One of the best way to up your whisky game and learn more about your own preference and to widen your palate is to regularly conduct tasting of a several drams side by side. There are a lot of ways in which you can do this, from participating at organised tastings, visiting a bar with a great selection or pouring yourself a dram on a lazy Sunday afternoon and allowing them to tell you a story.
Then there is a question of the story: do you want to go and visit different terroirs of Scotch single malts, or maybe compare the blends? Maybe try out different vintages of the same malt, or compare several malts of the same age statement? Bourbons, Irish, Asian whisky? Single cask editions? Sherry casks?
Your options are limitless.
Personally, I mostly enjoy exploring the range of a certain distillery.
This time around I have chosen the Glenfiddich core range. The distillery in Dufftown, Scotland is family owned since its foundation in 1887, by William Grant, and his descendants run the business to this day. It is the biggest one of the few independent distilleries in Scotland. Besides Glenfiddich, the distillery also owns several other whisky distilleries, such as Balvenie distillery and Tullamore distillery in Ireland. And in case you didn’t know, their Girvan distillery is responsible for the Hendricks Gin.
In my tasting exploration, I`ve tasted the core of their core range: 12, 15 and 18 YO expressions.
About the 12 YO I have already written in my first blog review, and it`s needless to say it is one my favourite malts. Light, fruity, floral with a huge punch of marzipan in the finish, it is truly a best buy. Definitely a Spring or Summer whisky.
The Glenfiddich 15 YO carries a subtitle – The Solera Vat Reserve. It results from the technique usually used in wine production, in which several barrels of liquid are stocked up one at another, but the liquid is always used from the lowest one ( solera – ground, so the barrels closest to the ground ). The solera barrels are never emptied all the way, but always kept at least half full, and when emptied, it is immediately replaced with a liquid from the barrel above it. And that one is also refilled with the barrel above it, and so on and so on.
The result of this method in Glenfiddich production is a unique, smooth and savoury single malt. Praised by many as the best whisky from the distillery, it offers very rich, sweet aromas. On the nose it carries a subtle malty and cereal notes, followed by coconut cream and delicate milk chocolate. The palate offers baked fruit ( pear ), more of the milk and dark chocolate, some red wine and nutty flavours. The finish is long, pleasing, putting the honey and nuts in the limelight, with fresh peaches making an occasional appearance. Interestingly enough, through the sip you will feel a slight dash of marzipan, although not as powerful as in the 12YO.
The Glenfiddich 18YO Small Batch Reserve, is, in my opinion an the older version of the 12YO.
On the nose it is the sweetest of all three brothers, with an array of vanilla, honey, caramel, hot chocolate, chocolate fruit cake and baked apple notes mingling and twirling their way up your nostrils. On the first impression, it smells sweet almost like a bourbon. I`ve really had a hard time drinking it, and would rather indulge in its vapours forever.
On the palate though, baked fruits lead the way but are quickly kicked back by the return of the marzipan. Sweetness is corrected by a touch of spiciness, mainly cinnamon. The finish is somewhat nuttier and drier than in previous expressions, with a lingering taste of cocoa.
Although at first I was a little disappointed by this 18YO, given time and some breathing room in the bottle, all these hidden layers of flavour seem to come out an about and the I truly started to see it for what it is: a complex and rewarding dram, maybe not an everyday whisky like a 12YO, but definitely something to enjoy in peace, while reading a good book on your porch as a chilly October evening sets down.
And at the very end, my favourite one of the three? Well, it is still the 12 YO, because of how approachable, but yet rewarding it is.
Until my next post, Slainte!