A little bit of history. Actually, a lot of history. The first distillation apparently occurred Christmas Day 1887, which might explain their extensive Christmas time marketing. Established by William Grant and still owned by William Grant & Sons, they’ve managed to stay independent while building or buying other distilleries and brands, including Grant’s, Balvenie, Gibson’s, Macallan, Highland Park and Famous Grouse. They are now the 3rd largest manufacturer of scotch in the world. Which kind of makes you wonder what independent actually means.
Learned a couple of interesting things from Whisky For Everyone: Grant worked at Mortlach distillery for 20 years, and bought the original Glenfiddich stills from what became Cardhu distillery. In fact, they use replica stills to maintain production standards, and keep in house coppersmiths and coopers. Mortlach is now owned by Diageo and is part of the Johnny Walker blend.
Which has been a bit of an impediment to fleshing out the background on Glenfiddich. They are so driven (they sell 35% of all the single malt scotch) that they’ve locked down the available information on the brand and I can really only give you approved anecdotes. I can’t tell you where they get their barley, but I can tell you where the deer logo comes from, and what the name means. I can’t tell you why the specific stills were so important, but I can quote and cite sales figures and record setting asks for bottles. It becomes a bit of a book about writing or a movie about movies – the scotch is about how popular the scotch is.
Obviously, anything that has to be imbibed will ultimately be judged on its taste, but in order to taste it you have to buy it, and there is a lot of steering going on here. Unlike smaller distillers that want you to know how many different things they’re trying, a whisky the size of Glenfiddich is telling a story of one product, diligently reproduced for over a century. It becomes almost a different category of drink.Geographically speaking, Glenfiddich is in Dufftown, on the banks of the Robbie-Dhu-Springs-fed River Fiddich, within easier artillery distance from many, many other Speyside distillers (less than 9km from Glenrothes, for example). This lends some credence to the idea of regionally-specified flavours in scotch. These distilleries sit almost on top of each other, trade staff and draw resources from adjacent sources. It would make sense for larger taste themes to be similar.
But I’ve made you wait long enough, here’s what we thought:
Matt – charm, cognac, cane sugar
Simon – raw apple, sweet, cider, liquor, red delicious
Ryan – butterscotch, mild sweet, fruit notes
Goran – caramel, cinnamon, herbal tea
Matt – leather
Simon – spice, heat, milk, chocolate & orange
Ryan – apple, caradmom
Goran – chocolate, maple, incredibly clean finish but spicy
Matt – corrugated cardboard
Simon – syrup, wine
Ryan – fruit, plum
Goran – if you need to splash this, Vanilla Coke may be for you
Try it? Oh yes. Buy it? For special occasions.