Glenfiddich Project XX

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 47% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 7.7 | Palate: 7.7 | Finish: 7.7 | Overall Score: 7.7

Review
I previously wrote about Glenfiddich’s new direction, #Experimental, where they’ve taken it upon themselves to break the mould of traditionalism and appeal to a younger target audience.

Crazy bartenders, cool new graphics, an IPA influenced expression and ultra snazzy bottle designs are just some of the ways they’re trying to live up to this new claim.

And so it was in the spirit of experimentation that they brought together twenty Glenfiddich brand ambassadors from around the world, including the legend Ian Millar, to hand select casks from their warehouse which would then be blended together by Mr Brian Kinsman and named Project XX.

Cool name, I think.

We were lucky enough to be sat with Russian ambassador Denis Pankratov who brought with him spirit that he had selected for the mix. I don’t remember the age (I think 18 years) but it was a first-fill bourbon with a strength of over 60%. I have to tell you that was one of the most delicious whiskies I have drunk in a while. I would love for them to just bottle this and sell it as a one off. But we all know that’s never going to happen. Fingers crossed, though.

Project XX finally saw seventeen bourbon barrels and three sherry barrels make it to the mix. The exact recipe is a secret which no one other than Kinsman knows so we’ll have to live with that.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 47%

Nose: This is more like Glenfiddich than the IPA. Quite fruity. Typical Glenfiddich fruits of figs and raisins. But then also darker fruits like plums. Berries. Oily. Little buttery too. And then again the familiar. Honey. Blood oranges. Malty too. I like the nose. It works for me better than the IPA. I shouldn’t be comparing but I did have it back to back and that’s a good reference point. 7.7

Palate: Still fruity. The same raisins. But now more stewed apples. A bit tannic as well. Those sherry casks must have been insanely strong. Treacle. Dark jam. Quite sweet. Hint of oak. Becomes a touch sharp mid-palate. But overall I like it. 7.7

Finish: Those sherry casks are back in play. But so are the apples. Figs. 7.7

Overall Comments: I like it. I think it works. Can’t be easy crowdsourcing a blend. Each one with their own tastes and preferences. But somehow Kinsman has made it work. There might be an off note here and there but by and large it does a good job. And like the IPA the price point is just fabulous (around 50GBP). In this day and age that’s got to be a plus. If not for my self I might just pick it up for a friend and impress him with the cool bottle. And the spirit’s not bad, either.

Overall Score: 7.7

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Glenfiddich IPA

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 43% | Colour: Light Gold
Nose: 7.1 | Palate: 7.1 | Finish: 7.1 | Overall Score: 7.1

Review
For those of you unfortunate enough to read my reviews you know that I have always given Glenfiddich it’s due praise as being the giant that truly champions the single malt cause among the fickle masses.

For someone who produces such vast quantities of spirt for them to maintain that level of above average consistency is quite remarkable. I have not yet met someone who has anything bad to say about them. Sure, they might not have the stunners we seek every now and then but I think to be on average above average is no easy feat. And for that they have the tip of my hat.

Which brings me to this interesting new direction they’re taking. I like that because they’ve decided to take the odd risk every now and then. Having been shackled to their core range for the longest time they’ve decided to step out of their comfort zone and meet the new world head on.

And that comes in the shape of their new #Experimental campaign. This broad direction is taking everything from bartenders with crazy ideas to expressions that push the boundaries. Should some boundaries be pushed is a different matter altogether but I’m in favour of this new attitude in general.

Launched at the World’s Most Experimental Bartender competition, which I was fortunate enough to judge, we sat down with Dennis Pankratov, the Russian Brand Ambassador, to go over this anomaly. Matured first in bourbon, followed by 12 weeks in barrels that previously held an IPA and then back to bourbon for another few years. Notice the conspicuous lack of numbers here. Obviously pretty young.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: Starts off similar to the 12 year old I feel. Youngish. But at the same time retains the signature green apples and pears that you find in the entry level. The similarity is quite strong. Vanilla. Custard. Also the barley is prominent. Not sure if that’s because of the IPA influence. Quite malty. It’s not a nose I look for in a whisky but it’s enough to keep me interested. 7.1

Palate:
I think the beer influence is stronger here. I don’t know if I have a great palate or it’s simply the power of suggestion. Again quite malty on the palate. But now with a touch of spice. Peppercorns. That dry ginger that I normally associate with Glenfiddich. Vanilla. Some more custard. Again, not something that’s going to blow me away but enough to keep me intrigued. Slightly better with a couple of drops. 7.1

Finish: Hint of bitterness. Citrus. 7.1

Overall Comments: What do I think? I think why not. I like it when traditional tries harder. It’s a good sign. It reflects in the bottles which are by far the trendiest I’ve seen in a while (after Compass Box, that is). And the price point of 40GBP is almost a no-brainer. They’re obviously appealing to young voters thanks to the IPA touch and chic bottle style. And they’re the ones they have to impress. Not us irritating snobs pretending to have lofty standards.

Overall Score: 7.1

Glenfiddich 19 Years Age of Discovery / Red Wine Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 21 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 81

Review
The other day I sat down with this Glenfiddich trilogy known as the Age of Discovery series. Glenfiddich decided to pay homage to the 1831 voyage of the HMS Beagle. The Beagle travelled around the globe and landed on the east coast of South America, allowing Charles Darwin to collect fossils that would lead to the development of his famous theory of evolution.

They have three 19 year old expressions in this range. One that is completely matured in Bourbon casks (quite lovely), one that’s been finished off in Madeira Wine Casks (so blah) and this particular one that I’m staring at, the Red Wine Cask finish.

Personally I’m on the fence when it comes to wine finishes (or maturations). The Californian Cab Sauv maturation of the Teeling Single Grain is a joy to behold (and drink). Just stunning if you ask me. Glenmorangie did quite well with the Sauternes finish as part of it’s core range. I quite like that whisky even if it’s a bit too sweet.

But then there’s the disaster that is the Glenmorangie Companta which uses a mix of Burgundy wine and Rasteau. Oh Bill, you messed that one up didn’t you? Springbank used Gaja Barolo wine casks for an experiment that failed to raise any eyebrows.

The general consensus out there is that wine finishes are a tough nut to crack but that doesn’t stop distilleries from trying.

The whisky has been finished off in oak casks which previously held South American Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40%

Nose: A little sour in the beginning. Tamarind. Licorice. A little musty. Black salt. Under-ripe plums. Touch of oak. Dark currant jam. Settles down after a while. More crisp. Quite drying. Oak tannins. Black grapes. This is a funny nose. I feel that the different wines have made the nose a bit heavy, if you know what I mean. 21/25

Palate: Oak. Quite a bit of it. Very drying. Black pepper. Toffee. Licorice. Aniseed. Wild berries. Black currant. That black salt is back. So is the plum. Again, quite a weird experience. The oak tannins overpower and muddle up the delivery. 20/25

Finish: Long. Dry. Touch of oak. 20/25

Overall Comments: I’m not a fan. The red wine influence over powers and doesn’t work for me. I feel even when you finish a whisky off you have to be extremely careful of not letting your base spirit drown out. And I feel that’s what’s happened here. Oh, well.

Rating: 81

Glenfiddich 19 Years Age of Discovery / Bourbon Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
I say this in all my Glenfiddich reviews: It is the most consistently above average single malt today that is produced at such staggering volumes.

I’m pretty sure this is what happens when a business is family owned and every step taken is for the greater good of the craft and the product instead of appeasing the fat cats and their accountant minions.

How else can you explain the near perfect consistency of producing ten million litres of whisky every year. Oh I’m sorry, did I say ten million? I meant TEN FREAKING MILLION! It’s quite insane if you ask me.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure they turn a tiny profit producing ten million litres a year. But along the way they produce some great whiskies too.

Which brings me to this 19 year old matured in ex-Bourbon casks and named after the intrepid Portuguese voyagers who went on to change our understanding of the new world. This one is called Age of Discovery and is part of a trilogy. The other two being a Red Wine and a Madeira Cask finish.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40%

Nose: Oak. Shavings. Bourbon. Vanilla. Fruits. Lots of them. Mainly sweet melon. Melon rind. Citrus. Orange marmalade. Something toasted. Mellows after a while and becomes more delicate. Late emergence of toffee. Hint of grass. Very nice nose. 23/25

Palate: Vanilla. Lots of it. That oak again. Touch of spice. Very fruity. Sweet melon. Citrus. Very smooth. Light honey. Touch of nuttiness. Some toffee. Nutmeg. This is quite pleasant without being complex. 22/25

Finish: Medium long. Comes back up. Vanilla. Oak. Fruits. 22/25

Overall Comments: I quite like this whisky. I would have liked it to be a little more complex on the palate but that’s fine. Glenfiddichs aren’t supposed to be that. They’re supposed to be easy to drink and not for being pondered over by pompous whisky bloggers like my self.

Rating: 89

Glenfiddich 21 Year old Caribbean Rum Finish

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Colour: Bronze
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

Review
There’s nothing I can tell you about Glenfiddich that you already don’t know. It is unquestionably the most popular single malt whisky in the world. They are by and large one of the most consistently above average whiskies produced given their staggering levels of output.

What I can tell you that you might not necessarily know is that I met their Global Brand Ambassador Mr Ian Millar a few months ago who is quite a proponent of whiskies with age statements. Barring a couple of new releases from them it seems that this is quite true for the distillery as well.

In fact I recently read they’re scaling up production to meet demand and more Glenfiddich in the world is, in my opinion, a good thing!

I was invited by our local distributor for an evening of tasting the classic Glenfiddich range which was quite nice. It’s quite common to give these expressions a pass just because they’re the most drunk whisky in the world. And you kind of forget why they’re No1. It’s because they are pretty damn good.

We started the evening with the 12 (average), moved on to the 15 (so good!), then the 18 (lovely) and finally the 21 year old finished off in Caribbean Rum Casks. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 40% ABV

Nose : Bananas. Toasted oak. Almonds. Walnuts. Cinnamon. Ginger spice. Now some vanilla. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Gets fruitier over time. Red apples. Berries. There’s something a touch sour. Don’t know what that is. And some mint leaf. I like it. It has the classic Speyside / Glenfiddich nose with a little sweet and fruity twist. 22/25

Palate : Quite oaky. I don’t like the delivery – it’s a bit thin. Black pepper. Cinnamon. Ginger. Wild berries. Mocha. Coffee beans. Chocolate. Ripe oranges and orange zest. This seems to me like a manufactured taste. Don’t know how to explain it but it just felt that the spirit was too restrained. Not the best part. 21/25

Finish : Medium. Oak. Cinnamon. Quite drying. 21/25

Overall Comments : This is half decent though I feel that the palate was a touch over-oaked and a bit thin. The general consensus among the group was that it felt like it was made to order. And by that I probably mean that all the flavors that are supposed to please me were there but for some reason didn’t work so well together. It’s not a bad whisky. It’s not awesome either.

Rating: 85

PS : I just noticed that I have another review of the 21 year old which I did almost two years ago and it seems like I really liked it then. I can only assume there to be enough batch variance for me to have a much different opinion this time around. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the bottling dates for each. For all I know they are exactly the same spirit and I’m a complete idiot…

Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 47.6% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 91

Review
If you’re a whisky drinker chances are you’ve heard of the legend behind the Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix. If you haven’t I suggest you nerd up real quick.

In 2010 Scotland experienced some insanely heavy snowfall. In fact there was twice as much snow to fall than previously ever recorded. Now living here in Dubai that might sound like a dream vacation but for the Glenfiddich warehouses it was a disaster (or opportunity – depends how you see it).

For so much snow fell on those tin roofs that five of them collapsed in a massive heap on top of more than 250,000 casks maturing below. How they managed to save all but three casks from instantly getting ‘chill-filtered’ is beyond me. But they did. And when summer rolled around they set about repairing the damage.

Now there’s no point in experiencing a disaster and not being able to commemorate it, right? Well, that’s exactly what the marketing department felt and thought it would be a good idea to release a one-off special bottling to mark the occasion Mother Nature decided to give you a snowy hiding.

The presentation tin box is adorned with the image of the aftermath and, hence, the name. For within the fallen beams and the bright Scotland winter sky is the silhouette of a phoenix rising up to the heavens. I must admit I would never have been able to see it my self but you’ll be surprised what a marketing degree and a tab of LSD can do.

You might be forgiven for thinking I’m being sarcastic but that’s how I show gratitude. Marketing gimmicks aside this is one fine whisky. Because to commemorate the event 12000 bottles of the exposed spirit was released in a beautiful black bottle and presentation case.

Whiskies between 13 and 30 years of age in the bottle represent 50% first-fill bourbon barrels, 30% second-fill bourbon barrels, and 20% sherry barrels. The result is a beautifully delicate spirit served at a cask strength of 47.6%

Nose: Sharp vanilla. Creamy. Custard. Quite nutty. Very floral. Heather. White flowers. Sponge cake. Danish biscuits. Hardboiled sweets. Butterscotch. Very pleasant to bring to your nose. Might be the product of a winter time disaster but screams summer time. 23/25

Palate: Super sweet. Honey. Vanilla. Very mild spices. White roses. Wild flowers. Heather. Shortbread. Touch of ginger. Such a floral palate. It’s literally like a eating a honey drizzled bouquet. I like it! 23/25

Finish: Extremely long. Creamy. Vanilla. And, of course, floral. 23/25

Overall Comments: I had this at a tasting with a close friend who insisted it didn’t taste as good as when he had it at his place and insisted I try it at his place before forming an opinion. I’m still waiting for my invite. In the mean time I will go ahead and post this. If you stay tuned you might see me post a modified review soon!

Rating: 91