Glenfiddich (12 year)

These notes are for the Glenfiddich entry-level 12-year-old distillery bottling, with its distinctive triangular green glass bottle.

Nose: Dry, crisp, and earthy without any smoke. A hint of fresh-squeezed lime and green grass.

Palate: Thin, watery body. An initial warming wave of caramel popcorn and hot oatmeal with brown sugar. Not picking up any fruit at all. Just a mellow, baked sweetness with elements of stale cereal. A very trimmed-down, one-sided malt. No oak, no peat, no sherry. Just easy drinking and easy to pair.

Finish: Short, but with a lingering caramely sweetness.

Adding a few drops of water kills whatever nose there was, replacing it with maybe a faint floral air – maybe rose? However, it brightens up the palate, giving some citrusy notes and making it taste a little less stale. I definitely recommend the water with this one, at least a few drops. For a bottle in the $25 range, it’s unfortunately only a step above the cheapest blends, with perhaps a bit more drink-ability than standards like Johnnie Walker or Chivas Regal. It is best suited as a stepping-stone to better malts, as The Glenlivet 12 is slightly cheaper, and has more complexity, and thus deserves the “inexpensive Speysider” spot in your daily rotation.

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 (12 year)
40% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $23-$30
Acquired: (50ml miniature) purchased from Beverages & More.

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  • I think writing a review such as this is a dangerous road to travel i.e. the ‘not recommended’ comment in conclusion. Firstly, Glenfiddich is the biggest selling single malt in the world and I imagine by doing this you have probably just pissed off a few people including myself who is a big fan. Secondly, it is hard to take a review seriously when the author cannot spell the biggest selling Scottish whisky in the world properly. It is Johnnie Walker not Johnny!!

  • Bob, Thanks very much for pointing out that typo in ‘Johnnie’ Walker. It has been fixed.

    Personally, I think one of the most important aspects of independent blogging is that I should speak my mind. If I don’t think a product is worth the money, or is of inferior quality to those other products in the same price range, then I say so. I am not concerned with “pissing off” corporations, no matter how big they are.

    I am sorry if you don’t agree with my conclusions – that’s another important aspect of independent blogging: dissension. I’d love to hear what you like about Glenfiddich 12. Do you like it better than the similarly-priced Glenlivet 12? Why?

    • I seriously dont think Bob Malerks was inferring you ‘pissed off’ big corporations, but the actual people who do enjoy Glenfiddich 12. And I am one of those. Indeed, you are entitled to your opinion in your blog and should be encouraged to give it, however,,your wording should be addressed,,Not Recommended??? this is blatantly wrong. Perhaps you should change this to, Not MY favourite, or Not one I would choose. You dont even encourage others to try it. Everyones tastes are different and you should by no means write this off as a non starter, but should instead, emphasise your tastes. I drink a variety of malts, mostly singles, from all areas of Scotland,,a favourite is hard to pin down,,but on discussions with friends or non malt drinkers,,I would certainly encourage them to try ANY they wanted to. I may add that a particular one isnt my favourite,,but would NEVER tell them I didnt recommend it,,its entirely THEIR taste and THEIR choice,,so perhaps you should be a LOT more open and encouraging, instead of damning things outright,,very blinkered and limiting. Learn, encourage and share!

      • Hi Gill, thanks for the comment. First, the word “Recommended” is inherently subjective. I recommend something, therefore *I* like it and I think *you* (whoever you are, remember I have to write reviews to a wide audience without knowing ANYONE’s personal preferences) will like it too. I don’t recommend Glenfiddich 12. I’m sorry if you think that’s wrong, but it’s my opinion, and this blog is here so I can share my opinions, regardless of who agrees with them or not. If I followed your advice, every single product I discuss would have the same rating: “I liked/disliked it and you may/may not like it too”. Boring. Nobody can try everything on the market, so I hope to guide people towards products that I think are more worth their time than other products. Am I telling anyone to AVOID Glenfiddich 12? No. I am suggesting that they are likely to enjoy Glenlivet 12 more, based on my experience. Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that I always encourage people to try different things and establish their own tastes. Telling someone to ONLY drink one or a few things would be blinkered and limiting. I am suggesting that their are better alternatives to this one.

  • Something important that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that sales do not equate to quality. Just because something is more widely available has no bearing on whether or not it’s a good product, and that’s precisely what Glenfiddich is – a ubiquitous dram.

    However, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and if we all enjoyed and hated the same things there’d be no point to the array of vastly differing whiskies available.

  • Kraft Dinner is the best selling boxed macaroni product and therefore the best – and don’t say otherwise or else you’ll piss off a lot of little kids. Ha ha!

    Seriously though, I have to agree with the review. Glenlivet is much more flavourful to me, but neither of them compare to something like a Lagavulin 16 which of course is twice the price. You get what you pay for (hopefully… well most of the time).

  • I agree with this review, and you absolutely should be speaking your mind on a blog such as this. People are fine to disagree as long as it’s because of a drinks taste, not it’s reputation. I picked up a bottle as duty free recently and was quite disappointed with it and I too made the same comparisons as you did to Glenlivet.

  • For the money, the Glenfiddich 12 is my favorite scotch, with the 18 being my favorite for its price range.

    The main reason I like the 12 is the price, and because it is “easy drinking and easy to pair”. I’m not a fan of smokey scotches, but I also enjoy scotch with a little bite. Glenfiddich meets the 2 criteria, and I also like its thin consistency.

    You mentioned Glenlivet 12, which is also a good scotch for the money, and I tend to flip-flop between the two, unless I have more money in my pocket – then I grab the Glenfiddich 18. 🙂

    • Matt,
      I agree, it’s certainly a good deal. For the record, I think Glenlivet does a better job at the 12 year, but Glenfiddich’s 15 year is amazing. Glenfiddich’s 18 year is far cheaper than Glenlivet’s, so it wins there too. 🙂

      • This would be my question. I did not find any review for glenfiddich 15, just checking for the comments for it. I am a newbie and enter the single malt world with glenflddich 12 and loved it after the blended ones.
        After a couple or three bottles of enjoy, I wanted to understand the aging difference and tried glenfiddich 15 to find difference from 12. To my disappointment, I find no difference from 12 deserving the price. However glenfiddich 18 -next try- is far tasty than 12 or 15. The question is, does 3 (or 6 years) makes any taste difference or is it just because of my taste? (All tastes in cognac glasses with few drops of ice cold water.)

        • I should have added: This question in my mind prevents me trying scotch from other “lands”. First I need to understand aging taste to go for a horizontal taste. What I mean; first I would like to get the variety of different lands (Speyside, Highlands, etc.) then decide one as per my taste and go for the aging next. As a next question, would you recommend this procedure?

          • Actually, the regions of scotch whisky production aren’t all that cohesive in terms of style. Yes, most Islay whiskies use heavy amounts of peat and thus Islay whiskies are known to be peaty, but Bunnahabhain is an Islay distillery and uses no (or almost no) peat. Also, there are mainland scotches that are peated, but aren’t from Islay. Most Speyside whiskies are light and fruity, but some Speyside whiskies are heavy and fruity (and a few are peated!). Really, your best approach should be to learn the main styles of single-malt (sherried, ex-bourbon, wine finishes like port or sauternes, peated, cask-strength [high alcohol %], etc.) and decide which of those you like best to help guide you to find new favorites. Remember also that sometimes those styles are combined – Balvenie DoubleWood uses both ex-bourbon and ex-Sherry casks, Highland Park uses sherry casks but also a lot of peat, etc., and that there is a range of intensity from “light” to “heavy”, although it’s not always easy to detect that (I struggle with that myself). Hope that helps. Cheers!

        • Hi Sinan,
          Three years of aging in Scotland (where the climate ages whisky slowly, as opposed to India or the southern United States, where whiskey ages quickly) doesn’t really make a huge difference, for the most part, although the younger it is, the more effect those three years will have – going from 9 years to 12 years can be a huge difference, while going from 18 to 21 will be relatively minor. However, Glenfiddich 15 is actually a different style of single-malt, using the “Solera” method (used in Spain to make Sherry, as well as elsewhere) and also uses sherry barrels in addition to ex-bourbon barrels, giving the whiskey more fruit flavors. Glenfiddich 18 also uses sherry barrels (in addition to ex-bourbon), but doesn’t use the Solera method. In other words, there are other differences between these whiskies other than just age. Glenlivet does the same thing, with the 12-year using ex-bourbon casks, while the 15-year also uses some French oak casks (which provide different flavors).

  • I have to agree with this review. I recently started truly enjoying scotch. My “Genesis” moment was with a bottle of Glenlivet 12 and my mind was blown. I tried Johnnie Walker Black and Jameson, both disappointments when compared to the Glenlivet. Today, I bought a bottle of Glenfiddich to broaden my horizons, and I was really let down. This has all the notes that they mention, sweet… fruity… cereal… but it lacks the wow factor I find in a glass of Glenlivet. If you are considering buying a “starting” scotch, I highly recommend you read this guide closely and put the Glenfiddich back on the shelf.

  • I have to question the price you have listed here. I was reciently in Ohio, and not only did I have to find a liquor store to buy a bottle of this, but it was approx $60, about $5-10 cheaper then Canada. I also couldnt find this in any non liquor store in NY state. And from what I remember when i was in California a few years ago, I wasnt seeing it in the beer and wine either. Im assumeing, of course, that we’re talking about a 26er, and not a flask. In Canada, all you can get for $25-30 is cheap crap blends, like Grants and Bells, or a nice economical Famous Grouse.

    • @BT, Of course, I do not have access to national (or international) pricing information for the whiskies I review. Therefore, I’m forced to put either the price I pay here in California ( currently lists $28 for my zip code for this scotch. I’ve seen it for less in other stores) or the lowest price I can find to order it online. I put whisky prices as a “bottom range”, basically as a service for my readers to know when a given bottle is a good deal or not. Of course, most areas of the country have higher prices than California due to the arcane distribution system that still exists in this country.

  • I am fairly new to scotch (was strictly a beer drinker prior to 9 months ago). I have tried Macallan 18, Macallan 12, Balvenie doublewood, and now Glenfiddich 12. The Macallan 18 was amazing, but super expensive. I went through that bottle way too quickly. The Macallan 12 didn’t live up to the 18, so I moved on. The Balvenie doublewood is really good. It’s probably my “regular” scotch that I go to on any given day. I’m starting on my third bottle now. I decided to try the Glenfiddich 12 as an alternative to the doublewood (similarly priced here). I could not be more disappointed. It’s like comparing a Bud Light to the Sam Adams Oktoberfest. The Glenfiddich 12 is so bland/mild that I drank a couple of drams in ten minutes (I usually sip a dram or two over 30-45 minutes).

    If I had started with this brand/year, it would have been fine. It is a good “starter” into drinking scotch. I won’t ever spend the money on another bottle at this point. I’ll take the doublewood over this everytime!

  • Shame to see that glenfiddich did so poorly, still the 15 is supposed to be such an improvement that i am setting aside what little money i have for it.

  • I think the contention is with the phrasing, the “Not recommended” bit. I wouldn’t mind if it was rated poorly according to the reviewer’s taste, or if the reviewer though it wasn’t that good. However, saying something is “Not recommended” might be taken as “Don’t even try this”. I usually suggest to try a wide variety, and would only tell people to stay away from truly terrible scotch (or any other spirits), something that’d have to awful enough to make me nearly sick from the taste.

    Personally, I am a bit of a Glenfiddich fan, and although I know there are some better scotches out there, I haven’t found many at Glenfiddich’s price that match the quality. Others might be cheaper, and others might be better, but it’s hard to find cheaper scotch that is better, or better scotch that is cheaper. Still, taste is subjective, and I don’t expect everyone to have the same preference.

    • The phrasing should be inferred as “I don’t recommend this” – If you held up this bottle in a store and said “Should I spend $X on this?” My answer would be no. This is (of course) based on my personal taste and my own evaluation of its value versus its price. Just because *I* don’t recommend something doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t enjoy it. I do have a rarely-used “Avoid” rating, which means “Don’t buy it, no matter what!” I think I’ve used it twice.

      In this particular case, as I stated in the review, I think Glenlivet 12 is a better value for the price than Glenfiddich 12, and I think there are much better scotches available *above* this price. I’ll state it again: This is a blog, not a professional review site. I am not the final word in the quality of a scotch. Everyone should make their own decisions about scotch, whether I like them or not. In fact, I’ve spoken to some readers who’ve run out to try things that I disliked to see if they agreed or not. Sometimes they don’t. There is no objective way to review scotch, so you’re all stuck with my subjective reviews. If you disagree with my rating, great! You just made a decision based on YOUR tastes and not mine, and that’s always going to be superior.

      By the way, if I rated every scotch as “I didn’t like it, but you might!” or “I liked it, but you might not!”, I may as well not have ratings at all. I have to draw the line somewhere.

  • I agree with the review. I’ve been drinking scotch for quite a while now and I’ve received Glenfiddich as a gift multiple times and it never impressed me. I now ask those people that buy me scotch as a gift “Just get me a bottle of Glenlivet or Macallan” both are priced in the same ballpark. I find it crazy that some of you are actually “pissed off” about a review. The Scotch Noob gave a “Must Try” recommendation of The Dalmore which I completely disagree with but I’m never going to suggest that giving a positive or negative review of a scotch is a “dangerous road to travel”. Don’t take the reviews personally – bottom line is that we are all here reading this blog because we love scotch.

  • Have to say I too find it weird that people are getting wound up at the phrase “not recommended” – it’s obviously a personal review, and should be taken as such! I enjoyed reading it, and would like to thank The Scotch Noob for publishing it.

    That said, I’m sitting here with a Glenfiddich 12 next to me, and I’m enjoying it. Not as nice as a Talisker, not by a long way, but it’s perfectly drinkable and as it was a present I’m not complaining.

  • I AM a noobie. My favorite whiskey is a bourbon. Basil Hayden. Gentle, clean, with a nice touch of oak smoke. Vanilla, maple, and other subtle flavors. I was gifted a bottle of Glenfiddich. I first used it as a mixer. It was okay. Then, after your review, I decided to try it with a cube of ice, and a few drops of water to open it up. It was a few steps above dishwater. Not the best introduction to single malts. I would prefer Beam by a huge margin. I suspect I missed the point. A single malt is about subtle notes. I don’t particulary care for notes like a burnt sock. Maybe it’s me. Doesn’t inspire me. But I got some recommendations from these reviews. I will try again. So I guess it’s a start. Not the one I hoped for. But I like smoke in my whiskey. Any recommendations? Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

    • Hi James, non-peated scotch like Glenfiddich is, generally, more subtle than bourbon – as you said. If you like smoke, consider trying Highland Park 12 (or 15) which is both mildly peated and sherried, or go whole-hog and try a dram of Laphroaig 10 year, which is quite heavily peated. Those are on the low end. For pricier peated malts, try Lagavulin 16, Talisker 10, or anything from Ardbeg. I would suggest trying these at a bar to gauge your tastes rather than committing to an entire bottle. You could also go the other direction for robust flavor and look at highly sherried malts, like Macallan 12 or GlenDronach 12. Those are usually a lot fruitier than bourbon, but just as flavorful. Cheers!

  • Let me first say that I’m Glenlivet 12 and Dalmore 12 congregant. I branch out into higher priced stuff from time to time, but those are my staples. For grins I bought a bottle of Glenfiddich 12. Your assessment is on point. I was highly disappointed with what was a watered down single malt. JWBL (as a blend and simply on taste) and Aberlour 10 easily replaces it in the cabinet.

  • It’s funny. I read about Scotch a lot (and sometimes enjoy reading/seeing pictures more than drinking). I’m from Bourbon country and can put Woodford or Bulleit 10 down any time. I also can do Irish (some of the nicer Jamesons). I digress. I chose a Highland Park 12 as my first Single malt given the reviews here and of others, and have had a tough time with it. I picked Glenfiddich 12 the other night at a restaurant as a Scotch “second chance”. I thought it was pretty decent, much more palatable than HP. May have to try Glenfiddich 15 now. Or maybe I’m just a Speyside guy and just don’t know it yet!

    • HP 12 is a little more bitter (and has a little peat character – the “smoke”) than the cheap Speysides. I suggest finding a bar with something peated (Laphroaig 10 or Lagavulin 16 or Talisker 10) and try a glass. If you hate it, then the problem was the peat. If you love it, the problem was the cheap. 🙂 Glenlivet 15 and Glenfiddich 15 are both quite good, and both better than the 12 years, respectively. Cheers!

  • i am for the most part very new to scotch i have had two this Glenfiddich and dewars white label but that was a year ago and its not winter again and well once again im in the mood for scotch. I have to agree with your post on this though i do think it does taste good and i would buy it again but if i could find a cheaper price i would do so cause it seems pricey for its over a note and flavor.. I make beer for a hobby and have been able to pick up on notes and able to see how someone gets these much better than i did about 2 years ago..Now from memory Dewars had a strong smoke flavor to it and i liked my question is what is a great scotch to try that is not hard to get…

    now for my opion on this scotch well being it sells alot *i work at a liquor store by the way* it would seem to me this has been made to apease the masses and is prehaps the BUD of scotches not great but for sure not horrible and it is drinkable and you can enjoy it atleast compared to JP WISERS mid shelf

    • Hi Zach, it’ll be hard to find something more cost-effective in the single-malt category than Glenfiddich 12. They have huuuge volume and that allows them to drive their prices pretty damn low compared to other malts. The only scotches I can think of with better cost-value ratios are Bank Note (blended, I like it a lot more than Dewars) and Glenmorangie 10-year, which is a little more than Glenfiddich 12, but a little more refined. Cheers!

  • Sad to see this did so poorly as well. This has been my cheap “go-to” scotch for some time now. I made the switch from Glenlivet to Glenfiddich by the way. Is it a huge dram, or a punch to the tongue full of flavor? No. But I enjoy it’s simplicity, sweetness, and lack of smoke. Makes for really great, easy drinking, scotch, which also makes it an excellent gateway for non-scotch drinkers (lost souls?) to get into scotch. I recommend it to anyone looking to get their foot in the door. Cheers!

  • I would definitely disagree with this review, and have to wonder if you are talking about the same bottle of scotch. My first taste of Glenfiddich 12 seemed to have an almost overwhelming oakiness – on the nose and on the palate – that almost seemed to obliterate everything else No matter how small a sip, or how long I left it on the tongue, the flavor of oak blocked out everything else. You were right about adding a few drops of water opening up the palate – a lot in my case, but not about the nose. Once I added 4 drops of water, the nose blossomed into notes of caramel, vanilla, cotton candy, cereal, and a hint of grass – much of which carried over onto the tongue and blended well with the woody oak.

  • To borrow a phrase from Robert Parker, life is too short to drink Glenfiddich 12, unless of course there is nothing else on offer. Glenfiddich 15 is the starting point where some character can be found. Glenlivet 12 on the other hand is highly underrated as a single malt due to its delicacy but it has a fair bit going on and makes for a great summer whisky or aperitif and could be had even with a meal.


  • Really have to say we are on opposite ends all around. Of the 3 brands I have tried I find Glenfiddich to be the best, Glenmorangie an acceptable 2nd and Auchentoshan American Oak, which you recommend, to be absolute swill with a rubbing alcohol finish that just adds to the substandard flavor.

    • Thanks for the comment! There are so many variables in tasting whisky, that it’s pretty common for people to disagree (or agree) with every single one of my reviews. Just the nature of the beast! Feel free to continue disagreeing with me – it’s the best way to figure out what YOU like, which is what really matters. Cheers!