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.
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?
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.