They say never go back. In some walks of life that’s probably good advice but in the realm of whisky it pays to return to old ground and taste the core range.
I’ve shunned the humongous Speyside Death Star’s of Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Macallan as their whiskies have each been gradually reduced to the point of insignificance in the pursuit of world domination and sales. Their focus has been chasing the dollar signs rather than delivering the best whisky that they can produce. And lets face it given a project, I bet they could each produce a jaw dropping whisky. Yet that’s not currently required in the corporate or tumbler world.
Nowadays its about consistency which translates into a benign liquid. I’m sure if I’m back on Miami beach, a Glenfiddich with some ice and sunshine would be appealing. Part of the tumbler dynamic I’m sure is just to be seen posing at the bar with a whisky; not actually drinking and appreciating it. Otherwise you’d be selecting a better vessel.
After saying this, a return to Glenfiddich is overdue just to check how things are progressing. This Family Collection is one you will see in various retail outlets as it gives you a decent measure of the mainstays of the Glenfiddich range. We’ll be kicking off with the classic 12 year old that is the Glenfiddich signature malt and a mixture of Bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks married together in oak tuns.
Next stop will be the 14 year old Rich Oak release that has spent 99.9% of its lifetime in oak casks before being finished for 12 weeks in virgin American and European casks. Yes, alarm bells ringing with this one due to the use of virgin casks (so more punchy raw flavours) and such a short duration of finish. Cask acing? We shall find out very soon.
Then we’re finishing with the Solera Vat that clocks in a 15 years of age. This vatting marries sherry, bourbon and new oak casks together into one whisky. All set? Ok, lets do this then! Before we kick off I’d like to say how refreshing it is to have age statements in front of me. That’s a thumbs up for Glenfiddich and hopefully this trio is better than the Travel Retail Glenfiddich Cask Collection.
12 year old
Signature malt, 40% vol
Colour: golden syrup
Nose: a very forceful nose with caramel, apples and honey. Some floral and heather notes. In the back exists cinnamon, raisins and butterscotch. It’s perfectly pleasant but nothing original or distinctive. Water brings out oranges.
Taste: buttery toffee and lots of vanilla. Lots of butter in fact with an oily texture that’s pleasant. Apples and cranberries. Not much of a presence or finish it must be said. I’ve had whiskies a quarter of this age that deliver more.
Overall: this actually tastes stronger at 43% and is a harmless sipper. I’d quite happily pull this out for guests who were new to whisky or in the initial stages of appreciation. It’s well made and inexpensive but entirely forgettable.
14 year old Rich Oak
Colour: golden syrup
Nose: a plump fruit loaf laced with cinnamon and all-spice. Toffee with vanilla and some black pepper.
Taste: very juicy on arrival with pears and white grapes. Wood shavings with vanilla, light brown sugar, some bitterness and dark chocolate flakes.
Overall: a limited portfolio of flavours but what remains are big and bold. Perfectly acceptable whisky if a little dull.
15 year old Solera Vat
Colour: golden syrup
Nose: a hint of perfume, prunes and walnuts. Some brown sugar and nutmeg, toffee apples, dairy chocolate, mustard seeds and rose petals.
Taste: again its the wood here that dominates with vanilla, pencil shavings and caramel.
Overall: a nice nose and a somewhat limited palate. It lacks presence. Confirmed by moving onto a Springbank as my next dram. I want a whisky that says something, believes in something, rather than being content to drift past.
One thing that struck me about this trio when the drams were lined up was how identical the whiskies were in terms of colour. It’s be easy to mix these up if I wasn’t organised. Good old colouring and chill filtration. Overall these are solid if one dimensional whiskies. I suppose I’m going to have to step up to the 18 year old very soon…