Duty-Free, in Design and Delivery: Glenfiddich Reserve Cask

Music: Marillion, “He Knows You Know”

I received a cute little duty-free bottle of this from a good friend who often uses her duty-free exemption to my benefit when she visits. This is one from the Glenfiddich Cask Collection, similar in many ways to the 15yo Solera Vat.

Nose: In broad strokes, it hits like a watered down Glengoyne 18. Mincemeat pie, raisins, and those typical christmas spices. The classic younger Glenfiddich pear note in the background. There is that unfortunate spirity note in the background that I often seem to get with whisky watered down to 40%. The nose is much more complex than I’d expected, but the whole thing just wafts in a little thin… It’s not a faint nose, but more perfumy and less deep than something a bit older, with more strength.

Palate: Barley notes, a bit hot for 40% and still a tad watery. Sweetness, but largely indiscernable. Sour citrus (maybe orange?) and a caramel sweet ended that just kind of bitters…Doesn’t define itself in the palate as much as in the nose, and in this way, this is the beginning of the end for this whisky.

Finish: Short, dry. Bitter, dark chocolate-covered cherries, and sourness.

Grade: C+

A whisky that teases something bigger than it really is, in the end. As always, it makes me nervous to offer a rather negative review of a gift someone has bought for me (albeit, to her credit, without trying it first) when I’m so grateful for wonderful gifts like this. After all, uninspired whisky like this isn’t really bad whisky, and I am happy to have the variation in my experience, so that I may better appreciate the true gems that cross my path.

Also of note, this is the 100th post to this blog! Had I realized prior to posting this, I would have reviewed something deserving of some fanfare!

“You learned your lesson far too late, from the links in a chemist chain”

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The Proof is in the Overproofing: Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition ‘102’

After my success with the Glenlivet 16 ‘Nadurra’, I decided to give Glenfiddich’s mid-range cask-strength a try. After all, if I liked the Glenfiddich 12 more than the Glenlivet 12, what’s to say I wouldn’t like this as much, or more, than the Nadurra?

Nose: Noticeably sweet. Malty, apple juice with cinnamon right off the bat. Let it sit and we’re talking orange peel, sherry and burnt sugar. Some water brings in toffee, salt and pepper. I’ve read others call the nose “floral”, but it’s more minty to me.

Palate: Smooth, oily, mouth-coating. Rich and waxy off the bat with jammy notes and burnt sugar. It then turns creamy with sherry and orange chocolate. The palate then spices everything up with some chili and pepper. There is also definitely some peat here. Retaste: Similar, but a bit rougher and more sour than I remember.

Finish: A malty long finish with more of that orange chocolate, oak and honey. Mouth-drying. Right on the end, when your mouth goes bone dry and the finish feels like it’s died off, it comes right back with a bang of something you’d never expect: a mouth full of gummi bears. Bangarang!

Grade: B+

Quite superb. Not as great six months later than it was about half-way through the bottle.  It balances well in a way that other whiskies don’t: orange chocolate, peat, mint and pepper don’t mesh, so why not have it in stages? This whisky oddly compartmentalizes everything, and rolls it out bit by bit. I don’t know how, but it feels like it only ever gives you one note at a time, though in no particular order. I’ll mention, also, that the first dram was rather spiritous and rough, and the last few were similar. The first drams were much more savoury than the middle. It reminded me of a meaty, starchy British dinner with candied carrots, all coated with a maly flavour. While it wasn’t bad, it surely wasn’t the superstar the whisky is now. In short, it benefits from some oxidation.

Note: I must confess that I love orange cream chocolates, so there may be a bit of bias mark-wise when it comes to that, but it’s hard for me to tell.

A tale of two Glens: Review double-header

This is a story of two Glens–perhaps the two most popular Glens in the Single Malt world. (note, I said popular, not spectacular.) This is a story of Glenfiddich 12, and Glenlivet 12. Every maltmuncher has one, and so mine is just a story and not the story, of course.

Both of these whiskies made their way to my cabinet as gifts. At ~$45 a bottle, they seemed like great ‘everyday dram’ bottles, but not being an everyday-dram kind of guy, I never picked up a bottle (I’d rather have a dram of Laphroaig QC or An Turas Mor on Wed-Fri-Sat then a finger of Glenfiddich 12 all week.) After trying both of them (spoiler) I don’t think my rule will change.

Glenfiddich 12

Nose:  Candied fruit, sweetness. Pretty weak.

Palate: Deliciously smooth, a wonderful, albeit simple, sweet treat of candied fruit, with some hints of vanilla.

Finish: Medium at best.

Grade: C+

Glenlivet 12

Nose: Wow. A booming bouquet of floral and apple juice. Crunchy type, like a granny smith or a mac.

Palate: Comes in a little weak to start, with what the nose promised: apple, creamy sweetness, and strangely, a faint hint of peat. Closer to the finish, the flavours step it up. I wish the palate would have come in more like a lion.

Finish:Surprisingly long.

Grade: C+

It’s funny that these reviews suggest that with the nose and finish of the Glenlivet, and the palate of the Glenfiddich, this might be a solid B whisky, up there with the Highland Park 12. However, these deficencies cost them points, and I can’t say I’d necessarily buy a bottle again for anything other than a party, or perhaps if we were burning our palates with cigars, the Glenlivet would provide an excellent nose/finish accompaniment. That said, if I walk into a bar and they have these two, and the Macallan 10 Fine Oak, or the Glenmorangie original, I’ll take either of these, with the Glenfiddich winning the day by a hair. Part of me wants to say that “anyone on a budget would find these a great deal”, but I might eat those words when I review my other gift, the Aberlour 10 yr in about a week.