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
Lead image courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.