Big news here on the blog. I created a Twitter account last weekend (@WhiskeyWriter, natch). I’m basically using it to track all of the great whisk(e)y tweeters out there (“tweeters” is the preferred nomenclature, right?). And there are a lot. For my own tweets, I’m going to be retweeting good whiskey reviews, local tasting events, giveaways, etc., and generally interesting tweets and pictures. And occasionally tweeting back and forth with distilleries and distributors in thinly-veiled attempts at getting them to send me free samples (kidding, of course!).
Anyhow, last Sunday night, while toying around with my new account, I stumbled across a tweet mentioning an upcoming Glenfiddich tasting party in Philly. After tracking it down a bit, I managed to get myself on the invite list to the tasting, which was held last Tuesday night at the very interesting Mask and Wig Club in Philadelphia. Aside from that, there were no further details.
So with my buddy Gordon in tow, I headed to the event wondering just what was in store. The answer in short was that it was 90% party and 10% whisky tasting. After checking my coat at the door, the good folks from Glenfiddich (or rather, their attractive 25-year-old fembot proxies) ushered me straight to the bar for a cocktail. I’m pretty sure they read my prior post regarding the value of instantaneous drink delivery at a whisky event. So far, so good. The bar area was darkly lit, with a whisky cask in the center of the room, apparently related to Glenfiddich’s new Cask of Dreams offering.
Have I shown up for a seance? Either way, I'm ready to communicate with some spirits.
As I nursed my cocktail and sized up the crowd, a disturbing bass line began shaking the room. One of the fembots (Glenbots?) informed us that the upstairs area was open. Like a good lemming, I headed up with the crowd to check it out. My initial reaction was that I had stumbled upon a wedding reception. There was a band onstage blasting away at all of the wedding reception classics (“Brick House,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “You Shook Me” and the like). Along the right wall was a bar serving the same cocktails as downstairs (having no issues with mixing Glenfiddich’s 12 year old with sugary juices), and on the left wall were tables featuring the 12 year old, 15 year old, and 18 year old expressions. This tasting was clearly not going to be part of the slow whisky movement recently championed by Jason Debly.
I can't even hear myself drink.
Again, I was interested in whether there would be any educational tilt to the evening, but for this night, the party was clearly the main event. The extent of the tasting conversation was when the Glenbots directed you to the bottled flavor accessories as they poured your dram (pears for the 12 year old, honey for the 15 year old, and oak chips for the 18 year old).
In the end, it amounted to drinking some free booze at a wedding reception, which actually isn’t the worst way to spend a Tuesday night. Plus I hadn’t yet tasted the 15 or the 18. So here are my quick notes (which may or may not have been affected by the fact that there were waiters serving aromatic foods all around me, and that the band was incredibly loud).
Glenfiddich 12 Year Old
World’s best selling single malt, right? I hadn’t been thrilled with it the few times I had tried it in the past, but maybe that would change. The nose was very light (oh, quick praise of the tasting – the single malts were served in Glencairn glasses). Maybe a little bit of vanilla and pepper? Not even sure. Aromas were hard to detect. On the palate, despite the official description of pear notes, I got almost no fruit. It was dry, fairly smooth, with a peppery spice. Not entirely pleasant, and somewhat tightly wound. After a few minutes in the glass, shaking to the sweet bass lines of KC and the Sunshine Band, the 12 relaxed a bit. The finish, which was somewhat bitter at first, smoothed out. Still not my favorite whisky.
Glenfiddich 15 Year Old
On the nose, the suggested honey is indeed the dominant note. There is also a nice fruitiness, close to the pear on the 12 year’s table. A very pleasant nose. On the palate, it is very smooth, light and sweet. The nose notes come through with honey, or perhaps a little darker sugar like molasses. Plus the fruit remains, in a pear and banana combination. There is also a hint of oak and maybe chocolate (not sure, hard to tell while “Celebrate” by Kool and the Gang is blaring). Spices intensify on the finish. A nice drink.
Glenfiddich 18 Year Old
Overall, I thought the 18 year old really resembled the 15 year old. To me, they seemed like close brothers, while they were both just cousins with the 12 year old. On the nose, it is almost difficult to distinguish between the two, with the 18 also demonstrating a very nice sugary sweetness. On the palate, this too is super smooth, light and sweet. I think the distinction is that the 18 year old’s sweetness is more oaky vanilla, and less pear and banana. I also found a little bit of smoke dancing through to the finish. Again, this is a whisky that I’ll never turn down (and one that goes down very easily while listening to songs like “Funkytown,” as shown by my haggard state at the end of the evening).
Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams
As a poorly kept secret, at a point later in the night, after the band had finished “Love Shack,” they brought out tastings of the new Cask of Dreams. This is the US-focused expression where Glenfiddich took oak casks to major US cities and rolled the casks around, having people write their dreams on them. Then, they brought the casks back to Dufftown (great name for a distillery home base), and finished this whisky in those casks. At this point in the evening, my tasting notes were getting hazy (as they tend to when I’m trying multiple whiskies), so I don’t recall a lot of the nose, but on the palate, I found this to be a remarkably light, and frankly delicious, dram. Again, very sweet – likely sweeter than the 15 and the 18 – with vanilla, apple and cinnamon. Yummy.
Glenfiddich is in every liquor store. It is in most bars. It is known as being the best selling single malt in the world. When I am confronted with these facts, my natural instinct is to avoid it. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I root against the Yankees because they’re the Yankees. I eschew U2, preferring to find new indie bands. I boycott Applebees, instead frequenting local holes-in-the-wall for dinners out. But here’s the thing — often times, these huge juggernauts are huge for a reason. The Yankees are usually a fantastic baseball team. U2 has a huge catelog of really outstanding music. Applebees … well, it really is best to avoid Applebees. The point, though, applies to Glenfiddich. It is unwise to avoid the brand based solely on their popularity .
The 12, 15, 18 and Cask of Dreams retail locally for about $37, $44, $80 and $100 respectively. Considering the prices, the Glenfiddich 15 is my undisputed winner of the evening. I place it on roughly even footing with the 18, and a wee step down from the Cask of Dreams. At $44, I consider it to be a very worthy investment. The 12, unfortunately, is one that I will continue to take a pass on.
In all, though, a fun evening. Many thanks to Glenfiddich for having me.