Bringing together whisky and good friends

Glenfiddich Excellence 26yo Makes A House Call

I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to whisky and the whisky industry in general. Instead of seeing companies pushing products to make a profit for their shareholders I see skilled artisans and creative artists plying their craft in the pursuit of producing the perfect dram, or at least ensuring that the consistency and quality of their spirit remains unwavering, decade to decade. Brand ambassadors aren’t front-line salesmen, but friends and the voice of the folks toiling away at the distillery. Master distillers and blenders are mad scientists-cum-composers, creating liquid symphonies.

These touchy-feely impressions of the industry do get a rude awakening though when I hear more news about yet another NAS release from a distillery, or I get a product drop from a PR company, complete with misspelt name and surname. Then I realize that these companies are there to make money, not feed my romantic notions and I am seen as merely a “media” person. But then, I experience moments like the one below, and I find myself seeing the whisky world through rose-tinted glasses again.

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Year Old

I received an invitation to interview Ian Millar, Glenfiddich’s Global Brand Ambassador, who was going to be in the country to launch Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old  – the distillery’s latest and greatest offering. In addition to the interview, the invite extended to a gourmet dinner showcasing the new variant along with some trusted favourites from Glenfiddich. I was anticipating both eagerly as it has been a while since I last saw Ian and I had yet to thank him for the dram of 1991 Glenfiddich 50 year old that he kept aside for me in Scotland last year.

Sadly, work and personal pressures meant that I had to pull out of both the dinner and interview just two days before the scheduled events. I sat there, browsing through tweets from Ian and Thami Banda (Glenfiddich SA Brand Ambassador), highlighting the launch dinners down in Cape Town, feeling quite glum. Then I got a call from Butter Knife PR, the team that handle Glenfiddich’s public relations. Ian upon hearing that I couldn’t make it to him said “If Mark can’t come to us, we’ll go to him.” How crazy is that?!? A global brand ambassador of that calibre, with an undoubtedly busy schedule, wanted to pop around to my house to talk whisky! My answer was a resounding YES of course.

Glenfiddich Tasting Glasses And Mats

With such distinguished guests I made sure to set up a decent tasting environment. So out came the Glenfiddich whisky glasses, a bottle of Glenfiddich 15 year old and two old bottlings that I had been saving for a special occasion: a Glenfiddich Caoran Reserve and an old Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18 year old.

Glenfiddich Honour Guard

Conversation flowed, with Ian sharing stories of his travels, scouring through his memory banks to call up names of colleagues that he worked within his illustrious career in the whisky industry. We even touched upon the Glenfiddich 25 year old that will be released into the travel retail market shortly – a whisky that will be fighting for market share amongst other 25 year olds. Glenfiddich seem confident that it will make decent inroads with it though against stiff competition. And then of course we came around to the reason for Ian’s visit: the Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old.

Tasting The Glenfiddich 26yo With Ian Millar

26 years maturing exclusively in ex-American Oak casks (a first for the distillery) is going to produce something delicate, with a fair measure of oak tannins too. And it isn’t going to be cheap.

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 Year Old Tasting Notes

Sipping On The Glenfiddich Excellence 26yo Nose: A lovely blend of vanilla, fruit (green apples, passion fruit) and a waft of Jasmine (which just happen to be in bloom in my garden right now)

Palate: Luscious vanilla notes in harmony with spicy oak, toffee and licorice. Sweet and slightly dry. The fruits detected on the nose have taken a back seat. The palate is understated, but very rewarding if you take your time with this whisky.

Finish: Cinnamon spiciness from the oak tannins and then it fades, but lingers for a long time.

My Impression: A near-perfect whisky as we head into Spring/Summer in South Africa. Easy drinking, elegant and light with an oak backbone that never overpowers the vanilla. Picture yourself sitting on the patio with family and friends, sun setting whilst sipping away on the Glenfiddich 26yo. A pleasant way to spend a summer afternoon, the only problem being that you’ll be pouring one dram after another. Retailing for around the R4,200 mark means that this doesn’t come cheap. But if your pockets are deep, this is an excellent – ha, see what I did there? 🙂 – choice for the Summer.

In conclusion, the Glenfiddich website states that “This expression was created to honour Glenfiddich’s line of continuous family ownership since William Grant founded our distillery in 1887.” Family. The very core of William Grant & Sons. And that carries through to all those that work for the brand – from the distillers, to brand ambassadors, to the skilled artisans working in the distillery – they’re all one big family. With Ian’s visit to my home, I must say, I feel like a part of the family too.


1 Comment

  1. Jeannette Jeannette
    September 18, 2014    

    Wonderful experience! And it sounds delicious. Now to start saving. 🙂

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