Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish

I have nothing against experimentation in the scotch whisky market. In fact, I applaud it on principle. Stodgy adherence to “the way things have always been done” can stifle the creation of newer, better products while also preserving the best of the past. Really, the industry needs a bit of both. Keep the old traditions when they make better whisky, but keep experimenting in case you find an improvement or an alternative. Lately, there seems to be a trend with whisky companies bottling and selling their experimental casks, sometimes in the middle of the ongoing experiment. The largest such effort I’ve seen has been the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection. If you ever wanted to know the difference in taste between the bottom, middle, and top of a tree, go ahead and Google up some Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection. Sometimes this type of public experimentation leads to products that should have never seen the shelf, or bald-faced marketing drivel. Sometimes, it leads to tasty stuff.

Here we have something new. Whisky is (sort of) distilled beer, right? And most (almost all) beer contains hops to some degree. So why not age whisky in casks that previously held heavily-hopped India Pale Ale style beer? Actually this is not totally new, but it’s a valiant idea. A collaboration between Speyside brewer Seb Jones and Glenfiddich’s malt master Brian Kinsman, a specially-brewed IPA ale using Challenger hops was aged for 4 weeks in used Glenfiddich American Oak barrels, which were then emptied and used to finish Glenfiddich single malt for 12 weeks. The result was bottled without an age statement at 43% ABV and retails for, well, a lot.

My sample was from Lot 17 04 7983, whatever that means.

Nose: Maybe I’m going nuts, but this just smells like Glenfiddich to me. A bit of oak, some sunny, nutty malt, a little orange peel, and deep in the glass a hint of banana and walnut.

Palate: Mild, slightly syrupy body. Banana again. A tad hot for 43% ABV. Are there hops? Now I’m “power of suggestion”-ing myself. Yes, that was an awkward way to phrase that, and I’m OK with it. There is definitely a hint of herbaceous, hoppy flavor with an accompanying twinge of grassy bitterness. Hops! Experiment a success! Ship it!

Finish: Short. Minty, with a cooling (instead of drying) effect. Fades quickly.

With Water: A few drops of water release a lemony note that takes over the aroma for a bit. The hops might be more noticeable on the palate now, but that could also just be because I know what to look for. Finish is vaguely sweeter.

Overall: OK, well, I don’t dislike it. I also don’t think it particularly tastes or smells like an IPA. In fact, tasted blind the words “IPA” and “hops” would have never entered my mind. I doubt I would have even detected the unusual menthol effect on the finish, or the herby quality on the tongue. That said, it’s a tasty Glenfiddich that I certainly like more than the 12 year, and even maybe the 15 year (some of the flavors remind me of the 18 year).

If nothing else, you should not be put off from trying this expression if you aren’t into IPA or heavily-hopped beer. At more than $60, however, I balk at the idea of paying out of pocket for Glenfiddich’s own experimental whisky program. Crowdfunded R&D is trendy, or whatever, but that doesn’t mean I appreciate being on the “crowd” side of it.

Finally, MAN that’s a pretty bottle…

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 Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $57-$80
Acquired: (45ml sample bottle) From a Flaviar Tasting Box

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8 thoughts on “Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish

  1. 4 weeks doesn’t seem like enough time to “season” the barrels with all that hoppy goodness, and 12 weeks doesn’t seem like enough time to infuse the malt with said goodness. It’s a gimmick, I say.

      1. I have no idea. But I do know these things take longer in Scotland’s cold climate than they do in Kentucky or Taiwan. That’s why 20+ year age statements are common in Scotch, but rare in Bourbon.

        1. Global “maturation” does indeed take longer in Scotland than in (say) Kentucky. But I don’t think that means it takes a very long time for beer to soak into wood and back out of wood.

          This is 100% me just speculating.

  2. Not sure I’ll end up trying this one at all. It’s $10 more than the 15 Year Solera, which I seem to hold in higher esteem than you. It’s a relief to hear that it’s not got a big IPA flavour as I detest super hoppy beers. Just because I won’t buy it, doesn’t mean someone else won’t buy it for me. My family members, bless their hearts, only know I like “scotch”. They don’t read my blog (that I know of) so they obviously don’t know my preferences. Oh well. Have you tried the Project XX? The whole thing smells like marketing nonsense, but I’ve heard SOME positive reviews of it.

  3. So I “need” to know that:

    – they’re Challenger hops, as opposed to Enterprise or Discovery
    – that the barrels were soaked for 4 weeks
    – that said barrels were then used to apply a 12-week finish

    But I DON’T need to know the age of the whisky that finish was applied to. Seems pretty innovative and scientific to me – or at least a good way to provide buyers with some story to tell while omitting a key piece of information. If all of this other detail is so important, where is the argument that product age isn’t – or, better, is it just assumed not to be by Glenfiddich’s not talking about it? “My sample was from Lot 17 04 7983, whatever that means.” – exactly.

    This is the same “you pay for our nonsense” line of “scientific inquiry” that gave us the Mayweather-McGregor fight: people just “had” to be paid millions upon millions to demonstrate that a guy without a single professional boxing match wasn’t going to beat an undefeated champion who held 15 titles.

    1. I agree with you on the 15! I find it one of the finest bottles for under $100 I’ve found (runs about $60-65 in NC/SC). If I had to drink one Scotch for the rest of my life, the 15 would make the short list…
      I’ve avoided this IPA deal because to me, IPA and Scotch seems like a horrible “experiment”. Hops have no place near my beloved nectar. I’m a devout hop-head when it comes to beer, but a hoppy Scotch sounds disgusting. Having said that, after reading this review, I may have to buy a bottle.
      Just picked up the Project XX today. Will report back once I crack it open. :)

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