Glenfiddich 12 Year Old

We are not born as whisky aficionados. You may have progressed through the preschool years (in whisky terms), the elementary level, enjoyed your teenage romance, and are now happily settled with a limited edition cask strength… but for all of us it is a journey; some would say an adventure.

Should we now forget those early days? I love to sit with old friends and remember the things that we did as kids, the laughs we had, the things we discovered and learnt… and I think that sometimes we can (and need to) do this with whisky.

Often we hear the term “entry level;” it’s a term that many don’t like, but it is there, so let’s just  accept its use. There are others I’ve heard used, such as “gateway whisky” or “introductory whisky.” What they are really trying to put across is a reference to the perhaps the youngest and often most commercially available whisky from a producer. I think it’s a safe bet to assume that, for most, our whisky journey started with one of these gateway whiskies.

The Glenfiddich brand has been around since 1886. The distillery sits in Dufftown in Speyside, drawing its water from the Robbie Dhu Spring. In the early days it was a producer of malt used in blended whisky; it has continued to operate since those early days, with production actually increasing during the Prohibition-hit 1920s!

In 1963, Glenfiddich became the first to globally market a “straight malt” or single malt, until then something that tended not to been seen too often on foreign shores. The marketing worked and today Glenfiddich is reportedly the world’s best selling single malt.

Unlike other brands, Glenfiddich has not pushed itself to become some sort of superior or premium brand, placing it out of the reach of the accessible drinker. It has (in my opinion) remained true to its origins; Glenfiddich is a very good whisky that you can buy at a pretty reasonable price on nearly every shelf in Scotland With one million cases reportedly sold annually I suggest they are not doing too much wrong; he distillery has a glowing reputation that easily matchea its sales. When was the last time you heard or read a bad word about the brand?

My Journey with this brand really started in the late 1980s. I was living in what was then West Germany, and on my frequent trips home to Scotland (via Düsseldorf airport) I would always grab my late father a bottle. If memory serves it was Glenfiddich 12 Years Old “Special Reserve” 99% of the time. My father had always enjoyed a dram and, on my visits home, it was a nice occasion to pop open the newly picked-up duty free bottle, share a wee sip, and a catch up. Glenfiddich has remained a favourite; as sad as it may seem to some, it brought a smile to my face knowing that my dad’s last dram was Glenfiddich. He had picked up a bottle of the Experimental Series IPA Cask Finish the week before he passed, and shared a dram with me.

I mentioned entry level whiskies above, and many producers across the Scotch brands have such an expression. It’s often a NAS whisky, but Glenfiddich is a distillery that has a decently aged expression as its gateway to their taste adventure: the speculatively simple but always popular Glenfiddich 12 Year Old. This dram was one of the foundations of my route to where I am today; it is a dram that will, for me, always stir up happy memories.

It retails for £35 from The Whisky Exchange or £27 from Master of Malt.

Glenfiddich 12 Year Old – Review

Colour:  Gold (although hidden in the green triangle bottle that is a symbol of the brand).

On the nose:  If we were to refer to one thing for the quintessential Speyside taste, then it’s the aroma of orchard fruits: green apples and sweet pears. I always feel it’s rather as though that orchard is surrounded by a summer meadow; a fresh clean feel like the gentle breeze over the grass. There’s a honey influence, perhaps from the hives on the edge of the meadow, the bees collecting pollen from the flowers that gives the whisky a slightly floral nose. There are hints of lemony citrus, and a little malty swipe at the nose.

In the mouth: The taste doesn’t run too far away from the nose; the clean fresh feel is apparent from the initial sip. The mouth feel is a little light, but it goes with the feeling of the dram; with a 40% ABV there is nothing harsh but there is a light spice. A flowery sweetness follows with the green fruits then making an appearance, and a wee sensation from dark fruits coming through from the sherry casks used for maturation. Short to medium finish, fruity sweet to spicy, a wee oily feel.


It’s hard to find fault with a whisky that has stood the test of time, but to be honest should we need to look for fault? There is nothing overly complex to this; is just a consistently decent whisky, and it is often for this reason that you will find Glenfiddich 12 used as a benchmark. Tasters use the Glenfiddich as their reference point when expressing the differences across a flight of drams. I cannot deny that there is always a bottle of Glenfiddich 12 on my shelf, often alongside several of the distillery’s other expressions; if I was asked to recommend one bottle to start a whisky journey with, or even just a flight for the evening, then: yes, I’d be hard pressed to see past Glenfiddich 12

Score: 6/10

Lead image courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Garry says:

    Cheers Bill, yeah I think sometimes we can drift away from drams, levitate towards those cask strengths or limited editions etc, a wee break reminiscing with the simplest of good whisky helps the palate…. And perhaps the soul

    1. O. D. Jones says:

      Like a number of aficionados of a certain age, Glenfiddich 12 was the gateway to malt whisky. Once through the gateway, of course, the dark briny pathways cut through the peat, and the Christmas cake world of the Sherry malts awaited. Glenfiddich 12 is still a stellar dram, and it’s worldwide popularity means it can be a friendly sight back of the bar, wherever you are in the world. The price is more than fair here in the US as well. Even the bottle is a model of upscale design. Having said that, I prefer the Glenlivet 12 as the go-to single malt for the casual guest. It was a treat to see a review of Glenfiddich 12 here. I see value in revisiting the core expressions of popular whiskies from time to time, has those are the bottles are the backbone of a good cabinet.

      I thoroughly enjoy this website; there is a level of enthusiasm tempered with intelligence here rarely found in most review websites. For instance, I can’t recall seeing an unexpected reference to Christopher Wool (or a namecheck of Ella and Louis) in a whisky review on any of those websites that salivates over the latest unicorn bottle of bourbon… Keep this level up, it’s gratifying to have a place like this online to visit.

      1. Garry says:

        Thanks for that, keep the eyes peeled for a few more “revisiting reviews” on those Scotches that kicked us of on some fantastic journeys..perhaps even the Glenlivet 12 will make an appearance

      2. David says:

        Thanks for making this website! Was wondering about the maturation casks for the Glenfiddich 12. Do you know if they use mainly sherry butts or perhaps ex bourbon cask?

  2. Simon says:

    “There is nothing overly complex to this; is just a consistently decent whisky, and it is often for this reason that you will find Glenfiddich 12 used as a benchmark. Tasters use the Glenfiddich as their reference point when expressing the differences across a flight of drams.”

    That’s it in a nutshell. As a “calibration dram” it fits the bill nicely. Consistent, ubiquitous and at the bottom of the price range for bottles with an age statement. To be worth buying, any Speyside must offer something extra in comparison.

    I wonder how many whisky journeys were started by a basic set of “whisky regions of Scotland” drams comprising something like Auchentoshan 12, Glenfiddich or Glenlivet 12, Glenfiddich 10, Ardbeg 10. Optionally a Springbank, though given their unicorn status nowadays that’s probably less common now.

  3. Ken_L says:

    I remember as a young man the arrival of ‘straight malt’ in Australia. Those were the days when valued customers got Johnny Walker Red as a Christmas gift from the company; especially valued ones got Johnny Walker Black. Far from being ‘entry level’, Glenfiddich was about the best anyone could aspire to buy in the 1970s! It was beyond my price range; the long-gone and lamented White Heather blend was the best I could afford.

  4. Tim Carroll says:

    That was a lovely review of my favourite Scottish delights the nose of fruity orchards to a smooth palatable dram of Scotland’s finest my crystal whisky glass always makes it go down even better I never offer it to anyone who has no appreciation for the finer things in life and to me this is one of them.
    Tim .C Australia

  5. David says:

    Thanks for making this website, Garry! Was wondering about the maturation casks for the Glenfiddich 12. Do you know if they use mainly sherry butts or perhaps ex bourbon cask?

    1. Garry says:

      I can’t remember the exact ratio of the top of my head, but the spirit is matured in Spanish Sherry casks (thus European oak) & Ex-bourbon (American oak) casks, toward the end of its maturation period the 2 spirits are “married” and given approx a year together, this allows Glenfiddich the time fir the “married” spirit to find the right flavour profile

  6. Joe says:

    More on the peat side the 12 . Great drop. No sweetness compared to a Chivas 12+ I have an 18 Glenfiddich that blows both apart.

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