Glenfiddich. This is a big boy. I purposely chose this for a weekday visit because I knew it would probably be insanely flooded with visitors. You know you are a big whisky venue when you have a car park area and an even larger tour bus area. I will say though, they keep the grounds immaculate. There are gardens, fountains, brick walkways etc. They make sure you know it has been family owned this whole time by the hedges displaying it proudly and boldly as you walk in. It is impressive that they aren’t owned by some of the big players.
William Grant & Sons are the original and current owners. They also own Kinvinie where most of the William and Grant blend whisky is produced along with the infamous Balvenie (http://www.williamgrant.com/) This distillery produced it’s first new make spirit in 1887 and they were also one of the first distilleries in Scotland to open their doors to the public. The family wanted to ensure that their plot of land and water was secure and now actually own most of the land in the region. This helps keep control of the water source and also keeps grazing and farm animals away from the water source as not to soil it. They like to source local barley as well, but with their size and capacity demands this can be difficult and usually will need to supplement their supply from multiple other European countries.
When I was there, they had just come out of a silent season where they were replacing a still and repaired a few washbacks. They have two large steel mashtuns and both were running during my visit. The mashtun cycle typically runs about 4 ½ hours. They recently stopped selling their draff and pot ale to local farmers. William Grant & Son’s have invested heavily and created a wholly owned biomass plant where they send the draff and pot ale to turn it into energy. That energy is then used on site at the distillery again. This is fairly a new addition to the distillery’s power source, but anything not used can be put back into the grid, which I can imagine this would be a good money maker. Here is an article discussing when it was finally approved about two years ago for development.
They have 24 washbacks that are either Douglass Fur or Canadian Wood. One fermentation period is about 72 hours long (this is long compared to most distilleries). They feel this longer fermentation period creates more esters for the fruit flavors. The still room was literally a row house. Back in the 1800’s they bought their stills from Cardhu and the shape has not changed since as they’ve grown. The stills are also now patented, just like the shape of their triangular bottles that you are probably used to seeing at every liquor store and bar. They also have a cooperage on site with 8 full time working coopers. These coopers are there for repairs and maintenance as no new casks are being built.
Here are some astonishing figures and facts about this distillery. Glenfiddich single malt is currently sold in over 180 countries. They are still currently the #1 Single Malt Scotch in the world. This shows in their numbers since they are currently producing about 140 Million Liters of new make spirit per year. They have 46 warehouses on site and 1 million casks.
We were taken to warehouse number 8 which happens to house the Solera Vat. It is a system called fractional blending and it is quite interesting. Apparently their then master blender was very interested in the solera vatting system and wanted to produce a whisky that was bottled after using the same process. Now, looking at my notes and in my head, I understand the process. I do feel however though that explaining it here would lose some people so please watch this YouTube video on the Sherry Solera Vat system to help explain how different aged barrels are vatted to produce the final product! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnvcOa62mEE
The Solera 15 at Glenfiddich happened to be my favorite. There was a lot of character on both the nose and the pallet. Here are my tasting notes for a few of the Glenfiddich bottlings.
Glenfiddich 15 Year Solera
Holly’s Tasting Notes..
Nose: Cherry, creamsicle, apple pie, cherry cola, dark chocolate.
Palate: Pepper hits at the end for sure! Chocolate/orange combination, coco.
Glenfiddich 18 Year- 80% aged in bourbon/20% aged in sherry
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Rich apple cider, caramel.
Palate: Immediate sweet spice! Oak, apple pie with ice cream on top.
Glenfiddich 12 Year- The staple of the bottlings
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Pear, more pear, honey, toffee, peanut brittle, crackerjack, fresh grass.
Palate: Honey, pear, feel the bourbon on the finish, honeydew.
Up next is Fettercairn..