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...

..like 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!).

Cheers,
Martin.

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!

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