The world famous Glenfiddich distillery isn't just the birthplace of the best known
'brand' of single malt whisky. With a production capacity of more than 10,000,000 litres
of alcohol per year 'Fiddich is 'the giant ' of the industry. William Grant also owns the
Balvenie and Kininvie distilleries, as well as the recently opened Ailsa Bay.
The distillery is located in the bustling town of Dufftown in the heart of Banffshire.
Other distilleries in the immediate area are its sister distilleries Balvenie and Kininvie,
as well as Convalmore, Dufftown, Glendullan, Mortlach and Pittyvaich. Wow, the town
runs on whisky! The massive international success of the Glenfiddich brand over the
years proves that the main ingredient of malt whisky is marketing.
The Glenfiddich distillery was founded in 1886-1887
by the both the company (and family that still owns it);
William Grant. When William Grant & Sons first
started production at Glenfiddich they didn't use
purpose built materia. The old stills from Cardow
distillery - nowadays known as Cardhu - were
considered good enough at the time. At the time
of the big whisky 'boom' of the late 19ty century
they operated as Glenfiddich Distillery Co.
In 1963 Glenfiddich released their single malt as an official bottling for the first
time (and probably the first distillery to actually do so). This turned out to be a
massive succes; in 1964 they sold around 4,000 cases but just a decade later
(1974) the sales had already grown to +/- 120,000 cases. Glenfiddich managed
to build their malt whisky into a real 'brand' - and they were the first to do so.
Their pioneering work created the category of 'single malts'.
By 1980 the Glenfiddich distillery had a grand total of 29 stills which didn't
operate in 'pairs' like at many other distilleries. At the time Glenfiddich ran
11 wash stills and 18 spirit stills, both gas and coal fired.
Glenfiddich has reduced the number of stills significantly since then.
By the year 2000 they operated five wash stills & eight spirit stills. It’s noteworthy that these 8 spirit stills are
unusually small compared to most other Scotch malt whisky distilleries.
One of the reasons for the large number of distilleries in the
area was the quality of the water from various local sources.
Later the existence of the infrastructure (roads and railways)
that was already in place became an important factor as well.
These days a ‘heritage’ rail road still exists, but it has no connection to the main system of British railways.
1) The Grant-Gordon family that owns the William Grant & Sons corporation is by far
the wealthiest in the British spirits industry. By the year 2016 the value of their assets
and investments exceeded 2 billion pounds.
2) The massive Glenfiddich distillery we can see today was allegedly founded with
a ridiculously small amount of capital - just 120 GBP.
6) Glenfiddich is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were founded over a century ago during the
'whisky boom' of the late 19th century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other survivors
include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach, Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Dalwhinnie,
Dufftown, Glendullan, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu, Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
3) Apparently, Glenfiddich was the first distillery in Scotland to open a reception
centre for the public in 1969. At the time, they were also the only malt distillery with
its own bottling plant - but by the time I write this I know of a growing number of other
distilleries that have their own bottling plant as well, including Bruichladdich on Islay.
4) Glenfiddich was the first Scotch distillery to adopt the practice of 'continuous mashing'.
5) William Grant worked at Mortlach for almost 20 years before he founded Glenfiddich distillery.
2002 - Glenfiddich launches a number of noticeable new whisky bottlings; including the 12yo
'Caoran Reserve' (a vaguely peaty version) and the 21yo 'Gran Reserva' (which was finished
in Cuban rum casks). Because the 21yo had been influenced by the traces of Cuban rum, the
American Customs Gestapo stopped these bottles at the border. Who said fascism is dead?
2009 - A 50 years old official bottling of Glenfiddich whisky is released.
This wasn't the oldest official bottling from Glenfiddich that was ever released though - that
was the Glenfiddich 1937/2002 'Rare Collection' (40.4%, OB, C#843, 61 Bts.).
2010 - Like many other distilleries (Balvenie, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Glenfarclas and
Highland Park), Glenfiddich releases a 40 years old official bottling in 2010 as well.
A 40yo OB almost seems like a "standard" entry in a portfolio these days.
2017 - Don Ramsay - Scotland's longest-serving cooper - retires on Hogmanay.
Don started working at the Glenfiddich distillery on Christmas Day 1961, when he was just
15 years old. The press release says: "His employers said he has created more than 200,000
casks during his 50-year career". So, they didn't bother to ask Don himself?
2005 - Glenfiddich invests almost 2 million GBP in a new visitor centre. Their first visitor centre
was opened in 1969; at the time it was the very first whisky distillery visitor centre in Scotland.
Glenfiddich 21yo 'Rum Finish' (40%, OB, Cask selection #19, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Complex but subdued at first, with soft fruits and industrial oils in the background.
The sourish fruits (cider?) that I find in other rum finished whiskies as well. More rum smells later on.
Taste: Full bodied and fruity; excellent mouth feel. Well, the finish is very dry, pulling it out of silver medal territory.
But I should mention that I'm quite spoilt - people used to the normal expression will be surprised by this one.
Score: 83 points - after one or two minutes it settles down, losing some of the complexity in the nose.
Yep, I'd most certainly recommend this to anybody - not the best 21yo I ever had but good stuff...
Glenfiddich 30yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Shoe polish. Well balanced but nondescript. Faint veggy notes? Citrussy prickle in the background.
Taste: Fairly weak, fruity start. Feels a little thin. Strong, dry tannins kick in quickly.
After a few minutes the centre grows much sweeter and more complex (passion fruit).
Score: 83 points - a respectable score, but the Glenfiddich 21yo expression does just as well.
Glenfiddich 1973/2007 (46.6%, OB for La Maison du Whisky, Cask #28563)
Nose: Fairly subtle start, but you can smell some greatness in the background. Polished.
Fruitier & much more complex during round two. More complex than some other Glenfiddich whiskies.
Taste: Strong but nondescript start. Smooth centre, fresh & fruity finish. Fairly harsh tannins in the finish.
Score: 86 points - which makes this my favourite expression of Glenfiddich malt whisky so far.
Glenfiddich 32yo 1974/2006 (47,3%, OB for LMdW Paris, C#10260)
Nose: Sweet, mellow and accessible. Hint of something 'painty' in the nose? Developing fruity notes.
Taste: Good sweet wood. A hint of salmiak? Maybe not very 'edgy', but a good whisky with no obvious flaws.
Score: 84 points - it grew on me over time thanks to the fruits in the nose and the wood on the palate.
Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Light and sweet. Not a lot going on, it seems. Still, it's a decent malt that almost makes it to 'average'.
It seems just a tad maltier in the nose during a second try. Light and grainy; pleasant but a little bland.
Taste: A tad watery. Uneven. Faint hint of liquorice? Dry and a little gritty. Sweeter and more solid with time.
Score: 73 points - this is very drinkable, but due to lack of personality I'd still have to put it below average.
Glenfiddich 12yo Caoran Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Light and grainy. Melon? Some faint spices, perhaps. Tea? Not very expressive. Bad nose day today?
Taste: Very light. Smooth. Soft. Fruity. Feels a tad rough in the centre. Winey finish. Dry aftertaste.
Uneven on the palate. In fact, I wouldn't even score it above average; not boring, but something doesn't fit.
Score: 71 points - but I should point out that I scored it in the upper 70's on a few other occasions.
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Malty and spicy. That's about all there is to tell. A very decent malt that lacks some personality.
During a second glass it seemed a tad grainier in the nose. Then sweeter notes emerged. Malty.
Taste: Soft and smooth. Once again there isn't much more to tell. Decidedly average, but good whisky.
I was inclined to increase my score by a few points based on the nose, but the palate kept it at 75 points.
Score: 75 points - MOTR. The most remarkable thing I can mention is that it's so unremarkable...
Glenfiddich 21yo Gran Reserva (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Latex paint? Some faint fruits. Maybe a hint of something organic after five minutes. Quite nice.
Taste: Watery. Some tannins. Grows very dry in the finish. Not bad at all, but right now nothing stands out.
Score: 78 points - but I had to give this one a little time. It seemed richer in the nose during a second try.
Especially after five minutes it blossoms. So, this one really needs time! Pine on the palate? Feels a bit bourbony.
Glenfiddich 30yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Polished. Sweet with a good dose of sherry. Some spices. Roasted pig. Quite subtle but lovely.
Taste: Sweet and fruity. Lovely tannins. Drying out towards the finish. A tad weak but utterly drinkable.
Score: 84 points - but I should add that this requires some time and a lot of attention. It's rewarding though.
Glenfiddich 12yo Special Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Ah, solid, sweet and nutty, growing fruitier quickly. Maybe a hint of smoke.
Quite fragrant - I like that. Hints of vegetables (string beans?). Slightly grainy.
Some organics as well. Hey, over time it grows more in the direction of warm milk!
It never becomes terribly complex, but it's just mighty entertaining in the nose.
Taste: Sourish, fairly weak start. Firms up in the centre. A very long, creamy finish.
After a while the finish grows mildly 'winey' - nice, but not enough for a score in the 80's.
It grows just a little to weak and bitter on the palate, pulling it from the upper 70's.
Score: 73 points - this Glenfiddich falls apart fairly soon (within ten minutes), so drink up quickly!
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Slicker & oilier than the last one. Hints of vegetables and organics. Strange.
Unique. Rotting fruits and vegetables behind a cow stable - at a farm at the coast?
Sherry and a hint of organics. Quite peculiar - not really my 'type' but very interesting.
Taste: Smooth start, growing maltier and grittier - then bitter and much more 'winey'.
Hey, that's funny; in the far back of the finish I have a nice 'dried apples' aftertaste.
Unlike the 12yo, my score for this Glenfiddich kept creeping upwards with every single sip.
Score: 77 points - just because this is such a unique experience. Jungle juice.
Hey, hey, hey... This Glenfiddich is four points up from last year's release. Off the beaten path.
Glenfiddich 18yo Ancient Reserve (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: Ah, Oak and tobacco. Heavy sherry and rotting grapes. Very expressive. Hey, hey, what a fun nose.
That being said, it feels slightly 'designed'. Perfume? I got some more 'farmy' notes after a few minutes.
There are organics in the background as well, but they are sort of overwhelmed. Pickled gherkins?
Cream cheese? The nose opens up nicely and seems a little sweeter and fruitier over time.
Taste: Oy; this whisky is a little weaker than I expected - and certainly not as sweet. Some smoke.
Very dry and quite woody too. This reminded me a lot of the Auchentoshan 'Three Wood'.
Score: 76 points - the nose is very nice; a few points up from last year's batch of the Glenfiddich 18.
In comparison with the Glenfiddich 15yo, it just seemed a little woody and tired on the palate to me.
Glenfiddich 21yo Gran Reserva (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2004)
Nose: This has some fruits & sherry, but it remains fairly subtle. Very faint organics too. Too tame for me.
A well balanced malt, but not very expressive one way or the other. It changes a lot over time.
Some more organics emerge in the end - and maybe fruit and liquorice - but it's too late.
Taste: Sweetish, malty and a little nutty. Not complex but entertaining nonetheless.
Over time the profile changes. After ten minutes it grows woodier. Bitter. Hint of smoke?
Score: 79 points - it's an 'above average' malt with a slight personality deficit. It could do with a higher proof.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glenfiddich malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glenfiddich I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glenfiddich.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.
As the picture at the left shows, the 'still room' at
the Glenfiddich distillery lacks the charm of those
at some other distilleries, but the new buildings
don't lie about the basic function: a whisky factory.
The contrast with the Kilbeggan distillery in
Ireland is striking, but admittedly that's actually
more of a 'show pony' distillery for Cooley.
Even though Glenfiddich is arguably the world’s
most famous Scotch whisky, the distillery is
relatively young. Glenfiddich was still being built
when Alfred Barnard published his book 'Whisky
Distilleries of the United Kingdom' in 1887.
Within a century, Glenfiddich had managed
to overtake more than a hundred competitors.
They are Scotland's #1 malt whisky producer,
distantly followed by Glen Grant, Glenlivet
One of the main reasons for their success is arguably their world famous
triangular bottle. It's also used for their 'Grant's' blend and was first introduced
in 1957 to distinguish the brand from other whiskies on the shelves of liquorists.
Well, you can't argue with results. That being said, when I sampled my very first
Glenfiddich in the 1980's it thought it was a good whisky - but that was because
I was used to drinking affordable blends like Teacher's. It took a Lagavulin for
me to go mad about malt whisky in the early 1990's. In those days Glenfiddich
was still marketed as a 'pure malt' and they paled in comparison...
Unortunately, the '90's seem to have been a particularly difficult decade for
the Glenfiddich distillery. Bottlings from the 1960's and 1970's that I've tried
were much better than the generic stuff they bottled in the 1990's.
Things have improved since then. During the early noughties of the 21st
century Glenfiddich released more batches and bottlings that have convinced
me that they have found the way up again. Well, they had to - for a long time
Glenfiddich was the logical next step for people 'upgrading' from blends, but
these days there's some serious competition in the malt whisky category.