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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.