Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition

I am somewhat divided on Glenfiddich malts. Despite being one of the few ‘household names’ in the U.S. in the single malt category, I have trouble reconciling its excellent older malts with its frankly disappointing mass-market 12 year-old. The Solera-cask 15 is excellent. The partially-sherry-aged 18-year is a good malt at a great price. The new Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition appears at first glance to be a good malt at a bad price.

I can picture the boardroom discussion. Boardmember A: “Malts are booming, why aren’t we cashing in on price increases?” Boardmember B: “Because we’re known in the market for value. You can’t alienate customers by raising prices for no reason.” Boardmember A: “Why not? Everyone else is.” Boardmember C: “I’ve got it! Let’s release a non-age-statement vatting with a fancy name and slap an $80 pricetag on it!” Everyone: “Genius!”

This is a “double wood”, much like sister distillery Balvenie’s eponymous classic. It is aged for the majority of its life in ex-bourbon, and then given a secondary maturation (not just a finish) in sherry casks. The only difference between the two malts? Balvenie DoubleWood is around $40. This is $80. Why? DoubleWood is 12 years old. Malt Master’s Edition is 6-8 years in ex-bourbon followed by 4-6 years in ex-sherry. That puts it somewhere between 10 and 14 years old. So… 12, on average. According to the press release, this is the first Glenfiddich malt to be transferred entirely from bourbon barrels to a prolonged maturation in sherry barrels, as opposed to the 18-year, for example, where barrels of each type are blended together in large batches to get the target flavor profile. This seems like a weak basis for an $80 price tag to me, although it could be argued that the barrels selected for this malt are of higher quality and thus more valuable than the “run of the mill” barrels that get dumped into the mass-market varieties. Unfortunately, that’s a consideration that can’t be quantified – we just have to take Glenfiddich’s word that this whisky is worth $80. Let’s find out.

Nose: Clear components of pear and crisp apple. Cider. Slightly winey, with red grape skins and a mild sour note. Golden raisins and vanilla. This really strikes a chord with me – pear and apple notes are among my favorites. So far, better than DoubleWood.

Palate: Nice caramel apple notes. Round and sweet. Medium-bodied. Granola and golden raisins. Somewhat disappointing – there’s not a lot going on here. It tastes like a slightly younger, slightly blander version of the 18-year.

Finish: Sticky toffee pudding. Malty and mildly oaky on the tail end, not overly bitter. Walnut on the fade-out. Maybe I missed something, but this isn’t a strong finish for me.

With Water: Opens up some banana notes, and various florals – honeysuckle? Palate is washed out and bland. I don’t suggest water with this.

Overall: Very nice. The nose is a surprise, with mouth-watering fruit notes that stand out clearly. It gets somewhat too sweet in the finish, where the subtle notes are washed away by the sticky caramelly sugar. Reminds me of some Glenrothes, without as much in-your-face sherry. Delicate and accomplished, and clearly better than the similar-but-cheaper Balvenie DoubleWood 12.

I have to concede that this is better than DoubleWood 12. However, it doesn’t warrant the same price tag that is carried by amazing malts like Ardbeg Corryvreckan or Talisker 18 (yeah, I know, those are peated, but the point stands). If I were pricing it blind, I would have said $55, tops. Although as we’ve all seen recently in the market… $80 is the new $50.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

Glenfiddich needs little introduction. One of the most prevalent single malt Scotches available in the US, the baseline 12-year can be found in drug stores, supermarkets, liquor shops, bars, and restaurants across America. In fact, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are probably the only two single malts that many Americans would recognize by name. In 1963, William Grant & Sons company set aside casks of Glenfiddich whisky with plans to market it as a single malt. Single malts were, at the time, exclusively the domain of independent bottlers, and were not widely available outside of specialty wine & spirits retailers. This move started the industry (which soon followed suit) down the path of official distillery bottlings of single malt whisky, and is largely the reason today’s whisky industry is so diverse. Located in Dufftown, in Speyside. Glenfiddich means “The Valley of The Deer” and refers to the field on which the distillery is sited – it also explains the image of a deer on the label. The entire production, from malting to bottling, is done on-site, which is very rare for a distillery. Craft Campbeltown distiller Springbank may be the only other one. Glenfiddich even has its own cooperage. Open mash tuns and Douglas-fir washbacks are used in distillation, and the water flows from Robbie Dubh spring, which rises from the granite Conval Hills. With 29 stills making 10 million litres of whisky a year, it’s no surprise that 33% of the world’s malt whisky sales are Glenfiddich. Even if you don’t appreciate the “mass-market” aspect of their whiskies, you have to appreciate the industry revolution set in motion by William Grant a half-century ago, and the powerhouse brand that he built.

Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $80
Acquired: Review Sample. Thanks Tori at Maloney & Fox!
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,
24 Comments

24 Responses to Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition

  1. James says:

    I totally disagree with you. As far as the whisky market, $100 is the new $50! Whisky prices are getting out of hand. I always thought Macallan 18 was the overpriced behemoth of the whisky world. Now, it’s almost starting to look like a bargain–crazy. Is this really the start of the whisky bubble?

    • I believe it’s safe to say that we’ve been in a whisky bubble for several years. The prices now are reflecting the “follow the leader” mentality of a lot of whisky companies – when they see that competitors have safely raised prices, everyone else follows suit. When Asian markets began exploding almost two years ago, American whisky started to become hard to find, and scotch producers started releasing 8 year-old NAS vattings in excess of $75 a bottle. Sku over at Recent Eats actually thinks the ‘golden age’ (which arguably isn’t the same thing as a boom) is over, and we’re on the downslope towards bust: http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2012/07/golden-age-of-whiskey-is-over.html

  2. Ben says:

    Opinions of Scotch are matters of, well, opinion. That said, I have to disagree a bit about the Glenfiddich 12. It is certainly not exciting. No whiz bang, no mystery, no complexity, no fascinating notes of kumquat or coal tar whatever. But it’s perfectly drinkable stuff, and it’s cheap. When your taste buds are on holiday, something like the Glenfiddich 12 is ideal. It’s also a “dead center on the dial” drink, a sort of everyman’s Scotch, that can be used as a basis for comparison when the taste buds are primed for a real Scotch session. So diss not the Glenfiddich 12. It has its place in the great whiskey firmament.

    • Hi Ben,
      For the uses you list above, I prefer Glenlivet 12. Head-to-head, I think the Glenfiddich is slightly rougher and a little less subtle. It’s also (At least around here) very slightly more expensive (by $2-$5). I always have a bottle of Glenlivet 12 in my cabinet.

      • Ben says:

        Interesting. I’ve always found it exactly the opposite: that Glenlivet 12 is a slightly rougher and less subtle. Tasted back to back, the Glenfiddich 12 has always seemed smoother and a bit fruitier. But I’ve never been a Glenlivet fan — and again, these are matters of opinion.

  3. Definitely one I want to try, but agree with you on pricing – it seems that anything not in the core range of any given distillery is automatically doubled in price compared to it’s nearest relative in the core stable. Seems an odd concept to me.

    • @Tipple Agreed. In some industries, this is called a “money-grab”, but people seem weirdly uncomfortable with assigning greed-based motives to noble brands with a long history. In some cases I accept this type of pricing scheme when it comes with an otherwise difficult-to-find feature, such as port barrel finishing, vatting with extra-old stock, maturation in experimental barrels, under interesting conditions, or with unusual (and expensive or time-consuming) distillation procedures. If nothing else, I like to see something noteworthy in the drinking experience (See my notes on Ardbeg Corryvreckan, which is a young whisky with a high price that is entirely justified by the flavor). This is just a good whisky with an almost-industry-standard type of barrel maturation that would be worth buying if it were fully $30 less.

  4. Ed Leon says:

    Hi! I would be interested in your comments on Oban, which I have purchased for as little as $36US in Europe six years ago, and as much as $60 in the U.S., but as little as $44+ @ Costco just this holiday season. I think it compares very favorably with the Balvenie line-up, as well as with the GFs up to 15 yrs. I must admit, I am not into the peaty ones, and I prefer to drink my single malts straight, while enjoying a great cigar.

  5. Ed Leon says:

    I’d also like to know how you feel about the pricing of Johnny Walker Blue. I was not real happy when my son and his wife spent a lot of bucks on a bottle for my birthday this December. Frankly, I think it is way over-priced, and not nearly the value of three bottles of Oban, Balvenie, or the better Glenfiddichs.

    • Ed, I’ve never tasted the Blue. I have asked the same question of whisky people that I know, and universally they all say it’s “good” but not nearly worth the money. Ballantine’s 17 is a cheaper way to get the same flavor profile, but you’re right – a few bottles of younger single malt is probably a better use of the money. Cheers!

  6. vtw says:

    I agree with the Scotch prices skyrocketing comment. There are not many value price bottles right now in the single malt category, at least in the US. Balvenie DW, Amrut NAS and the amazing Larphroig 10 yo come immediatley to mind at prices from $31 – $48. You could buy one of each and still have $$ left over for a pretty decent hoagie.

  7. james says:

    This is a deceptive Scotch with extremely light overtones and finish. It is priced high, but I intend to purchase a lot of it.

  8. Pizaro says:

    Have a bottle of this and, after reading your review and these comments, will definitely open it this weekend and maybe review it for my blog (www.maltfreak.com).

    As for the price of Scotch, it is truly getting outrageous, I agree, but there are wonderful exceptions like Glenfarclas. Their 10 year old is $30 and delicious; the 17 is about $80 and , along with the 21 at about $105, among my very favorite whiskies in the world. Even their 40 year old (which I, sadly, have never tasted nor even seen) is a “bargain” at $499 – that’s what I read and, if you look at the prices for other 40 year olds, does seem to be the case. Aberlour, too, has some bargains (their whole range, actually) as do several others. Thank goodness, because I can’t afford the more pricey stuff!

  9. David says:

    Glenfiddich 12 year was my first scotch. Glenlivet 12 was probably my second. Glenlivet 18 became my favorite scotch very quickly – however, a bit pricey for regular consumption. I found that I liked the Glenfiddich 15 almost as much as the Glenlivet 18, and for the price, a hell of a lot better (which means I like it better than Glenfiddich 18). Sadly, with the price increases, some shops have been selling the Glenfiddich 15 for 59.99 (U.S. dollars). I just got another bottle of the Malt Master’s for my birthday today. No complaints from me!

  10. Richard S. Harris says:

    My being a bit of a newbie to single malts, only the past 4 -5 years, the Malt Masters is a favorite of mine. Pricey? Yes. I had enjoyed blended Scotch for years after cutting my teeth on Jim Beam. My blend of choice was Red Label Johnnie Walker. I have tried many singles, and prefer highlands, and Speysides. My favorites include Glenfiddich Malt Masters, and also 12, and 15. Glenlivet 12, Glenmorangie Original, The Dalmore 12, and Jura.
    I have a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, to the tune of $236.00 and am not totally sold on the value there. It was a Merry Christmas to Me present. So I have sipped it only on special occasions.

  11. Tudval says:

    I wouldn’t complain about the price in this case. This whisky is excellent, a class above the Doublewood, just as the blue Label is a class above most everything else. Not everybody appreciate the taste difference, agreed, but as far as pricing there are many worse examples. Macallan maybe the worst value and many compare their (otherwise excellent) 18 yo with Glenfiddich’ Malt Master (less than half price). Still irrelevant of you prefer peated whiskies yo sherry monsters. I don;t like to pay more either, buy I think I’ve been getting a bargain for years, since there really no comparison between scotch malts and any other liquor. I was trying all along to get my rich friend to invest in distinctive and rare malts, as I think, as much as we like to complain, prices may double or triple in the next 20 years. There’s always potato vodka and cheap rum though.

  12. Andy Ördögh says:

    I fount this Glenfiddich very smooth, pleasant for the pallet drink.
    In my dictionary, – this is one of the best. On the other hand, I cannot claim to be a sophisticated
    Connoisseur. For the price, it is a very nice scotch.
    My idea of taste is, if it is pleasant experience, I like it. Taste is also part of this concept.
    You have to make your own choices, decision. Value is truly your own enterpretation.
    Try it before to buy it? Good idea, but if you fail, you could add to your “christmas decoration”
    Category. If you have visitors, they could be ” impressed by your collection ” without actually
    Committing yourself. Ha…….ha…..ha…

  13. Anonymous says:

    I had this over Christmas, bought it for a gift and was lucky enough to share a sample! Excellent.!!!! I felt JW Blue Label was my all time best scotch…… not so sure anymore!!!

  14. DazinOz says:

    Literally just tried this – whisky still in the glass. Lively, fruity nose with a very UN-Glenfiddich alcohol lift. A lovely copperish colour and a lively,fruitily sweet (prunes!!) palate – and again that SO Un-Glenfiddich lift of alcohol. Actually, a pleasant surprise as it takes away from that corporate ‘sameness’ of the brand. It may not excite me as much as a 15 or 18 YO Highland Park or a Talisker, or (bizarrely???) an Auchentoshan. Still, loved this for the simple break from corporate tradition. As an Aussie, the price is OK… Sort of, as much to do with taxes as anything else. Still, $90 (Aus) for this, or $70 for 12 YO Highland Park??? It might be a 1 in 3 or 4 option…

  15. Andy says:

    Hey guys
    Did nobody herd something like this? I bought glenfiddich malt master edition. Actually bought
    Several of them once I have tasted the first bottle.
    Now! The one I had first tried, it had bottle or watt marks dated 04/13 excellent, smooth,
    Absolut delight!
    Than I have opened a new bottle Bering the marks 06/13. Yuck!
    I don’t know is only me, or the roughness, taste is aggressive, I just did not enjoy it.
    I have returned two unopened bottles to the store to get my $180 back.
    There was no problem, got my rebound!
    Anybody has an opinion on this? Is it intensional just to change the taste?
    Maybe it is a missed wat? Anyhow, shoot me if I failed the “sophistication test”, or the true
    “Conneseur” test!
    Anibody has an opinion?

    • Hi Andy, I’m not sure what happened with your bottles. I have heard of variations between batches that can cause a “bad batch”, although they’re usually checked pretty thoroughly. It’s also possible that one bottle got air inside – perhaps a faulty cork or seal – although that would usually take several years to have any kind of major negative effect. Some other contamination is possible, but unlikely (residue in that particular bottle before filling?). If you’ve only had one taste from the “Bad” bottle, you might be able to take it back and get a refund. I know the liquor store I buy my scotch from is good about issuing refunds for open bottles, as long as it’s clear you didn’t drink much of it. You didn’t fail a sophistication test. If it tasted bad to you (especially after enjoying a previous batch) then it’s not a problem with your sense of taste. You might want to give the “bad” bottle another chance though – sometimes some oxygen and a rest can cause a whisky to settle down… but if it still tastes bad – take it back for a refund.

      • Andy Ordogh says:

        Hello
        Thank you for the promp reply. I was truly disappointed with my experience.
        Yesterday I vent to the store where I have bought all of the previus items.
        Actually bought about 16 bottles. I was told, the’ll take back the unopened bottles only.
        I got credit for two bottles, since those are the only ones with 06/13 dates.
        At $79.95 I would expect a better taste, quality. It is entirely possible than a batch may differ
        From an other, but it is just too much of a contrast.
        If I’m not mistaken the final product it finished in Spanish sherry oak barrels.
        Slight variations would be possible. If it is too drastic of a change, it is no longer the same product, ergo the price should be reflecting the changes.
        I don’t mind to pay the price for something wich is enjoyable. I’m not an expert, but like to taste,
        Enjoy a drink.
        I found the taste is very hars, very strong alcohol oriented taste. Very similar effects to Johnny
        Walker red label.
        Having a dirty bottle, ? Hmmm…. I really don’t know.
        I believe it is just a simple upppppsss, from the company, let’s push it on to the market, sell it,
        Forget it. If somebody did not try it before, hmmmmmm, you know, it is not a total waste.
        Financially it is all’s well. I have no idea of, how many bottles the company would have lost if
        It was not sold. But it is possible to trace it to profits first & will see. Hm……
        It is to each individual’s taste that will have the final vote, but the profits are the very interest
        Of scotch producers.
        I have started to taste whiskey’s since Febr. 2013. I like the taste, slow sipping, the joy of relaxing, when I’m reading.
        Aut of curiosity bought several different scotches, whiskeys.
        Aberlour 12 – 16 – 18 year old.
        Ardbeg uigeadail
        Glennfiddich 12 – 15 – 18 -19 – 21 year old, Malt Master Edition, Cask of Dreams edition.
        Johnny Walker Black Label, Gold Label, Platinum Label.
        Balvenie Double Wood 12 years
        Just to mention a few.
        My favorite is glenfiddich 19 years old ( missisipi red bourbon cask ), than glennfiddich
        Malt Master with the 04/13 batch, than Glanfiddich 15 year old.
        Second list is Aberlour, 12 & 16 year old, also Balvenie Double Wood 12year old.
        If you try all of them, after the third sample, will be, all of them just great!
        Anyhow I guess, I’m extending the purpose of this forum, so I stop.
        Thanks Andy.

  16. Andy Ordogh says:

    I’m writing these lines – using my IPad! Noticed, my érti ing has resembles to a drunk salors’s
    Epilog. Actually The autofunction of this wonderful instrument give corrections.
    I have this habit of not backchecking wich language was selected & give s me these wild results.

    There are too many variations btw. the bottles, – actually wats or batches. I beleives it could be caused by finishing sherry casks differences.
    The final product will reflect these variations, – if somebody does not know any better, it is O.K.
    If you executive consistancy, well, that is not going to hapend.
    Noticed, “good batch or not , the price is the same!
    Hmmmmmm….. Now this is the reál reason why I’ve decided to return The 2 bottles with the 06/13 markings.

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