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12 August 2014

Deconstruction of the Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera Vat

A pretty bottle of Glenfiddich 15 Solera Vat
Glenfiddich and I, we go way back.

Glenfiddich 12 was the first single malt whisky I've ever tasted and it totally turned my world upside down. Back then, the only way I knew how to drink whiskey was to drown it with Coke... you know, to chase away the "cockroach" taste (okay, to qualify this statement - I didn't enjoy drinking 10 years ago. Back then, my business was with Coke [the carbonated drink] and the dance floor #truestory)

It wasn't until I had a taste of that liquid heaven in my mouth. OH MY GOD! I never knew liquor could taste so good. It would change my mind towards whisky forever. It was so smooth, so sweet. So mind boggling. I mean, how could something as strong as 40% ABV taste so good? You see, Glenfiddich 12 was in the rage at some point back then. It was practically the single malt that started it all (in Malaysia, at least).  Glenfiddich 12 gave me a one way roller coaster ticket into this whole new fantastical world of whisky. So I packed my bags, hopped on, and never turned back.

Fast forward to now - when I received an invite to attend a Deconstruction Tasting Event of the Glenfiddich 15 years old - how could I say no? Glenfiddich was my first love I never got over. I've tried so many others but I would never forget my first love...... Then suddenly, after not being in touch for too long, this first love decides to call me up one day out of the blue, asking me for a meet up. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity faster than you could blink.

Oh boy. It was a treat.

Live from The Warehouse

The Brand Ambassador for South-East Asia, Matthew Fergusson-Stewart, walked us through the whole thing with us! Live! From the Glenfiddich warehouse! In Scotland! He was actually LIVE in 4 locations! 2 in Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore! I mean, HOW EXCITING IS THAT! So exciting that every single sentence in this paragraph warrants an exclamation point!

Live feed from Scotland in the background
Actually this may not sound like a big deal since live-streaming is not exactly the latest concept - but it is (if I'm not mistaken) something that has never been done before in this market. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities! Distillery tours. Master classes. Meeting the master distillers. Private interviews. New launches. Man, just sign me up for everything!

Anyway. I digress.

We were given the opportunity to try the 3 different whiskies that goes into the final Glenfiddich 15 we enjoy everyday. Hence, a deconstructed tasting! Oh man, this session was going to be so exciting. Just typing this out still makes me so darn excited all over again.

Upon sampling each whisky, I realised that each has its own distinct character which contributes to the final product.

The whiskies that make a Glenfiddich 15 Year Old

1) 15 YO aged in  Sherry Butt:
This one smells so, SO good - sweet and festive. But the finish was very dry -like wines' tannin. I guess this is where the nose is from. This makes up 20% of the final product.

2) 15 YO aged in brand new American oak casks:
This one packs a punch in flavour and tasted really sweet - makes up 10% of the final product. I reckon this is where the palate is from. I could actually drink this on its own. And I did. Copiously and unabashedly. :)

3)15 YO aged in Bourbon casks:
Decent, but not very memorable among the three - I believe this a "filler" which acts as the enhancer and rounds up the finish perhaps. Makes up 70% of the final product.

We were also schooled in what makes the Glenfiddich 15 so special among its Core Range.

So what makes Glenfiddich 15 so special? The Solera Process does.

No other expression in this label goes through this process. You can read about the Solera process in detail on Wiki right here. But to summarise how this process works for the Glenfiddich 15:
  • Those 3 whiskies I mentioned above are poured into a giant barrel/tub called a Solera Vat. Click here to get an idea of how big the vat is.
  • Once the vat is filled, the whiskies are left to mix together (aka "marry" - how cute is that?)
  • Once it has matured, only HALF of the liquid is poured out. The half that's poured out goes through a bottling process.
  • The other half is left there, for the next batch to be poured in. The process repeats from the first step. The Vat is never empty and continuously left half full since 1998. This is called the Solera process. 
  • This basically means that every single bottle of Glenfiddich 15 contains some whisky from at least 30 years ago!
TLDR: Glenfiddich goes through a Solera Process where every single bottle of Glenfiddich 15 will always contain some whisky since 1998. This is what makes it so special because no other expression goes through this process. This is also what makes it a distillery's favourite..... and mine. 

Me, enjoying the Glenfiddich 15. :)
This was an enjoyable and educational event for me. I await with bated breath, agonizing over and counting each day until I get invited to the next Glenfiddich event (Please oh please oh PLEASE organise an event for the Age of Discovery series!).

This market really needs to understand why they do NOT need to add mixers into their single malts /cringe. Or how just because it's an OLDER aged bottle or a Rare/ Limited Edition one or a Super expensive, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's THE BEST.

Is Glenfiddich 15 for you?

I'll always have a soft spot for Glenfiddich, so my opinion may be severely biased here.

However, I believe that if you are someone who have not discovered the world of Single Malt Whisky - Glenfiddich 12 is an excellent starter (and the Duty Free price doesn't hurt the wallet). While not quite refined, it is still a level up your typical blended scotch.

However, if you HAVE dabbled in 12 year olds (whiskies la), then I would highly recommend the Glenfiddich 15. It is also a huge leap from the 12 and could easily be your everyday go-to bottle. There are no 15s like this - so proceed with caution if you don't want to spoil your palate with too much awesome, hehe.  But like the cliche saying goes - taste is subjective. So your mileage may vary.

Glenfiddich Official Website
Tasting with Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador
Hashtag: #gfsolera15
Image credits: William Grant & Son