Hidden in Plain Sight: Glenfiddich Tasting

Who doesn’t know of Glenfiddich? It is everywhere – from high end specialty whisky shops to the corner liquor store and everything in between. It is the world’s best selling Scotch whisky in the world – by a fairly significant margin at that.   So it is really no surprise that you can find Glenfiddich everywhere.

But who really “knows” Glenfiddich?  Admittedly, we have passed on Glenfiddich expressions in the past – being of the mindset that they were run of the mill and nothing special.  Almost, every bar has a bottle of the 12 sitting on the shelf, but we usually pass on it in search of something more exotic.  Sure, Glenfiddich is the most awarded Scotch whisky in the world, but to be honest, awards don’t mean a hell of a lot to us.  Had we hopped into the saddle of the proverbial high horse – too good to drink what is common and actually mistaken common to mean not good?  We were close, damn close in fact, but luckily we were saved from riding off into the sunset of this bourgeois whisky mindset and had the pleasure of Mitch Bechard, Glenfiddich’s west coast ambassador guide us through our January whisky tasting.

The January tasting had actually been a long time in the making.  Yes, we actually planned this one out ahead of time which is fairly unheard of for us.  However, since we did plan in advance we were able to fill up all of the seats for this event and actually had to turn down quite a few folks that wanted to come.

Upon entering the room you found the table was set with three different pours of Glenfiddich in Glencairns for each person.  This was going to be a little break from the norm – a blind tasting.  We all settled into our seats and the event kicked off promptly at 7pm.  Mitch skillfully provided us all with a great introduction into whisky in general as well as to Glenfiddich.  When we say skillfully we mean he was able to do it in a manner that was both informative and entertaining; keeping us interested and engaged.  This was not an easy thing to do considering the diversity of the attendees:  from the casual drinker who has had a whisky or two before all the way to full on whisky nerds.

We were walked through each of the three expressions, as we nosed and tasted them.  Mitch gave us some of his impressions and solicited the impressions of the audience.  The first expression was crisp, fresh and clean with apples and green pears.  The crispness was refreshing and delightful.  The crisp pear flavors teamed up with honey, vanilla, and a touch of dough and spice all enmeshed in a bright, grain-filled palate.  This is about as refreshing as whisky gets.  An excellent morning tipple.

Next we moved into the second expression.  Here the signature pear flavors were present but moderated by berries and red wine (not only in the nose but in the reddish tinge added to the color).  Still retaining some of its younger brother’s crispness, roasted malts and toffee develop and some tasty, chewable sugars lingered.  This whisky achieves a great balance of youthful brightness combined with darker, mature notes that come with age.  Nate commented that he could have drank this all night.  And actually, he did.

Last, we moved into the third expression.  The color took on a honey-and-auburn hue.  The nose delivered a dash of spice, simple syrup, sugared fruit, and a solid waft of grains.  An interesting body with dark sugars that became dry and then rich with a decent amount of heat at the back, where a bit of pepper picked up the tail.

After finishing all three, a quick survey of what we all enjoyed best was taken – the second was the consensus favorite, followed by the third then the first.  After that we learned what each expression was.  The first was the 12 year old followed by the 15 and then the 18.  We took a quick break from tasting so that some appetizers could be served and we could pad the stomach a little bit for what was to come.

Once we had the chance to delight our palates with a more solid form of sustenance, we prepared for the next Glenfiddich expression.  This time it was the 21 year old Grand Reserva Caribbean Rum Cask.  This was a significant divergence from the traditional Glenfiddich flavors permeating the 12, 15, and 18.  While the fruit-and-malt flavors were there, the addition of caramel, unsweetened chocolate, spice/pepper, and a hint of ash – maybe even a little peat – worked their way onto the scene.  A tasty alternative to the younger releases.

Most would be satisfied with the broad swath Glenfiddich expressions so far, but not us.  And especially since this marked the our fourth anniversary of whisky tastings.  So in order to properly commemorate this milestone the 30 year old Glenfiddich was poured for all in attendance to sample.  Although as we have espoused before, age does not necessarily correlate to quality, the 30 year is a damn fine dram.  The deep complex flavors are accompanied by a vibrancy that is rarely tasted in such old malts.  This is a great whisky to celebrate with.  We will give a more detailed impression of the 30 is a separate post shortly.  And its box alone deserves a separate posting.  Yes, we too sometimes drink the marketing Kool-Aid.

The 30 concluded the formal part of the our tasting and Mitch was generous enough to stick around after to chat and answer questions.  This led us to the informal part of the tasting.  The 102 proof expression of Glenfiddich, which is aged 15 years, was put into circulation for everyone to enjoy as well as another bottle of the 15 and 18 just in case people didn’t get their fill on the first round.  The cask version of the 15 was not simply a stronger version, either.  The pour was enhanced with a lush, buttery caramel and fruit nose.  A full mouth feel let you savor the fruit, berries, and lightly charred grains to a numbing, lingering finish.

Unfortunately the evening did have to come to an end.  All in all it was a great evening of whisky, conversation, good fun and revelations:  remember that searching for the latest, greatest and most spectacular dram can blind you to some great whisky that has been right in front of you…hidden in plain sight.

A huge thank you to Mitch for taking time out of your schedule to visit with us.  I am happy to say that everyone I spoke with had high praises for you and really enjoyed your presentation.  Till next time.  Cheers!

*Thanks to Sarah and Dara for the great pictures!

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Filed under Glenfiddich, Tastings

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