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Monday, July 2, 2018

Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix

There was considerable excitement surrounding Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix's release in 2010 because gimmickry had yet to infest the world whisky market. Glenfiddich's branding, at the time, was all about delivering a reliable and unfussy (some may say boring) malt whisky. The zaniest thing on their range was the 51%abv Distillery Edition, which though it wasn't cask strength, did haul out much more oompf than the regular range.

Into this vanilla (pardon the word choice) range flew the Snow Phoenix. Allegedly, it was created from casks that were exposed to the elements when heavy snow collapsed a warehouse roof. Those casks were both ex-oloroso and ex-bourbon. The whisky was NAS, though bottled 47.6%abv.

There's also some pablum about the shape of a rising phoenix shining through the broken roof, but I won't expand upon that out of embarrassment for Glenfiddich's employees. The phoenix metaphor is clear enough for adults.

Drinkhacker says the whisky was "produced from casks aged 13 to 30 years old, representing 50% first-fill bourbon barrels, 30% second-fill bourbon barrels, and 20% sherry barrels." But they got the cask-strength part wrong, gave the whisky an A grade and said it was "every bit as delightful and intriguing as the story behind it." So I doubt the sobriety behind that entire post.

I remember first trying Snow Phoenix in 2012 and thinking it tasted remarkably like......Glenfiddich. And though I've always appreciated Glenfiddich's reliable style, it seemed to me like the Phoenix had no plumage (see: emperor, the).

Brand: Glenfiddich
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Maturation: see above
Age: see above
Alcohol by Volume: 47.6%
Colored? Very little if any
Chillfiltered? Probably not
(sample from a swap with Ryan, thanks Ryan!)

It has a nice light non-orange color to it. The nose has its fruits: peaches, pears and green grapes. There's some wood stuff: toasted oak with hints of vanilla and wet cardboard. There's also some dark chocolate, rosemary and roses. There's more of a pepper and ethyl wallop to it than in the usual Glenfiddich palate. There are also tangy lemons and oranges. Dried fruit and nuts. Floral hints. Lots of salt, and a vanilla note that grows with time. The finish is mostly heat, pepper and salt. Smaller notes of apples, bananas and vanilla.

DILUTED TO 40%abv, or >1tsp water per 30mL whisky
That cardboard note grows in the nose. Otherwise, it's all pears and banana candy. The palate is fruitier, with melons, apples and pineapples. Less vanilla. More mint. Pepper and salt. It finishes with vanilla, mint, sugar, limes and barley.

Though the alcohol punches in heavier than one would expect from the abv, the whisky does not feel immature. I preferred the palate over the nose, probably because it felt less woody. This is especially true when the whisky is diluted. The finish keeps this whisky from really singing, as it limps in and fades out.

While it does taste like Glenfiddich (as I noted in the extended intro), Snow Phoenix is different enough to separate it from the regular range. Yet, I don't think it's that much better than the standard 15yo. Just consider that before chasing a bottle on the secondary market. I'll those prices speak for themselves.

Availability - European auctions and the occasional viper retailer
Pricing - $300-$400 at auction, $800+ at retailers
Rating - 84