February 2016 Whisky of the Month:
Imported into Australia exclusively for the Club, the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition is a rare cask strength edition of the world’s most popular single malt. Join The Club now for exclusive access to more exciting drams like this each month and great member perks.
Country of Origin:
The Glenfiddich Distillery was established in 1886 by William Grant, and is one of the greatest success stories of Scotch whisky, single-handedly creating the single malt category and now accounting for about 30% of all single malt sales worldwide.
Having spent his younger years learning the trade at Mortlach Distillery, Grant dreamed of one day running his own distillery with ambitions to make ‘the best dram in the valley’. Through endeavour and thrift he saved sufficient money to realise his dream, and in 1886 Grant and his nine children laid the first stone of the Glenfiddich Distillery in his native Dufftown. Over the next 18 months the Grant family built the distillery with the help of only a single stonemason and on Christmas Day 1887 the first spirit flowed from the stills.
Like most Scotch distilleries, Glenfiddich had a brush with the Pattison crisis, but in this instance it set in motion a series of innovations that led to the company’s enormous success. Naturally Pattinson’s was Glenfiddich’s biggest customer, but instead of succumbing to failure when the Pattinson brothers filed for bankruptcy, the Grant family decided to begin blending their own whisky instead. The move paid off and their aptly named Standfast blend soon became a major success, providing crucial cashflow at a time when the rest of the industry was going bust.
By the 1920s distillery numbers in Scotland had dwindled to record lows, mainly as a result of the Pattinsons Crisis, a World War and prohibition in America, and it was in this gloomy climate that William Grant and Sons made their biggest gamble. In 1923, with prohibition in full swing, William’s grandson Grant Gordon joined the family firm and took the surprising call to dramatically increase production. His gamble paid off because ten years later when Eisenhower repealed prohibition, Glenfiddich was one of only six Scottish distilleries still operating with warehouses full of malt whisky to meet the surge in demand for fine, aged whiskies.
The 60s and 70s were difficult times for the industry with many small, independent distillers going out of business, but yet again William Grant & Sons made some pioneering decisions that ensured their success and drastically shaped the industry. The first move came in 1961 when they commissioned leading 20th century designer Hans Schleger to create the now iconic triangular bottle. Widely regarded as one of the best marketing moves of all time, from that moment on Glenfiddich literally stood out on the shelf. In the same year Glenfiddich defied critics and released their first single malt and two years later became the first single malt to be marketed outside Scotland. The launch was supported with aggressive advertising campaigns and eleven years later sixteen new stills were installed to cope with demand.
Today Glenfiddich is the world’s biggest selling and most awarded single malt and William Grant can rest peacefully knowing that his descendants have expanded his vision, making not only the best dram in the valley, but the world. And of course as an added bonus his descendants have become Scotland’s richest family, with a staggering fortune of $3.9billion.
About Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky:
At almost 13 million bottles a year Glenfiddich is not only the world’s biggest selling single malt but also the most awarded. It’s production operation is colossal, boasting a capacity of 10,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per annum. Their 31 stills are fed by 24 massive Douglas Fir washbacks, each with a capacity of 50,000 litres.
Surprisingly, Glenfiddich’s size allows them to apply a level of in-house craft and attention to detail that many smaller distilleries cannot afford in today’s crowded and competitive market place. Firstly, Glenfiddich employs their own team of coppersmiths to service and tend to their 31 stills. The shape of Glenfiddich’s copper stills are strictly identical to those first used when the distillery was founded and it’s the coppersmiths’ job to make sure they stay that way. Secondly, Glenfiddich is one of the only distilleries with an on-site cooperage to tend the distillery’s huge reserve of barrels. The team mend around 126 casks every day, a hugely important job when you consider that 60% of the flavour and 100% the whisky’s colour comes from the wood. Finally, it’s the only Highland distillery that still bottles it’s own whisky at the distillery. In fact, it’s the only Highland distillery to distil, mature and bottle at the own distillery. Added to that, they are the only Highland whisky to use a single source of natural spring water from start to finish in the whisky making thanks to a sharp move by William back in 1892 when he bought 1200 acres surrounding the distillery to protect the purity of his water supply.
Interestingly, it’s also the only distillery still using wooden marrying tuns. Glenfiddich is well known for marrying their whiskies for at least three months, longer than any other Scotch, and this marrying allows all the flavours to fuse together and create wonderfully well-rounded whisky. Strict adherence to tradition can sometime stifle innovation, but fortunately this is not necessarily the case at Glenfiddich and 1998 saw the invention of the Solara Vat, used exclusively in the marrying process of the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old (not the 15 YO Distillery Edition, mind you), a huge success that’s been met with critical acclaim.
This month we’re extremely lucky to have the 15 Year Old Distillery Edition. First created in 2011, this expression has quickly become one of the most sought-after Limited Editions to come from the distillery. The thinking was to create a single malt that’s as close to the whisky you’d get at the distillery if you drew it from the cask yourself. As a result we have an exceptional malt that’s bottled at 51% and non-chill filtered. This is classic Glenfiddich, but with added complexity and character.
Age on release:
Aged for 15 years in American and Spanish Oak casks and then married in 2,000L tall oak marrying tuns
Glenfiddich quick facts
Place of origin: The Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Banffshire, AB55 4DH, Scotland, United Kingdom
Water source: Robbie Dhu spring
Washbacks: 24 x Douglas Fir
Number of stills: 11 wash stills and 20 spirit stills
Capacity: 10,000,000 litres per annum
Colour: Deep gold autumn barley
Nose: A delicate floral and creamy aroma with hints of freshly ground black pepper. With a little water, the fruity and vanilla sweetness of Glenfiddich is released
Palate: At full strength the smooth, warming flavour is centred around a delicious creamy spiciness. After adding a little water, the softer vanilla and gentle luscious fruit flavours come through
Finish: Lingering, sweet and velvety warm
The higher ABV gives this whisky a spicy character that complements everything from a juicy steak to a hot, spicy Oriental dish. So go on, experiment and let us know your favourite pairing.