There are few better ways to spend a wintery evening than sitting in the snug of a pub, drinking a dram of whisky. Glenfiddich brand ambassador Mark Thomson recently came to Birmingham for a series of events to extoll the virtues of the brand, and on a blustery weekday evening the Birmingham Whisky Club invited a few of us down for an intimate tasting.
For me, one of the draws of whisky is the rich history that encompasses the spirit and the story of Glenfiddich is not short of them. One of the world’s biggest selling and most awarded, this family run business first produced whisky on Christmas Day, 1887. Still run by the fifth generation descendants of founder William Grant, Glenfiddich’s family ownership means that they are able to do a few things a bit differently. Such as, in 1963 they were the first whisky brand to market single malt Scotch to America, a risky move, given the country’s bourbon production, which ultimately paid off.
A natural storyteller, Glenfiddich’s brand ambassador Mark Thomson was able to spin a rich tale of the origin of whisky, the story of William Grant and the evolution of Glenfiddich’s production over the 128 years. If you’ve sat through a number of whisky tastings they can get a little repetitive, but Mark was engaging and peppered the story with anecdotes and humour.
And then of course there was the whisky. We started with Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, probably the most well known of the selection with it’s iconic green triangular bottle; it’s a regular on whiskies shelves in most bars. It’s a light fruit whisky, reminiscent of summer time with vanilla, fresh pear and caramel. The Glenfiddich 18 year old is the sister to the 12 y/o, mainly due to a similar mix of barrels used to age the whisky. To me, this was a smoother whisky, with flavours of cooked fruits, older oak and dare I say it, a touch of Christmas.
Glenfiddich 15 year old has a different style, more earthy, nuttier, oily and dry – Mark called it the pinot noir of the range. Unlike the other two whiskies, the 15 y/o uses a solera method to age the whiskies, a method developed by sherry producers, and so 15 years is youngest of whisky component in this bottling. It gives it more of an earthy flavour which would compliment game meat, particularly as an Old Fashioned – a good gateway into easing people into whisky drinking (and a damn tasty cocktail too).
Our fourth whisky of the evening was the Glenfiddich 21 year old Gran Reserva whisky. This is finished in a rum casks, which are created in the Caribbean especially for Glenfiddich, and you can certainly note some of the rum flavouring, particularly the sweet brown sugar, fruits and spices. The last of the age statement whiskies we tried was the Glenfiddich 26 year old, which is certainly likely to challenge drinkers preconceptions due to its pale colour, which probably comes from the American white oak casks used to age it. It is light with flavour that really lasts and lingers, and a slight peppery note.
We were also treated to a tasting of Glenfiddich The Original. A limited edition whisky, inspired by the 1963 Glenfiddich Straight Malt which was taken to America to introduce the world to single malt Scotch, it was created with help from the original recipe book from Glenfiddich’s fourth Malt Master.
Having been to a number of The Birmingham Whisky Club events in the past, this was another fantastic chance to hear more about a brand with a rich history and try their range, particularly from an engaging storyteller like Mark Thomson. The Birmingham Whisky Club run a number of whisky tastings throughout the year themed around brands, styles and countries, as well as Whisky Birmingham, a whisky festival which is taking place again in March 2016 and tickets are on sale now (hello Christmas present).
Disclosure: I was invited to the whisky tasting as a guest of the Birmingham Whisky Club, but wasn’t obliged to be positive or write anything…which is probably wise, given the state of my notes from the evening.