Tag Archives: Glenfiddich

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.


Gift Packs: Bargains Galore

A while back, I wrote about how useful a good glass can be for appreciating everything a whiskey has to offer. The right shape of glass will help focus some of the aromas that would otherwise blow past your earlobes and set on your forehead in a traditional old fashioned glass. My favorite, as I’d mentioned, was the Glencairn glass.

In the last few weeks of shopping, I’ve seen holiday gift sets starting to appear on shelves, and there’s been a number of them with Glencairn glasses. Better yet, the price is right. If you’ve been curious about these glasses but don’t want to pony up $10-12 for a single glass, then the holidays are your absolute best time to pick one up at a low cost.

One gift pack I saw is an Old Pulteney 12 Gift Pack (I saw the actual article at the Wine House recently). This pairs two Glencairn glasses with an Old Pulteney logo, as well as a bottle of the 12 year old Old Pulteney. It’s a great bargain: about $35 gets you the two glasses and a bottle of Old Pulteney. If you’ve never had Old Pulteney, it’s a great, low-risk way to try it – even if you don’t like the bottle, you will have two great glasses.

Another was a Glenfiddich gift set. It looks like the major stores will be selling an Americanized version with two old fashioned glasses. However, I have stumbled across a different version: a bottle of Glenfiddich 12, a Glenfiddich logo Glencairn, and a small “tasting diary”. The tasting diary looked like a pretty decent quality, small, moleskine-type notebook (but very very thin). At less than $25, you’re basically paying $12 for the whiskey – a great deal.

You might also find that some stores put out old stock they may have gotten at a low cost from distributors, or have had warehoused over the last year. I saw an Old Forester Prohibition Repeal set this week as well. This set couples an Old Forester logo Glencairn (their press release from the time calls it a “snifter” – fine) and a 375mL bottle of Old Forester in a prohibition-era style bottle. It also includes an Old Forester logo pen and a scroll of the 21st Amendment. “Suitable for framing”, no doubt. I can always use a pen. This gift set was released in 2008 and I found it on shelves at the end of 2011. Keep an eye out.

If you think the Glencairn is impossibly dorky and just for people who are too precious about the whole thing, you could be right. There are some decent quality old fashioned glasses to be had out there; and sometimes you want a cocktail (say… an old fashioned). My favorite example of these were the Four Roses Single Barrel gift set. A bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel (recipe unknown, at least on my bottle) and two old fashioned glasses of pretty good quality. Four Roses is a great bourbon. If they ever start putting recipes on the label, keep your eyes peeled for the OBSK recipe – it’s great. Most of the major bourbon producers seem to be going the route of old fashioned glasses, so it’s an easy pickup.

Beyond that, there are some great bargains to be had. I’ve seen Glenmorangies cropping up recently with samples of their finishing experiments (Astar, Lasanta, Quinta Ruban, Nectar D’or) bottled alongside a Glenmorangie Original. The usual Macallan 12 with samples of Macallan 18 tucked inside are also showing up. Given the entry fee of $140/bottle for the 18, it’s a great way to try it if you haven’t.

I’ve also seen Johnnie Walker Black packaged with a small flask as well as Jim Beam white label with a flask. If you don’t have one, this could be a good place to pick one up along with a good, accessible bottle for guests who may not share more esoteric tastes (or might simply want to mix with something).

Hopefully you can find something that kills two birds with one stone this season – and don’t forget to pick up a gift for a friend. It can be an unexpected gift that might kick off a passion – especially if they have someone to help show them the ropes.