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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

'Fiddich Fever: Glenfiddich 15 year old

Yesterday I reviewed the Rich Oak 14 year old Glenfiddich.  Today, it's the 15 year old, formerly known as the Solera Reserve.  Inspired by a Spanish sherry producing technique, Glenfiddich began vatting some of its whisky in a solera system.  Here's an explanation of the process, from Roskrow's 1001 Whiskies volume:
The vat is filled with a mix of 70 percent refill bourbon casks, 20 percent European oak, and 10 percent virgin oak.  The liquid is then left to marry in the huge 700 [liter?] solera vat for three to six months, before half is emptied out and bottled.  The vat is then refilled to start the marrying process once more.
So, for the 15 year old Solera Reserve, which was first released in 1998, that's 15 year old whisky being dumped into the vat, joining a lot of older  earlier-distilled whisky from countless previous vattings, possibly some of which was distilled in 1983.

They also use a similar solera technique for their small batch 40 year old, but since I dumped all of my Glenfiddich 40 into a can of Sprite last Thursday, all I have available to review is the 15.

Brand: Glenfiddich
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation/Age: a 70/20/10 combination of refill bourbon / ex-sherry / virgin oak 15-year-old whiskies is vatted with earlier-distilled 15-year-old whiskies in a solera vat for 3 to 6 months; after that it is married further in a Portuguese oak tun 
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Colored? Yes
Chillfiltered? Yes
(Many thanks to Florin for the sample!)

The color is a dark gold, the darkest of this week's Glenfiddichs.  At first blush, in the nose there's a very nutty oloroso, but then it vanishes quickly.  The familiar 'Fiddich pears are more reserved, but still present.  There are toasty grains, a rubber note, and a lot of toffee.  It smells woodier than the 14yo Rich Oak.  Like the 14, the 15's palate is not too sweet.  Mild dried fruit notes from the sherry meet some milk chocolate and black tea.  Then vanilla extract, dry grass, and cracked pepper.  The texture is a little thin.  The grasses and pepper hang around into the finish.  There's also caramel, some dry sherry, and a hint of tartness.

Artistically, it's a shame that they water this one down to 40% after all of that effort with the solera vat.  Some very nice notes show up, then vaporize.  (On a personal note, I was happy to realize that the sherry notes were not a turn off, and that I was actually searching for more.)  The whole thing oxidizes VERY quickly in the glass.  So you'd be best off not letting it sit alone for too long.

I like it about the same as the 14, though they are different whiskies.  Had the 15 had any stamina then I'd be happy to holler with glee about it.  But it doesn't, so I can't.  It's an easy drinker and, since it is available in the US, it's one of the best priced 15yos out here.  It is a step up from the 12, but not a leap.

Availability - Most liquor retailers
Pricing - $40-$45 West Coast; $50-$55 East Coast; was $33.99 at Trader Joe's a year ago but no longer :(
Rating - 84