If you’ve been around the single malt scotch market for any length of time, you probably had the same reaction to this label that I did. “Uhh… basically every single malt is aged in bourbon barrels.” So what’s so special about this particular bottle that they felt the need to slap it in large type on the label? Let’s not forget that “Reserve” means absolutely nothing.
At least the name Glenfiddich 15 “Solera” Reserve, one of my favorite Glenfiddichs, tells a story. (Let’s not talk about Glenfiddich 14 “Rich Oak”…)
A quick swing by the website reveals something that really ought to have been clearer on the label: The 14 year-old Glenfiddich (aged in ex-bourbon, of course) is finished in charred new American oak casks for a short period of time (I’m guessing less than a year). So really the key thing here is not the “Bourbon Barrel” which is par for the course. No, the key is the finish in virgin oak, something that I’m seeing pop up more frequently in single malt special editions these days. For what it’s worth, the Bourbon Barrel Reserve is a US exclusive release. You don’t see that often. Now that we have something to go on, let’s taste:
Nose: Round, sweet, cereal-forward. Toasted barley, oatmeal cookies, fresh chunk charcoal, and mild ripe banana. After a rest in the glass, vanilla and some mild tart tropical fruits (lime, kiwi).
Palate: Syrupy body. Nice balance of brown-sugar malty sweetness, mild oak, and fresh lively tongue burn. Well-structured, if simple.
Finish: Medium long. Warming, but a little shy. Fades slowly but only an additional nutty note (walnuts?).
With Water: A few drops of water bring out a new lemon-lime note but makes the palate seem thinner. Water not necessary here.
Overall: A tasty, accomplished dram that is miles ahead of Glenfiddich 12. This has far more oaky sweetness, more nuttiness, better balance, a longer finish, and almost none of that “paint thinner” youth that comes across in the 12. Well done. Worth the money at $45, but $55 is pushing it.
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 (14 year) Bourbon Barrel Reserve
Price Range: $45 - $56
Acquired: (750ml bottle) From Flaviar Subscription