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Glenfiddich 12 year old

The Glenfiddich 12-year-old is a classic to many and a reliable whisky to pour without too much effort. It’s also potentially the greatest omission on MALT until now, believe it or not.

Recently, I’ve been going back through some of the classics that I relied upon during the early days of my whisky journey. Returning to these offerings now, armed with a new perspective and outlook to see what they offer today. Included on this retrospective jaunt will be examples such as the Cragganmore 12, Oban 14, Clynelish 14 and the immense Lagavulin 16. Coming soon, throughout 2019…

For now, we’re in the heart of Speyside and Glenfiddich. Arguably the most visible of the Dufftown distilleries and certainly the leading light when it comes to branding and marketing budget. Personally, I prefer a Mortlach whenever possible, but this distillery has fallen on hard times and the glory days of Convalmore are a distant, but fond memory.

This Glenfiddich staple comes in the iconic bottle shape and symbolises easy drinking. This explains its availability, popularity and go-to nature as a starter dram. I’ve heard the phrase starter dram with increasing frequency and probably utilised it myself now and again. Literally, it could be deemed as saying mouthwash as that’s what you’re using the whisky to do. In essence, waking up the palate and preparing for more serious and demanding whiskies ahead.

This is potentially doing the whisky a disservice. Yes, there is a need to have a starter, or wake up whisky, if you’re preparing to explore more challenging whiskies thereafter. It’s not essential by any means, but it is worth considering. Personally, I tend to rely on a blended whisky for this purpose, which can be cheaper – even at the price point of the Glenfiddich 12 – and does just enough. After all, we’re not looking for a symphony of flavours, more of a concerto to stir the whisky soul.

An additional disservice is that for the majority of the market out there the Glenfiddich 12 satisfies their requirements. We must not forget the backbone of the industry is shaped by blends and the well-priced single malts that dominate the supermarkets and other retailers. These affordable whiskies are go-to purchases for many shoppers who are content with a release such as the Glenfiddich 12. The fact that it has an age statement and retails for an affordable price is to be welcomed. For such shoppers nowadays, the presence of an age statement is a rarity and perhaps a touch of luxury on their limited budget.

For the single malt enthusiast, there is the disappointment of being bottled at 40% strength, the presence of chill-filtration and featuring artificial colouring. The holy trinity of an anti-single malt in today’s environment. As enthusiasts, we prefer natural colour, non-chill-filtered and a higher bottling strength of around 46%. This is why for us the Glenfiddich 12 represents that starter dram, easy drinking, or a whisky that we’ve not returned to in many years. Hence my return and a desire not to turn my nose up at something that many others easily dismiss.

On a side note, I will add that I opened and poured a 1970’s Italian Glenfiddich Pure malt around 8 years in age. This was during an Edinburgh tasting and the attendees had it blind. No one picked it out as being a Glenfiddich and there was general disbelief about how inferior today’s version actually is. This bottle makes a regular appearance at auction for a modest outlay. I’d encourage you to pick it up and do a comparison to underline how different modern whiskies have become.

This Glenfiddich 12 year old is available almost everywhere, being the Toyota pick up of the whisky world. As such you can find it locally or via the Whisky Exchange for £31.75, or from Master of Malt for £29.99, or adding more choice Amazon for £34.74.

Glenfiddich 12 year old – review

Colour: Golden caramel.

On the nose: Green apples, white wine vinegar and caramel provide an inoffensive arrival. Barley drops bring sweetness alongside shortbread with lemon peel and a gentle vanilla caress. Cotton sheets and unsalted peanuts round off an ok presentation. Water reveals honey, a floral note and more oaky characteristics.

In the mouth: Popcorn followed by stewed apples and caramel with some tartness as well. A slight uncouth bite of alcohol on the fringes – firing through those hard stills too quickly? It suffers at 40% and is very flat. Walnuts, cask char and a touch of black pepper on the finish. Water isn’t recommended overall delivering oak, bitterness and a jammy quality.

Conclusions

A fairly safe Speyside whisky that many herald as a classic, but in my opinion the quality has slipped a little.

You’re purchasing the brand, age statement and the illusion of quality. Given this is often discounted at retailers, it can be available at a good price and that’s a saving grace. However, I’d stick to my guns and pick up a blended scotch for the same price that offers a whole lot more, or shop around for a better single malt.

The Glenfiddich 12-year-old is an ideal mixer with ginger beer or Irn Bru if Scotland delivers some sunshine this year. It’s far from the complex malt on the palate that the marketing proclaims. A shame overall, but it remains well liked by many and if you’re enjoying the experience then who cares really?

Score: 4/10

Lead image from the Whisky Exchange and there are commission links within this review should you wish to make a purchase. However, always remember your local retailer.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    Martin says:

    … quality has slipped a little. — In my eyes it has slipped big time. 3-5 years ago it was a nice dram, pears and all that, but around christmas 2018 I had a nasty encounter. New bottling purchased at that time went to drain – completely undrinkable, so much I was wondering if the bottle was spoiled or fake. This made me to stop recommending this to people interested in whisky as a starting bottle and switch to Cragganmore 12 as a bottle to recommend. — On the other note, I cannot find Bushmills Black Bush here on Malt – please someone make a review. I recently purchased bottle at a discount price for 17EUR where I live and in my opinion this is currently best value everyday dram. I would compare this Irish to Macallan 12 Fine Oak or Glen Grant 18.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Martin, thanks for dropping by. I’ve flagged the Bushmills to Phil who might deliver that review one day. As for the Glenfiddich, it’s interesting I’ve had several conversations today on the back of the above around being too harsh/generous. All I know is I’m happy with a 4 but everyone has a good reason for something else. Cheers, Jason.

  2. Avatar
    Redders says:

    I agree it’s ok but not one I’d go out of my way to drink when I cold be eating up my weekly unit intake with something else much more deserving. Which blended whisky would you recommend btw, out of interest?

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Redders, at the moment the William Cadenhead 12yo blended Scotch is on the table but it has taken a while to open up and appreciate. I didn’t mind the Queen Margot offerings for the price. I’ve still got the Edinburgh Festival 2018 bottle and that as perfectly ok. The Glengyle blend. Hogwash from Aldi was fine for the price. I always have some old blends kicking about as well. Cheers, Jason.

  3. Avatar
    Justin says:

    Jason,

    Tough question I hope. What’s the minimum score that you would give or have given a whisky that you enjoy. Have you ever enjoyed a 4/10, how about a 5/10?

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      I always try to find something good even in the worst situations. Hard to pick an example from memory like you asked. There’s probably nearer 1300 tasting notes of mine here. But I look for that grain of hope even in the most desperate of whiskies. Thanks!

  4. Avatar
    Welsh Toro says:

    I’m pretty much in agreement with everything you say about this whisky Jason. However, I think taken for what it is and the money it’s a decent whisky. I’ve seen it as low as £25 a bottle and for that money it front’s up to a few 40% Malts with some bragging rights – I’m talking Old Pulteney 12, Highland Park 12 and a few others. It’s better than supermarket malt and most blends. It is wishy washy but does have a clean, grassy Spey flavour. I recently bought a half bottle for £13 in a local shop on the fringes of Cardiff. I was trapped at my Mum’s house due to a car breakdown and there was no malt whisky in walking distance except this one. It’s acceptable as their entry but the distillery does itself no favours with low abv across the range. That’s the rub for me. Glenfiddich could make fantastic whisky but they don’t need to. They appear luxurious to the vast majority of their global consumers and have to be considered a successful company doing what they do. A pity. WT

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