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Whisky of the Month – 1974 Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve

Glenfiddich 1974 Vintage Reserve 1974 was a good year. It was the year the Rubik’s Cube was invented, the year the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali took place, the year I was born and also the vintage selected by Glenfiddich’s largest ever Vintage Reserve selection panel.

What’s so special about the 1974 Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve you ask? As you may know, Glenfiddich have released several Vintage Reserves before this one, but here’s the kicker: this is Glenfiddich’s first ever vatted Vintage Reserve. After the success of the Snow Phoenix, Brian Kinsman – Glenfiddich’s Master Blender – is happy to have had the opportunity to release another vatted whisky.

I caught up with not one, not two, but three of Glenfiddich’s brand ambassadors and asked them about their take on the ’74 and the selection process.

First up, Mitch Bechard (Glenfiddich USA Brand Ambassador):

Mitch Bechard - Glenfiddich USAI was involved in the selection of the ’74 vintage as were all my colleagues from around the world. It was an incredible experience to be part of. As you know we are a family owned company and I believe this is one of the reasons I was able to be involved in the process. I know that large shareholding companies would never even in consider doing something like this.

The selection was done during our global ambassador conference that we have every year. Last year we all met at the distillery where we spent a week with Ian Millar (global ambassador) and Brian Kinsman. During the week we discussed what we were all doing in our respective markets while diving deep into the belly of the distillery to expand our knowledge. The highlight for me was when we all sat around a huge table with the 3 samples in front of us, one of which was to become the Glenfiddich vintage for 2012. These samples were a ’73, ’74 and ’75 and had all been hand selected and vatted by Brian Kinsman who was also present. I had a sneak peak of them in the warehouse an hour earlier and I had already picked my favourite. Going through the 3 samples we each discussed nose, taste and finish in depth. My tasting notes on it refer to the ’73 as outstanding but a little weak with water and the ’75 was too sherried for my palette.

I went for the ’74 which I thought was simply one of the finest drams I have ever experienced! The nose had this citrus fruit character that swayed towards freshly picked strawberries!! This was also the favourite of the large percentage of everyone else present with the ’75 coming in second. For me it was a triumphant victory as not only did I think the ’74 was my favourite but as with you it is also my year of birth!

And here are Mitch’s tasting notes on the 1974 Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve:

NOSE: Rich and oaky with vanilla sweetness. With a little water it opens up with fresh fruit and spice – orange zest, ripe berries (particularly strawberries), nutmeg and pear.

TASTE: Initially sweet with a vanilla toffee character. Pleasant oily texture and a slightly dry. With water, it becomes velvety soft and mellow with beautiful layers of fruit, spice, oak. There is a slight smoke there but you have to really dig deep to find it.

FINISH: long long long and velvety!!

Next up, we have Jamie Milne (Glenfiddich UK Brand Ambassador):

Jamie Milne - Glenfiddich UKInitially I preferred the 1975 option, as it was rounder and more layered on first tasting. However, as it spent time in the glass, the complexity and elegance of the 1974 really began to show itself. This is a whisky that really rewards patience. It’s been in the cask for 37 or so years – what’s another half hour in the glass!?

The other reason I eventually picked the 1974 was that, unlike most older whiskies, which break down when you add water, this one actually seems to come fully to life, giving off wonderful fruity/floral aromas that are initially hidden.

I distinctly remember a ripple of “Wow!” running around the room as we each added the water and nosed the glass again.

A fantastic vintage in every regard.

And finally, my fellow countryman, Jason Duganzich (Glenfiddich South Africa Brand Ambassador):

Jason Duganzich - Glenfiddich South AfricaLike Mitch and Jamie, I was part of the selection panel for the 2011 Glenfiddich Vintage. The Glenfiddich Vintage is usually a single cask selection. I believe that last years selection was the first time our Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, decided to create the Vintage by vatting more than one cask from the same vintage.

We sampled three vattings:

One from 1973, which I found particularly sweet, and unfortunately not as balanced a dram as I have come to expect from Glenfiddich.

The 1975 sample, was my favourite… not exclusively because it is my birth year… but, this particular sample had been in Refill Traditional Oak Casks for 30 years and then transferred into Olorosso Sherry Butts for a further 6 years of maturation. A massive, round trip through sweet vanilla and heavy dried fruit notes on the nose. Big, mouth-filling taste, slightly spicy and deep, with drying finish… pure class, and secretly I pray that some clever person has saved some for me?

The 1974 was the majority favourite. Matured in Refill Traditional Oak Casks for 37 years. Very sweet on the nose, with ripe pine apple flavours, that with the addition of a little water developed into juicy passion fruit notes. I remember Ian Millar commenting that it had a similar taste to Glenfiddich 21yr. Firm mouthfeel, which softened with the addition of water. Balanced, lingering finish with a sweeter punch. From what I remember, the consensus around the table, was that the 1974 was particularly different from what we were used to tasting with Glenfiddich… like an exception rather than the rule.

A very special occasion for the global team of ambassadors to be included in the selection panel!

It sounds like these guys have a hard job, doesn’t it? 🙂

Now you may be wondering, why feature a whisky I am highly unlikely to ever taste (due to availability and cost) as my first Whisky of the Month? “Why the hell not?” I say! I will be showcasing both new and old whiskies, favourite daily drinking drams and those special whiskies that I hope to savour someday. It will be an eclectic mix, but a damn tasty one too.

Coming back to the 1974 Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve, with only 1000 bottles being released worldwide, this whisky will be enjoyed by the lucky few. Grant Sayers, marketing manager for Glenfiddich in South Africa, says that we may see two or three bottles coming into the country later this year priced at roughly R6000 per bottle. If you manage to get your hands on one, drop me an email with your thoughts on this dram, I’d love to hear from you.

A big thank you to Mitch, Jamie and Jason for their contribution – it’s really appreciated guys! Now if one of you can source me a sample, then I might have to name my next child after you! 😉


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