glenfiddich 21yo Gran Reserva

Not a bad line-up - particularly for a Glenfiddich fan like me!

The night started with a "Glenfiddich cooler" cocktail (cue initial thoughts of 80s Bogans downing West Coast Coolers...) which turned out to be surprisingly good. Light, low on the alcohol and a touch of fruit which worked really well - a great palate cleanser. Then it was onto the reason we all came...

Shirt Bar's Scotch Clubs all follow the same basic premise (talk about how they whisky is made, where it's made, what affects the flavour, then taste it) but each has its unique differences. In this case, it was a funky interactive presentation including a detailed video tour of the Glenfiddich distillery. Sebastien, a friendly French bloke and William Grant & Son's local Glenfiddich Ambassador talked us through the tour and tasting, starting with the 12yo and working our way through to the 21yo.

We also got to take a whiff of new make Glenfiddich (which I've tried once before at the distillery - it tastes just like a very, very young 12yo!) and a few different barrel finishes of the 15 and 18 (it's amazing how different oak can drastically change the colour of two identically-aged whiskies).

So on with the tasting...

One thing I find about Glenfiddich is that although there's a huge variation between the different ages/releases, you can always tell a 'fiddich. The 12 year old showed the signature pear nose and taste, as expected with a shorter finish, with a hint of sweetness on the (smooth) palate. In the company of such esteemed whiskies it can be easy to write off a "standard" malt like the 12yo, but it's still a fantastic drop, and very smooth given its pricepoint (one reason I always recommend it as a great "starter" single malt). The finish is a little harsh, but not overly so, and only when compared with its more mature siblings... the 18 year old Ancient Reserve. A sweet cinnamon nose makes way for an equally sweet taste, but with plenty of spice. Cinnamon, toffee - less fruit than the 12yo (though still there), and more spice. A smoother, longer finish as expected.

The two 15 year olds were up next, and considering the similar lineage, are really very different. The 15 year old Solera showed the same sweetness as the 12yo, with more of a Christmas cake palate, and a slightly lengthier finish. The 51% non-chill filtered 15 year old Distillery Edition (a mixture of sherry and bourbon-aged 'fiddichs) however was all about the peppery, leathery palate. This easily had the most "presence" of all the whiskies we tasted, with a huge mouthfeel that lingered on and on. Cask strength whiskies (especially those like the 50.7% 1975 Private Vintage) can offering have an almost-overpowering palate due to the higher ABV. Not so with the Distillery Edition. To me, it was the perfect balance of big bold flavours without the harshness. My most memorable whisky of the night.

Lastly was the 21 year old Gran Reserva (which now comes in a much cooler package than the bottle I bought a few years ago). Interestingly, a few years ago this was known as the "Havana Reserve", but due to Cuban trade embargoes underwent a name change so it could be sold in the US. As the name implies, it's aged in Caribbean rum casks, and it shows. Sweet like the 15 and 18yo, but with a creamier, sticky pudding-like palate, and a long, smooth finish. I'm a big fan of sipping rums (Zacapa 23, Diplomatico to name a few) and if you look hard enough, you'll find similar tastes in the 21yo. A truly excellent whisky.

All up, a great night and an excellent Scotch Club on which to end the year. Glenfiddich is an approachable whisky and that was the approach the guys took to the night too. Sebastien and his colleague Mark were great to talk to and really made the night enjoyable (Mark also very kindly promised to send me a little taste of something special...whatever it is, a review will follow!).


PS: On a related note - I've just put in an order for the next Glenfiddich Age of Discovery (Bourbon finish) as well as the (apparently quite peated) 125th Anniversary special. Picking them up duty-free in early Jan, so look out for posts shortly after!

Thursday 6 December 2012

Tasted #4: Lagavulin 1995 Distiller's Edition (Pedro Ximénez Finish)

E.D.V isn't easy to find, but if you
head down Malthouse Ln in Melbourne's
CBD, and see this light, you're in the
right place
There's a little (read: massive) website over in the UK called Master of Malt who have an unbelievable selection of single malts, ship to Australia, and have very reasonable prices. Duty, shipping and import concerns aside, I've often thought about putting through an order, and top of my list will be the Laga '95 Distillers Edition (PX finish).

So when I saw it at E.D.V in Melbourne (sister bar to my favourite bar in the world, Eau de Vie in Sydney), I had to try it. The sweetness of Pedro Ximénez sherry, with the peatiness for which Lagavulin are famous? This had my name all over it.

As a bit of background, unlike some other distilleries, Lagavulin distinguish their "Distillers Editions" by the casks in which they're aged, rather than the strength at which they're bottled. In the case of the '95 (and others), the aging is done in ex-Spanish Pedro Ximénez (aka PX) sherry casks.

So how was it? As good as I thought! Read on...

Nose: Smoke/peat (yes this is still a Laga), but a hint of sweetness too. Call it raisins, caramel, whatever (actually, calling it PX sherry might be more accurate) - there's a definite whiff of sweetness.

Palate: Again, peat is dominant, but there's a definite sweet undertone. What the sweetness did for me was make the whisky much smoother. It's like a regular Laga, but much smoother and with a hint of sweetness, maybe toffee. A drop of water really accentuated the sweetness and toned down the peat too.

Finish: Long, lingering and smooth.

Ten word summary: Could sip this all night, but only if neat. Tasty.

I think I know what I'm buying myself for Christmas...