Browsing the duty free section at an airport used to be a bit like embarking upon a holiday romance. You feel a little adrenaline rush as you’re excited to be on holiday and suddenly you’re seduced by all these exotic figures. Temptation suddenly seems to be everywhere. And because you’re on holiday, you’re more willing to part with your cash in wooing all these bottles, have a great time, and to hell with the consequences. Later, much later, come the regrets…
When you’re in holiday mode, you view bottles of whisky in a different light. I’ve no idea what it is. Maybe it’s the ancient myth that you’re getting some kind of super bargain or an exclusive that, if auction sites never existed, you’d never ordinarily be able to buy. Maybe you’re high on perfume fumes from the people who spray it all over themselves before boarding your flight. But the grim reality of it all is that you’d do well to find much special whisky in travel retail. You have to look really hard.
Becoming an anally retentive whisky nerd
So I’m there for hours scouring the shelves, hitting Google on my phone for other reviews, working out the exchange rates or trying to evaluate if the value for money you get from a litre bottle is better than the normal 75cl bottle you’d buy back at home. I check out my own website to see if I’ve even looked at some of the whiskies before (because in almost four years this is pretty much my tasting notebook). I factor in just how good a whisky will be at £30 (probably not very, unless it’s Johnnie Walker), and if paying £100 for a dubious 16 Years Old is really worth it (again, probably not).
I bored the crap out of myself, quite honestly, so god only knows how my wife felt.
“Just five more minutes! Yes, really…”
I even annoyed the salesman by asking what open bottles he had in his little stand and could I possible try some. That tasting was worth it, as I found a good whisky at a great price. That doesn’t sound special at all, but it really is these days. Whisky prices are going through the roof and some distilleries would have you think their spirit has been blessed by the Pope, given what they want to charge you for certain whiskies.
But not all whiskies. And not all distilleries.
Glenfiddich saves the day
I took a punt on a 1 litre bottle of the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition. A lot of single malt snobs turn their noses up at Glenfiddich, as it’s a big brand. And hey, big brands to sell rubbish from time to time. But I’ve always had a soft spot for Glenfiddich. Where the core range of, say, Glenlivet can be as dull as ditch water, Glenfiddich has really upped its game.
Glenfiddich means “Valley of the Deer” – hence the logo. It was founded in 1886 in Dufftown, Speyside, and has risen to be one of the biggest selling single malt brands in the world. Its whiskies mostly have age statements, and that ranges from 12 years old to 50 years old. The old 18-year-old used to be a supermarket bargain, though I don’t see it in stock as often as it used to be. As you can imagine there were quite a few of its whiskies on sale at duty free, because this is not merely another store, but a chance to place your wares in front of thousands of travellers.
Good value is what I’ve found with the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition, which cost me just over £50 for a 1 litre bottle. It’s matured in a mixture of American and European oak, is not chill filtered, and has been bottled at a higher strength of 51% ABV.
Colour: russet to tawny. On the nose: it’s a very clean aroma, in a way. There are two sides: the fruity and the malted barley. On the former it’s pears, almost a cider or mead perhaps, with tones of honey and vanilla; tangerines and dried apricots. On the latter there’s just the touch of summer straw in dusty barns. It’s not massively complex, but it’s expressed very well. And again, just feels clean and precise.
In the mouth: intense and fresh. Identical to the nose in many respects, with the two sides of fruitiness and malted barley. More citrus notes, with tangerines, lime juice, as well as sultanas and dried apricots. Those malty notes are a little more restrained, and instead some of the heat of the wood takes over. Bitter chocolate. Pepper. And maybe some feints in the form of digestive biscuits and honey once again.
It needs time to develop in the glass, I think, and you’ll be rewarded for it. The nose, especially, becomes richer – with more dried fruits developing.
So the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition is indeed a good whisky. Not only is good to share with casual friends as an everyday drinker, or bring to a party, but I can imagine this would make some great cocktails, too.
At just over £50, and for a one litre bottle, it’s a superb purchase. It showcases just how tasty Glenfiddich can be, even being one of the world’s biggest whisky brands. I makes me feel good that there’s some honest pricing still out there.
As far as holiday romances go, then, this is one to look back on fondly. No regrets here.