It’s difficult to imagine a more innovative, ground-breaking whisky brand than Glenfiddich. From its beginnings in 1886 Glenfiddich has not been afraid to take risks. Its founder William Grant, together with his seven sons and two daughters, built the distillery by hand. It took them a year with the first spirit made on Christmas Day in 1887. In 1923, William’s grandson, Grant Gordon had the foresight to increase production during prohibition. When the law changed a decade later Glenfiddich was ready to meet the demand for aged whisky. Then there is the striking triangular bottle, designed by Hans Schleger in 1961, a radical design at the time, but one which instantly identifies the bottle as Glenfiddich today.
Fast-forward to 2016 and the release of the cutting-edge Glenfiddich Experimental Series in Australia. Glenfiddich’s malt master, Brian Kinsman, says, “The Experimental Series builds on Glenfiddich’s long tradition of innovation and takes us to new levels of experimentation in a way no distillery has ever done before.”
Glenfiddich IPA Experiment (A$130) was the inaugural release in the range and is the first single malt scotch in the world to be finished in Indian pale ale (IPA) craft beer casks. Three different IPAs of varying strengths and hop levels were created before a bold Speyside IPA was chosen to go into American oak whisky casks, which were later used to finish the Glenfiddich whisky. The resulting single malt is imbued with tangy hops.
Glenfiddich Project XX (A$140) was next to hit the shelves. It is a collaboration between Brian Kinsman and 20 whisky experts. Kinsman invited the experts to Dufftown in Scotland, home of Glenfiddich, to choose one cask of whisky each to go into the Project XX. He then married them together in small batch vatting. “The final liquid was exceptional – it has the warm summer fruity character of a classic Glenfiddich but then its ‘multiple personalities’ are revealed as the flavours of candy floss, cinnamon spice, almonds and rich Port tannins kick in with the odd hint of liquorice,” explains Kinsman.
Then in August this year Glenfiddich Winter Storm (A$350) was released. It is a marriage of whisky and wine, some of the rarest wine in the world in fact: Icewine. Kinsman travelled to Canada and toured the vineyard at Peller Estates in Niagara. Here the grapes are hand-picked at -10°C by moonlight and pressed when frozen to create an elegant, sweet wine. Inspired by his visit he began experimenting with French oak Icewine barrels from Peller Estates, filling them with various aged malts for up to six months. “Only the rarer whiskies, those aged for 21 years, could cope with the extra Icewine intensity. Having more tannins, extracted from years in oak, these malts brought out a uniquely fresh lychee note instead of being swamped by sweetness,” Kinsman discovered.
The Peller Estates Icewine and the Glenfiddich Winter Storm have many elements in common. On the nose there is citrus, lollies and tropical fruit in both. In the mouth you can detect the complex wine elements in the whisky, with the Icewine barrels imparting a subtle sweetness on the tongue and a drying finish. Pair Winter Storm with a fruity dessert, subtle blue cheese or drink it neat.
What will Kinsman think of next?
These cocktails are all created by Glenfiddich’s national brand ambassador, Luke Sanderson, using the Experimental Series.
50ml Glenfiddich Project XX Scotch Whisky
20ml Pedro Ximenez sherry
10ml Campari dash Angostura
Pinch of salt 1
Chill glass by filling it with ice and water, and set aside. Add ingredients in mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir for 20 seconds or until appropriate dilution for taste. Strain into chilled glass over fresh ice, preferably a large rock. Garnish with orange slice and shaved nutmeg.
Hopped Scotch Fizz
30ml Glenfiddich IPA Experiment Scotch Whisky
15ml Crawley’s Orgeat 1
5ml lemon Juice
dash orange blossom water
75ml dry Champagne
Chill a Champagne glass by filling it with ice and water and set aside. Add whisky, orgeat, lemon juice and orange blossom water in a shaker and fill with ice. Mix and strain into chilled glass. Top with Champagne. Twist grapefruit peel over glass so oil goes into the drink. Discard peel.
A smoky variation on the Rob Roy created bySam Ross for Milk and Honey in New York and named after the famous Melbourne suburb.
45ml Glenfiddich Winter Storm Scotch Whisky
25ml sweet vermouth
10ml Islay scotch
2 dashes Angostura
lemon twist garnish
Add all ingredients to chilled shaker. Add cracked ice and stir for 25-30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with lemon twist.