Last week, Struan Grant Ralph, Global Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich stopped in our small country during one of his global tour for a series of events organized by the “Hacerem”, the local Glenfiddich Importer. The events focused on the Glenfiddich Experimental Series along with a bonus of rare view on the whisky making progress for Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Reserva Rum Cask Finish.
So it seemed like a good idea and timing to (finally) have an in-depth review of the Glenfiddich Project XX, so I sat down with Struan to discuss the experimental series, project XX and Glenfiddich in the hope to learn something new and indeed, at the end I came out wiser, impressed yet also wishing for a change in Glenfiddich.
Struan on the Experimental Series
As we all know by now, the first two expressions in the Experimental were very successful and the third one (Winter Storm), finished in ice wine casks is now hitting the shelves around the globe. Are you wondering what’s the next one in the series? I wondered too, so I bluntly asked him if he can tell me anything on the next one in the series and to my surprise he didn’t declined to answer and revealed it will be centered around PX casks.
I also asked if there are plans for peated Glenfiddich release, now that we have a properly peated Balvenive (‘sister’ distillery in the family) out there. Struan delightfully offered us a taste of peated Glenfiddich (22 ppm) which was very gentle and almost smokeless but with earthy peat note. . My impression from his body language: Peated Glenfiddich will probably show up first in the experimental series before going mainstream.
Fun fact: Glenfiddich distills peated barley for two weeks a year and It takes them another full week to clean the system from the peat effects before resuming normal distillation,
Struan on Project XX
Struan was one of the 20 ambassadors who participated in creating Project XX back in 2015. (Now they have 25 ambassadors so maybe we’ll see Project XXV in the future?) Struan said they were all called back to Dufftown to pick up a cask from warehouse No 2 (Conval Warehouse) which holds thousands of casks but weren’t told why. Despite what’s being said out there, they didn’t have much time to leisurely explore the warehouse and select the cask , so most went for casks sitting near the alleys in the warehouse.
Struan selected a 1998 vintage sherry cask aged for 19 years in sherry cask. He brought over a bottle from the remains of this cask and here are my notes of it:
Glenfiddich 1998 19 yo (#21885, 57.9%, Struan’s Cask for Project XX)
Nose: Delicious mellowed sherry notes, dried red fruit, milk chocolate, then fresh sour-sweet berries, cherries and canned cherries liquid. Doesn’t feel like 57.9% as it’s very soft.
Palate: Getting the other side of the sherry notes with lots of dark chocolate, dried fruit, coffee grounds, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak spices.
Finish: Medium long length, lingering sweet dried fruit, chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Well, that was a big surprise! It’s a beautiful sherried Glenfiddich cask that is by far the best Glenfiddich I’ve tasted to date. But it’s only 1 of 20 casks used to create Project XX by Brian Kinsman, Glenfiddich’s malt master. There were mainly ex-bourbon casks with some port pipes and other sherry butts in the mix, all aged between 8 and 20 year old (unofficially making Project XX 8 year old). It was bottled at 47% at the requests of the ambassadors who prefers their drinks at higher ABV than the customary Glenfiddich 40/43% levels and it wasn’t chill filtered (hurray!). So how’s the final result?
Nose: Gentle and sweet, somewhat winey with dryness, tannins and spices, honey, red fruit, apples and plums, spicy oak wood, gooseberries, that Glenfiddich wood flavors and a bit of chocolate.
Palate: Spicy and gentle, honey, oak spices, very mellow red dried fruit and chocolate.
Finish: Medium length, lingering spices, honey, a bit of red fruit and milk chocolate and cherries filled chocolate.
Thoughts: This complex vatting led to a solid and better than your average official Glenfiddich bottling. It has a far better flavor profile (hurray for sherry and port pipes casks!) and the final result is again very soft and very (yes, here comes the S word) smooth whisky, like so many people expects from their Glenfiddich bottle.
On a personal note, I still find it a bit boring while the single cask Struan selected for the project was an excellent example of the kind of stuff that I would like to get from Glenfiddich: bottled at cask strength without chill filtering, two factors that murder most whiskies (especially gentle and delicate whisky). The Experimental series is a good start as they aren’t being chill filtering, just need to pump up the ABV a bit and get us some sherried Fiddichs. It will appeal to the more advanced users and those who wants a stronger flavors and excitement.