Glenfiddich Age of Discovery

At long last, it’s finally time to get a little Scotch whisky coverage again.

Glenfiddich’s Age of Discovery is a new expression – 19 years old and finished in Madeira casks – that was previously a travel retail exclusive. My bottle was, in fact, picked up by a friend coming home from London at my request. This was before the expression went to a broader release. If you find the broadly available version differs substantially, then I’ll just play dumb and say “I had it before it went sold out and went mainstream.”

Age of Discovery is the third whisky from Glenfiddich in recent memory that is marketed under a name (Snow Phoenix, Cask of Dreams) versus a more traditional age statement. This is a broader industry trend designed to allow selling whisky without an age statement. For the uninitiated, all Scotch whisky must be aged a minimum of three years to be called “Scotch whisky”. So if it’s sold as whisky and it’s from Scotland, it’s a minimum of three years old. Any age statement – 10 years, 12 years, 15 years, etc – must refer to the youngest whisky in the bottle. If a distillery releases a bottle that’s a mix of 7, 9, 13 and 4 year whiskies, they could either sell it as a four year old whisky or give it a clever name with a tortured backstory and skirt the age altogether. For obvious reasons, the story is preferable to the young age statement.

Some people predictably find this practice to be one of the most unimaginable horrors that could ever happen. Others are blissfully ignorant of this nuance of whisky legalese. (I apologize if I’ve exposed you to far more than you’ve cared to know at this point). I personally find myself in the middle ground: Interested in the ones that genuinely work, if tired of searching for my Gaelic pronunciation guide or pondering the likelihood that I will ever utter to a store clerk, “Yes – I would like to buy the Rundlets & Kilderkins.”

That’s all marginally relevant – Age of Discovery is stated at 19 years, so it’s merely using the lofty name as a sales tool. What’s the Age of Discovery refer to? According to Glenfiddich, “Inspired by the explorers of old, whose discoveries revolutionised our understanding of the world, Glenfiddich Age of Discovery is a rich and delicious 19 year old single malt matured in oak casks previously used to age fine Madeira wine.” Apparently discovering new landmasses is roughly on par with realizing you can finish a whiskey in a wine barrel. Vasco da Gama really went to a lot of unnecessary trouble then. I wonder if the Age of Discovery refers to present day whisky marketing where producers have discovered that a silly name with a thin thread of logical connection to the whisky contained inside, marketed as a limited edition, will sell like crazy.

Alright, enough cynicism. Despite my endless enthusiasm for making fun of the marketing, I actually do enjoy whisky. My track record with Glenfiddich is not the best, but a madeira finish was different enough to catch my attention.

The nose is inviting, with a good malty note upfront and a bit of the madeira richness hinted at. It’s sweet and has light honey. The usual Glenfiddich pear and apple notes are there but aren’t as prevalent as in other expressions.

As expected, the palate is initially sweet – malty initially and the fortified wine madeira presence is obvious shortly thereafter. The madeira settles down despite a strong initial showing. There are pears again; some white pepper and a little butterscotch.

The finish is malty but with some light wood notes. The heat is more like the tongue-focused heat of a Sichuan peppercorn, and the madeira adds some texture and makes the finish slightly chewy.

Age of Discovery isn’t bad. It’s not challenging in any particular way. It’s just nice, sweet and malty with a bit of added dimension in the form of the madeira finish and with a little less of the signature apple and pear notes. Sometimes that simplicity is all you want after a hard day’s work (or a month of reviewing mediocre whiskies).

At a glance:

Glenfiddich Age Of Discovery – 19y 40% ABV
Inviting malt, a bit of the madeira influence present on the nose. Sweet and lightly honeyed. Minimal traces of the usual Glenfiddich pear and apple notes, but they’re faintly present. 
Sweet initially on the palate; first with malty sweetness and then followed by the fortified wine notes. The madeira settles back down relatively quickly. Traces of pears; a little white pepper and a bit of butterscotch. 
Malt comes out on top here with some light wood notes, a small bit of sichuan peppercorn-like mouth heat, and the madeira notes adding a slight bit of texture and near-chewiness to it. 
A nice sweet, malty Glenfiddich with a bit of dimension to it.


5 thoughts on “Glenfiddich Age of Discovery”

  1. Nice review Tim, glad you are back in Scotland. That said, this one sounds like a fairly standard Glenfiddich i.e. good solid performer, no surprises. It will be tough for me to lay out 150 clams for something that appears to be pretty good but also very straight forward -especially at 40%. I’ve seen the Cask Of Dreams on the shelf as well but I am equally repelled by the price tag.

    1. I would say it’s a touch better than the average Glenfiddich; that said I haven’t dug deeply into their range because it generally has not been too interesting to me. There’s not  a lot of nuance and it’s not a whisky that packs a lot of surprises, but it’s an easy pleaser. 

      At the price, you’re right – it’s hefty for what you’re getting.

      Cask of Dreams holds a bit of interest for me due to the use of new oak (and the price is a little better), but it’s definitely not a near-term buy. 

      Rest assured, there’s some interesting stuff coming up. :) 

    2. Low bottling proof is the Achilles heel of so many Glenfiddich whiskies. Their Distillery Edition, which was bottled at 102 proof, is absolutely brilliant, which has convinced me that they can make really good whisky, but most of it is drowned.

      1. Hey Jordan, 

        Thanks for the tip! I’ll have to hunt down a sample of that. There are definitely whiskies they make that hint at something greater but I agree – they tend to be kind of quiet and meek. AOD could be really worthwhile at cask strength. It’s a shame those more interesting bottles are so prohibitively expensive. 

        1. The great thing about the DE bottling is that it’s nominally no more expensive than the regular 15 year. Sadly for us, it’s not being shipped to America anymore, but there seems to be some remaining stock scattered around. The fact that it’s not coming to the States now is a crying shame because it’s the one Glenfiddich expression that I can unreservedly recommend.

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