On Wednesday, April 12, I was invited, as a representative of Penn Appétit, to attend a private Glenfiddich tasting hosted at the Assembly Rooftop Lounge in Center City. We were taken on a tour of the Glenfiddich brand’s history and some of their single malt offerings, including a preview of their Project XX that is not available until this summer.
We started with an interesting cocktail of pear and cracked pepper that highlighted the fruitier notes of the 12-year scotch. The Glenfiddich Ambassador, Tracie Franklin, led the tasting and started with an intriguing history of the family owned company that was founded in 1887 near the river Fiddich. Their methods of putting away extra barrels during crises led to store of vintages that many other companies lack and was something the company emphasized. For history buffs, one interesting fact brought up was the switch from coal to peat during WWII due to the lack of coal created a peaty, strong vintage that is very different from the milder profile Glenfiddich typically emphasizes.
Glenfiddich 12 Single Malt
We then tasted five different single malt scotches. The first was the 12-year, the youngest of their traditional scotches. This was a slightly lower-proof scotch that had a sweet, slightly citrusy profile. This was a lighter scotch to start off with and the fruity notes were highlighted in the pear cocktail we started with.
Glenfiddich 14 Bourbon Barrel Reserve
Next on the list was the 14 year that Tracie emphasized showed a bit more innovation by using 2nd fill barrels coming from U.S. bourbon due to a change in laws. The toasted and charred barrels that previously contained bourbon were intended to provide a flavor that had elements of bourbon. Indeed, this came through in the more vanilla and brown sugar notes that are characteristic of a bourbon profile. The slightly higher proof of the 14 year gives an tingly finish that serves as a nice introduction to the burn of the stronger distilled alcohols that often turn drinkers off. This one had a warmer profile than the 12-year that could be very appealing to a drinker who prefers slightly sweeter aromas and flavors and are looking for an good, but more mellowed scotch.
Glenfiddich 15 Solera Reserve
The 15-year scotch continued with the slightly sweeter profiles, but with a spicier aftertaste that made this one of my favorites of the lineup. The brewing process was interesting, Franklin emphasizing the use of an 11,000 gallon vat that is continually added to so that it has not been less than half-full since the eighties, an interesting walk-around on the regulations on the single malt label. This method provides an interesting blending and mellowing that creates a nicely complex flavor and aroma. It is immediately distinguishable from the 12 and 14 year with the much sweeter aroma. This is a smoother scotch compared to the sharper edges in the younger single malts. The sweetness with the spicier finish appealed strongly to me, with the full disclosure that I am a habitual whiskey drinker and it may not be a profile that works for those looking for an introduction to whiskey.
Glenfiddich 18 Small Batch Reserve
The 18-year had elements of the 15-year that were still more mellowed, especially with the addition of a drop of water. This one keeps the pear elements of some of the earlier scotches but brings the flavors to a much less sharp taste. It maintained the elements I had begun to associate with Glenfiddich, but the 18 years shows in a much more mature, nuanced flavor, with what sharp edges remained being smoothed.
Glenfiddich India Pale Ale Cask finish
We also had the opportunity to taste two whiskeys from Glenfiddich’s experimental series. The first was the India Pale Ale Cask Finish. This is an odd whiskey beer hybrid that comes about from the addition of hops to the scotch to bring out some of the flavors typically associated with IPAs. The aromas that rose to the surface in this were grassy and hay-like, an interesting combination with a whiskey. In truth, I am uncertain how to class this or how I feel about it. The best description I could come up with was that I started to expect beer when I tasted the hoppy top notes, and my taste buds could not decide what to do about the non-carbonated whiskey base.
Glenfiddich Project XX
The true standout in my opinion was the Project XX, a new experimental whiskey that will be available in the United States this summer. This is a scotch that had nice elements of sherry to the taste, providing a slightly tannic edge that went well with the smoky and butterscotch notes that dominated. It was a bit unusual and deviates from the lighter, fruitier tastes that Glenfiddich is generally known for, but it will definitely be on my list to watch out for.
Our host Tracie Franklin, the regional ambassador for Glenfiddich also talked about how she first got into whiskey while bar-tending. She worked the extra job while she was singing and acting in New York, and it was there she discovered whiskey. Now, she claims she wants to try to bring more people to the spirit. To further that goal, she shared one of her cocktails that she thinks brings out the fruity flavors of the 12 Year Glenfiddich.
Scotch Thyme Lemonade
by Tracie Franklin
1.5 parts Glenfiddich 12 Single Malt
.75 part fresh lemon juice
.75 part 1:1 honey syrup*
2 sprigs of fresh thyme*
- Add the Glenfiddich, lemon juice, herbs, and syrup to a shaker
- Fill with ice and shake
- Strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice
- Garnish with a lemon wheel and fresh thyme
*Honey syrup: combine 1part honey and 1 part hot water
*This Recipe is delicious with an array of herbs including fresh basil, mint, or rosemary. Get creative!