In the Regional Malts series of posts I talk quite extensively about the entry points to single malt whiskies and which ones would work for most people. For me the first whisky that opened up whisky to me was Glenfiddich 12.
Packing lots of fruit flavours and gentle arrival without any heat or burn it was an ideal introduction to the segment. In the years since then I have tried other Glenfiddich’s in the core range with my new favourite being the Glenfiddich 18 Year Old which is a great and well priced sherry speysider which is a good showcase of how age can add depth to a whisky.
To continue on the age statements I recently got a sample of the 21 year old. This particular one is finished in rum casks which I tend to find slightly weird but totally awesome. My favourite one in that segment is the Balvenie 14 year old.
The 21 year old is bottled at 40% ABV and costs an amazing £135 in the UK complete with a fancy box. I think that is an awful lot even with the age and finishing process the 40% ABV is going to kill any kind of depth, probably.
What I have been able to find out though is the finishing period in rum casks was only four months. The rest of the time being spent in ex-bourbon barrels for basically 21 years I am reminded of a comment by master distiller Graham Coull at Glen Moray who said that the older the spirit the longer a finishing period has to be in order to penetrate into the whisky and have an influence on things. Especially after the bottle is opened for a little while.
Therefore, in order to avoid an expensive mistake using a service like Drink By The Drams which is a sub brand of Master of Malt is the way forward. For only a few pounds you can get posted out to you a single 30ml measure of the spirit to try before taking the plunge on a full size bottle.
Colour – marmalade
Nose – lots of apples and pears. This is bright and fresh and really packs a fruit punch. There is a hint of charred wood with a slightly funky cheesy sulphury note in there aswell. The sweetness comes back with brown sugar before going savoury into nutmeg and cloves.
Palate – The texture is quite thin and the flavours are quite restrained now especially compared to the nose. There is pear and lemon sorbet’s and some fruit flavour lip balms and very zesty tart orange peel.
Finish – The finish is depressingly short and disappointing. The fruit and spice notes continue on from above but nothing new is brought to the table.
Is this a whisky I enjoyed drinking and appreciated the flavour profile in? Yes absolutely however there is a couple of things to point out. A lot of the flavours are available for much cheaper in the Glenfiddich range at younger age statements. This is definitely an engineered expression to fit neatly into the house style which as it happens I quite like.
The big issues for me is the price and the strength. There is no legitimate reason to bottle such an old whisky at such a low strength. If someone is paying those kind of prices for whisky they are hopefully somewhat aware of the segment and expecting a little more bang for their buck. Glenfiddich however is owned by Grant’s who aren’t new to whisky and now the market well so I suspect they know exactly who they are targeting and getting good results from it. As with the Balvenie 21 portwood, someone like me is not the target for their premium expensive line of whiskies which is a shame but somehow I will live on.