Glenfiddich

Review: Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Malt Whisky
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

Traditionally, and still performed in some distilleries, the barley germinates on a floor into malt. While it does so, it must be continually “turned” or shovelled over so that it doesn’t grow into a solid carpet of barley plants. “Monkey Shoulder” refers to a condition that some men picked up after long shifts turning the barley by hand, where the work caused one of their arms to hang down a bit like a monkey. It is a blend of three speyside single malts, Kininvie (rarely seen as a single malt), Balvenie, and Glenfiddich – all owned by William Grant and Sons. All of the whiskies going into this blend is matured in ex-bourbon casks, and each batch is made from 27 casks.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: 27

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Nose: Baked apples with a brilliant buttery toffee base. Quite fruity, too, with notes of green pear and some fresh orange- overall it’s well integrated into the rest with good balance. It has some of that rich corn character found in some bourbons. There is really nice subtlety here, especially if it is sought out – bits of vanilla, light baking spices (cinnamon particularly), barley earthiness, and light brown sugar.

Taste: More malt driven than I expected from the nose, and quite malt-centric. The malt is soft at first before drifting to some more earthy components and some pear. It develops fairly slowly, which works well. The toffee and the fruit are still present, but it is the grain which dominates here. At times, it tastes young, which detracts.

Finish: A light peppery spicy feel on the finish, with the lightest touch of bitterness which isn’t the most pleasant. The barley notes remain central on the finish and the earthiness from the grain is very present, with some apple and pear too. A bit of a mishmash – lots of flavour, but it’s not particularly well put together.

I was hoping that some of the subtlety on the nose would be more present on the taste, but the malt blend seems to go downhill after the nose. I do quite like the embracing of the barley, and how it is presented on the palate.

Value: Average, at $46.


Review: Grant's Family Reserve Blended Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Scottish Malt and Grain Whiskies
Distiller Multiple (Scotland)

When Glenfiddich was founded (1887), there wasn’t a single malt market – the money was in blends. So, in 1898 William Grant’s family launched the blend as a product alongside their single malts. It’s bottled in same triangular bottle as glenfiddich – and they are owned by the same company so this is not surprising at all.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Heathery peat is the first thing that comes out, fig, vanilla, overall with a texture of creaminess and slight spiciness. Some maltiness comes through, along with some cherries, milk chocolate – it’s quite complex, and dense. Lots of honey comes through, alongside sultana raisins. The grains bring out a slightly stale and very lightly bitter character, which I do not like the effect of too much.

Taste: Much softer than the nose, with a wonderful side of smoke alongside the malt, with apples, sultana raisins, prunes, almonds, oak, honey and a rich malty character also coming through. There is some graininess that comes through, and a bit of grassy character. The sweetness is just in balance. I also find that the smokiness fades as I drink more and I notice it well. There’s a good level of tartness, too – it makes the whisky very easy to drink.

Finish: There’s some malt, honey, raisins, cinnamon, and almond. The smokiness fades pretty quickly. The almond is quite distinct, I find, especially after some time sipping- it’s quite nice – like a fresh almond with the skin still on.

One of my favorites of the entry level blends, with Teacher's.

Value: High. It’s not an incredible whisky, but it’s also $28 and you can’t do much better at these prices for Scotch.


Review: Glenfiddich 18 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
18 Years; Ex-bourbon and ex-oloroso
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This single malt is made from a mix of oloroso sherry casks and bourbon casks, which are aged and then married in batches for at least 3 months in large oak casks.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: Cinnamon and slightly caramelized apples, pineapple, vanilla, and a bit of creaminess akin to vanilla pudding. There is some nice honey sweetness on the nose, and the oak has taken up some good presence. The caramelized, honeyed apple is so vibrant and inviting, and even more after the vanilla picks up as the nose develops.

Taste: Nice and viscous body. The oak comes in at first, with a good measure of honey – and some spicy apple comes in before fading to vanilla and some spicy cinnamon. Amidst all this, there are some raisins, with the slightest bit of an earthy peaty undertone. The spiciness, acidity, sweetness, and mouthfeel are all brilliant. Warm cinnamon and cacao on the finish. slightly herbal too.

Finish: Tingly, spicy, sweet, and even a touch oily .There are some light apples, vanilla, oak, honey, and just a very light touch of smoke. It is slightly herbal as well, and there even appears to be a bit of mint on the finish. Even, after some time, I find some malt comes through. It is slightly dry too, with good body and length.

This is very good – engaging, complex, and deep. Still, it’s light – not heavy or intense, but light and elegant. The oak has had its effect on the whisky, and it has done good work. A very nice extension from the 12 year old expression. Very pleasant.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $157.


Review: Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
51%
Aging
15 Years; Ex-bourbon and Ex-oloroso casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This is different than the solera matured 15 year old, and clocks in at an impressive 51% and is also non chill-filtered. It is made from similar casks as the other 15 year old, but without a solera process. So, we'd expect a better mouthfeel and finish than the standard 15, but how does it really compare?


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L32Z 4903 2611 0820

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

On the nose – lots of peach - stewed and dried - and lots of spice here as well! Pears, almond, custard, apple seeds, corn husks, and a touch of nice malt. The palate is rich – and with wonderful mouthfeel – nutmeg, cinnamon, almond, peaches, green apple, pleasing light malt – buttery and very easy to drink but also with the lightest texture of tannins. The finish is full of gummy peach candies – fuzzy peaches, in Canada.  Also dried apricots, pleasing vanilla, a touch of sherry spiciness, though it does disappear fairly quickly. I quite like the 15 year old solera reserve, and this doesn’t quite have the same complexity, but the mouthfeel is far superior and the palate shows a bit of a different character – but still a favorite of the Glenfiddichs for me.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $60. Worth noting, though, for a higher ABV and decent single malt, this is on the cheaper end!


Review: Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
15 Years; Various Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This whisky is quite unique as it is aged via a “solera” process, used frequently in sherry, where you have a big solera vat (in the case of glenfiddich, made of oregon pine) where the distillers add in new aged whisky before they remove some – and the vat is always kept at least half full. Thus, you add whisky, and remove some – but the whisky you remove contains bits of whiskies as old as the vat itself, resulting in a mix of whiskies from the most recent filling to much older fillings.

In order to fill up the solera vat, whiskies aged in sherry casks are vatted together, and whiskies aged in new oak are also vatted together. The contents are then mixed with more whiskies, this time from refill casks , and this is all added into the solera vat (which has a capacity of 37,000 litres). The whisky is then allowed to rest for a few days before 50% of the vat is emptied to produce a bottled batch of the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old. It’s quite the process – but it does produce something quite unique – a blend of batches from the current year and dating back even to the start of the vat, and each year in between.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

This is quite a bit different than the 12 year old – it’s busier, spicier, and once the nose opens up is quite an incredible dram.

Nose: Apple and pear definitely come through, though the apple is more like a golden delicious than the green apple found in the 12 Year Old. Some cinnamon and vanilla come through, with honey, maple, apricot jam, marmelade, alongside dried apricot, raisins, and prunes, and some rich malt. At first I find the nose a bit dense, but it starts to open up and unfold brilliantly with time. Vanilla and apple just come out more and more as it sits.

Taste: Malt, with some apple and cinnamon and vanilla on the finish. It’s quite dense – there’s a lot going on. There is some sweet honey underneath, and there is a slightly grassy character alongside the malt with the spice riding over top of it all. I get a slight bit of spicy earthiness in the background, as if from peat, as I find with all the glenfiddich expressions…and there’s some milk chocolate on the finish. There is a great richness to this as well, and the balance is great. The mouthfeel is great in this one.

Finish: A bit fruity and spicy, with apple, vanilla and some lovely honey. Definitely longer and busier than in the 12 year old. There’s some oak and plum jam as well. Slightly dry.

This is rich, complex, and bold (at least in the Glenfiddich range). The balance of the nose, taste, and finish is good, and overall this is a very engaging whisky, especially after some time in the glass when it starts to open up and move from dense and bold to creamy and honeyed.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average at $77.


Review: Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
12 Years; Oloroso Sherry and Ex-Bourbon Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Glenfiddich (Dufftown, Scotland)

This is the best selling single malt in the world (as of 2011, at least) – and, almost universally, it seems, people say that the way to approach scotch is the Glenfiddich 12 y.o. – and there’s good reason – it’s relatively soft, complex, and, well, very good. However, in my experience so many people (myself included) didn’t really start to love scotch until they had a good smoky one – so I think many people may actually have started with this one when actually they might better have started with a big smoky Laphroaig or Ardbeg. Each to his own...

It is distilled in Dufftown, the whisky capital of the famed Speyside region of Scotland, at Glenfiddich, which means “valley of the deer”. The distillery itself owns its own cooperage and coppersmith – a very small number of distilleries can boast that.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

Nose: As so often seen in ads and descriptions (they’ve been advertising in Ontario a lot of late), pear does come out, alongside green apple (much like those sweet green apple candies), some vanilla, honey, brown sugar, raisins, peach, and a good dose of malt. I find as it sits that more developed apple flavours – like the pleasant, sweet aroma of older apples on the ground, and some cinnamon.

Taste: There’s green apple with a slightly spicy edge, a good whack of vanilla, and some spice on the end. The spicy edge on the end – cinnamon and clove – with a bit of bite – really rounds this one off very well – and I love that touch. There is a decent amount of raisins in the mix, as well as malt quite akin to many oaked beers. There are very slight smoky and earthy undertones, I find, in the mix – but it’s certainly not one you’d call smoky.  And, it is reasonably sweet, which is a nice touch on this one, I think.

Finish: There’s some warm light peat on the finish, some malt and a good kick of the green apple fruitiness, along with apple seeds. The body is quite decent on the finish, and I find a touch of almond.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). This is the classic starter, and I think it’s better than most folks give it credit for.

Value: Average, based on $55.