- Monday, 08 April 2013
After a hard day chasing Roe Bucks around a field, there is something very warming and soothing about sipping really great single malt. Scottish malt, after all, is influenced by so many local characteristics of which we really embrace while stalking in the highlands
- the water; the peaty soil; the sea breeze; the barley; the oak in the cask barrels.
Glenfiddich may not be the only game in town when it comes to top quality drams to sip while contemplating a day on the hill, or in the woodland for that matter; nor are they the only distillery to have embraced their Scottish heritage completely and donned a deer as part of their image. However, what they do have is a massive footprint in the global whisky market of which cannot be ignored. Established in 1886 by William Grant, it remains in family administration to this day, having kickstarted the concept of the refined single malt in the 1960s. This signalled the change of the malt market as we know it, seeing the firm branch out from the blended whisky market of which still accounts for a huge percentage of the global spirit market. As a distillery they produce literally millions of litres of liquid nectar every year and their standard entry 12 year old, in distinctive green triangular bottles, can be found peeking out of every good hotel bar across the world, complete with red stag eyeing you carefully!
At County Deer Stalking we felt it was time to put the Glenfiddich 18 year old through its paces after a long and somewhat arduous day chasing Fallow in the leafy home counties. While not exactly the rolling countryside of The Fiddich or Dufftown, it still works up a thirst and we’re always in the mood to talk about stalking!
Glenfiddich 18yo is packaged in the distinctive triangular bottle that the distillery is known for. Some dislike this bottle, feeling it’s a little clichéd and a sign that you’ve gone for the ‘safe option’. Personally I think it makes the bottle a fair bit easier to hold, especially when juggling a cigar between the fingers but that’s just me! Either way the packaging oozes expectation and refinement, with the deep brown and gold label reminding you this isn’t the run of the mill 12 year old expression.
To the eye, the dram itself continues the theme, having more depth and melted bronze to the eye in the glass. It’s unmistakably an older expression and you are not likely to spy it in a glass an assume it’s just something younger but stronger. Nosing the glass reveals a strong smell of rich and fully stocked caramel and a background aroma of soft red roses. Right from the start you can identify this isn’t the regular Glenfiddich, and this continues to the very first sip. Golden syrup abounds the pallet, and on swirling, you get the smooth and nectar-like basis but with what feels like added layers of caramel on top. The dram is generally a lot denser and more charachteristic, like it’s really bouncing around in the glass trying to tell you something. The finish is floral and gently soothing, lightening up and disappearing like a mist on a cool morning that’s slowly warming up. It’s best to let this vanish of its own accord rather than neck something else to really get the exit factor. I opened my glass up with a splash of mineral water and this seemed to help the subtle longevity as apposed to the straight shot. Sometimes I can see why Glenfiddich is written off as a malt of choice for beginners; yes, it’s everywhere, and yes, it’s very accessible. However, when you come across gems like the 18 year old, I really do think it is worth the visit. After all, do we judge a Roe by its presence as a yearling fawn, stumbling around with its mother, or as a proud and handsome Buck as its velvet is beginning to drop and display its prime? Exactly. The 18 year old is the vantage point from which Glenfiddich should be viewed from.
It’s interesting that the same family also owns the neighbouring Balvenie distillery, of which obviously shares a lot with Glenfiddich but owing to critical differences in the production methods (fat and bulb like stills with long reaching necks) mean it’s a much stronger, deeper, more ‘after dinner malt’ than its stable mate. More on Balvenie another time!
In conclusion, this is a silky smooth evening malt to follow a light to moderate meal. It’s not a depth-charge in the way that an Islay will crash through that overloaded pallet of game food, and shouldn’t be seen as a heavy hitter to pair with a big cigar (check out the Glenfiddich Reservea malt if that’s your interest). For me, it’s a great treat to retreat from the field, quick bite to eat, warm soak in the tub and then kick back in front of the fire with a good chunky glass of smooth caramel nectar that is the 18 year old.
(If you'd like to order a bottle of Glenfiddich or any other Whisky then simply click through to 'The Whisky Exchange' at the top of this page to place an order).