...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glenfiddich 12 year old

"No alarms and no surprises please."
-- Radiohead
(and a complete misinterpretation of the lyrics via this out-of-context usage)

The Personal Classics, Part 4:  Glenfiddich 12 year old

Distillery: Glenfiddich
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: American (w/ bourbon) and Spanish (w/ sherry) oak casks
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Alcohol by Volume: 40% ABV

Glenfiddich was the first single malt for me and (probably) millions of others.  In fact Glenfiddich was the first distillery to market their own single malt worldwide, back in the 1960s.

The Glenfiddich distillery has the largest malt production capacity -- almost 40% larger than Macallan -- in Scotland.  Diageo's new Roseisle monstrosity will probably surpass it by a smidgen once it's fully online.  But Diageo is a $60billion international conglomerate.  And Glenfiddich is still run by the family of the man who built the distillery 126 years ago.

After honing his trade skills at the Mortlach distillery, William Grant and his NINE sons broke ground in Banffshire in 1886.  By the next year the stills were up and running.  And they never sold the business.

In 1892, William Grant & Sons opened up the Balvenie distillery on their adjacent property.  They introduced Glenfiddich's three cornered bottle in 1957, then changed it to the current rounded edge (which allows for a sturdier glass structure) version we know today.  They began marketing their single malt in 1963, then in 1969 became the first distillery to open up a visitor's center.

So, aside from what one thinks of their current product range, a whisky drinker has to raise a glass or two to Glenfiddich and their ownership for being good malt stewards.  Of course, they don't do it for free: the 4,000 cases of single malt sales in 1964 became 120,000 cases/year by 1974.  In 2010, they had 15% of the entire Scotch Whisky Single Malt market share, putting them in first place by a significant amount.  They're expecting to break the 1,000,000 cases/year mark this year.

The 12yr is their flagship bottling and the best selling single malt in the world.  And, aside from mass product proliferation, it's easy to see why.  It's full of steady, smooth, and comfortable characteristics.  To me, it's the most reliable single malt.  I always know what I'm getting in the glass.  Something light and versatile.  And pretty decent.

So, let's give it a taste.


Because the rest of its characteristics are so light, its color is surprisingly dark gold.  Possibly due to non-natural means.  The nose is very mild.  Takes some time to find it.  There's more bourbon present than sherry.  There's a gin-like herbal/mineral element.  Malty, bread-like (not yeast), and little bit of pencil wood.  The palate is lightly fruity (citrus and pears) with some sherried cream.  A good texture for a 40% ABV malt.  The finish is short.  Sweet then sour, with some mocha.

W/ WATER (about 31% ABV)

The nose remains similar.  More of the gin note (juniper?) with some granulated sugar in the distance.  The palate is soft and pleasant.  Sweet cream with malt and sherry.  The finish is brief, drying, sweet, with a slight bitterness.

It also makes for a reasonable highball, as I found out in Vegas last month.  Club soda brings a nice sugary sweetness out of the malt.

I always recommend this over Glenlivet and The Singleton when folks want to move up from the blends to the singles.  It's cheaper than some of the 12yr blends.  It is mild with no odd notes.  It won't blow your hair back, but it is very comfortable and reliable.  A good item to have on hand.

Availability - Almost everywhere
Pricing - Bargain! at $23-$28
Rating - 82