Whiskey vs Whiskey: Featuring Glenfiddich
Let me start this post, with this disclaimer: I am still new to the world of Scotch and Whiskey, therefore my palette for this is still in early stages of development. As with Scotch and other Whiskeys, where there are usually some tasting notes from the distillery, more often than not, people find their own flavors.
Waiting for the evening’s rush hour traffic to dissipate, I arrived in Downtown LA at 8:30 for a 9:00 Scotch tasting, with no idea whatsoever where the bar actually was; I only had a name and an address: The Continental Club. Part of the reason I had such a devil of a time finding the bar was because its entrance is subtle,; during the weeknights it’s a small door on 4th St. with no signage, then on Friday and Saturday evenings the entrance is literally through a door in the Alley.
At about 9:30, the tasting, led by Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador Jay Choi, officially got underway. Laid out at each seat were three Glencairn glasses, widely regarded as the tasting and nosing glass for Scotch and other Whiskeys, for our first three expressions: Glenfiddich 14, 15, and 18 year. After a short break, we came back for the 21 year and then a brand new bottling that came out in November, the Glenfiddich IPA Cask.
14 Year: The 14 year was the first expression poured, and it holds a special place in my liquor cabinet, as one of my all-time favorite Glenfiddich expressions. It’s actually one of their newest expressions, having been released in 2015. Aged in ex-bourbon casks, the 14 year has a fairly calm nose of caramel and spice, with a subtle hint of vanilla, but it excels in its taste., which is smooth with a decent amount of vanilla, and of course heavy notes of bourbon along with a slight creaminess.
15 Year: Second was Glenfiddich 15 year, which had a nose that is more Scotch and spice than the 14. Its taste is very smooth, and creamy with just a hint of spice. It actually doesn’t have a strong flavor profile at all, almost bland in fact, which surprised me because with an interesting nose I’d expect an interesting flavor profile. The 15 year is made using the Solera technique, which for the unfamiliar, is when they age the whisky in three different barrels and then blend them all together at the end. The 15 year was aged in ex-bourbon casks, ex-sherry casks, and white oak casks, before being added together to make the 15 year that we had that night.
18 Year: The third expression was Glenfiddich 18 year. Matured in ex-bourbon casks, the nose here had some subtle vanilla and spice/pepper. Definitely a strong taste with this one, as it is fruity and hints of spice. It’s a smooth and enjoyable expression despite the spice, and with a few drops of water it is sure to be a fan favorite.
21 Year: After a short break, Glenfiddich 21 year was up next. This is by far the oldest scotch I’ve ever tasted (to date). It’s a very original expression, as it’s matured in ex-bourbon casks, before being finished in rum casks! Finishing Scotch in a rum cask gives it a unique and abnormal sweetness on the palate, which you aren’t going to see in a Scotch normally. The nose was unfortunately quite disappointing for such an original Scotch, as it was way too strong, for even my nose, with a slight astringency, that reminded me of rubbing alcohol. However, the taste definitely made up for it with its smooth, slight sweetness and subtle hints of smoke.
IPA Cask: Our final pour was — without a doubt — the most anticipated of the evening. The new Glenfiddich IPA Cask, which had only just come out the week prior to our tasting and most of the brand ambassadors only tried it earlier in that week. For those unfamiliar with an IPA or India pale ale, it’s a style of beer that is usually very hoppy or bitter tasting and somewhat fruity. I know what you’re thinking. What do a Scotch and Beer have to do with each other? That’s an excellent question and what makes this expression so unique. It’s a part of their experimental series, their very first release actually, and each year will be something different. The nose is a-typical as it’s very fruity with a Scotch mix, actually making it slightly overwhelming. However, if you add a just dash of water, it opens up, making it less intense. Sweet and spicy, not very hoppy or fruity, which is what you would expect from an IPA Cask, however it possesses a slight fruit taste and is well balanced. Also worth noting, it’s very hard, if not literally impossible, to make a whiskey without what amounts to beer, because Whiskey is essentially distilled beer. Don’t believe me? Check out what Whisky Advocate has to say!
At the end of this very fun, and very tasty evening, as the attendees and myself were walking out the door, they handed everyone a few Glenfiddich branded goodies. A Zippo style lighter, a “Scottish” Army Knife, T-shirt or a pen. All in all, it was a great event, with some excellent (and expensive) pours, all for less than a glass of mid-range of Scotch.
For the money that myself and the other attendees paid to attend this event, $10 a person, Glenfiddich knocked it out of the park! I walked away excited to write this piece, and with a better understanding of some of their product. I would advise you check out the 14, and 18 year expressions at your local liquor store, you can also check them out online at Master of Malt.