Ever wondered why Glenfiddich and the lesser known Grants adopted the trademark triangular shaped form, one which has undergone little to no change since its inception in 1961? The design and much of its persona was the brainchild of master designer Hans Schleger; and the inspiration…malt whisky trinity – water, air and malted barley without which Glenfiddich wouldn’t be what we know of it.
This distillery surely needs no introduction and is by far the most sought after Scottish malt in the world. Its history dates back to 1887 when William Grant set up the first distillery after quitting his job the year prior and saving up to follow his passion. Five years later, he built a second and by 1909, he began exporting Glenfiddich to regions far and wide. It’s been now over a century and the distillery remains to be an independent, family owned enterprise, something of a rarity in present times.
The Grant’s were always known to love doing things differently and one of the benefits of being autonomous was that they could independently make decisions even if it meant tolerating a certain degree of risk when situations seemed volatile. During Prohibition in 1923, when most distilleries limited production, the family strongly encouraged feeding the reduced supply which encouraged stronger brand absorption and loyalty.
The Cask Collection, the distilleries’ first range of NAS whiskies were introduced sometime in September 2013 and took inspiration from their in-house Solera Vat technique. This process formally made its way to the Glenfiddich distillery back in 1998 and was one of the first whisky houses to introduce the concept into whisky maturation. However, the system employed at the distillery is a bit different from the original wine bodegas. While the latter employ a stack of barrels placed layer on layer, Glenfiddich uses a 35,000 liter oak barrel.
The vatting process was exclusively reserved for the 15 YO – the outcome of which gave the malt a huge encore. For the Cask Collection in specific, the distillers handmade three such vats, one for each expression-The Select, Reserve and The Vintage.
The ‘Select Oak’, comprises of whiskies matured in ex-bourbon, European and ex-port barrels that are hand selected, carefully blended and then married in this massive Solera Tun. After a period of 2 months or so, a portion of this mix is taken out while an equal amount of younger whiskies are compensated. Care is taken that the tun is never less than half full and is constantly replenished, ensuring a healthy unison of young and old, cutting much of the harshness away while also introducing depth, balance and subtlety.
ABV : 40%
Eye : Dark shade of Old Gold.
Nose : Plum cake, dried fruits, caramel and sherry with a slight pungency accompanied by traces of peat, smoke and oak. Quite floral with bits of toffee, licorice and pepper.
Taste : Sweet with influences of stone fruits and smoked, earthy wood. Varying shades of dark sherry and candy are soon replaced by cinnamon, shards of nutmeg and a light burn.
Finish : Short to medium; light spice with a sweet sherry influence.
Prior to getting into the tasting my expectations weren’t placed that high as the Select Oak was comfortably seated at the lower end of the Cask Collection series. But I must confess, I was secretly keeping my fingers crossed hoping the influence of the Solera Process might infuse some zest. And it did, with layers of sweetness – sherry, raisins and Christmas cake. If I must critique, the palate did seem a bit watered down, and though lacking in breadth it did have depth, enough of it given the fairly decent price.
I wouldn’t advise diluting the whisky too much since it already is quite thin; which also means you could sip it as is with literally no burn. And though it might not be as crisp or light as the Glenfiddich 12 YO, it certainly is more rich, dark and sweet.
An everyday single malt or one for the friends, this whisky is versatile and would tailor to almost any occasion.