Wow, after three days of immersive experimental activities in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto with the Glenfiddich team, I can finally reveal to you that the highly anticipated third release in the Glenfiddich Experimental Series, Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Winter Storm, finished in icewine casks, has been launched.
From a helicopter over the Niagara Falls to a private plane over Lake Ontario, from time spent at -10 degrees centigrade drinking ice wine and countless incredible meals created by highly talented and world class chefs, the Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Winter Storm bottling was revealed last night in an elaborate and highly immersive setting in Toronto.
This is the newest release in the Glenfiddich Experimental Series, following Glenfiddich IPA and Glenfiddich Project XX which you can read more about here.
TWENTY ONE YEAR OLD GLENFIDDICH FINISHED IN ICE WINE CASKS
The bottle is as stunning as the liquid; made of ceramic and beautifully designed to capture attention and turn heads, this really is a knockout whisky from the ever-innovative Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman.
The trip itself, which was one of the longest teases I have ever been a part of, was phenomenal, seriously lovely experiences, people and a well-crafted build up and layering of information to then reveal the Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Winter Storm product along with a tasting with Brian Kinsman himself.
To tease the palate the day before the reveal we were invited to sample a super-limited edition 1993 Glenfiddich aged in a French Semillon white wine cask which gave off a gorgeous deep, burnt sugar nose akin to a creme brûlée with some grapey notes and a tannic quality. With time the dram becomes slightly more perfumed with a creamy mouthfeel packed with Glenfiddich fruity citrus character and deep, dark fruits.
We also tried the Age of Discovery 19 Year Old ex-Californian red wine cask single malt that is finished in some Malbec Argentinian casks amongst others giving a lovely oaky, toasty, caramel flavour with deep fruit notes, with hints of vanilla, stewing apples and a wine note that is not domineering, but is present. Lovely.
The process of experimenting the Glenfiddich and Peller way
Over a luscious dinner in the cellar of the Peller Estates winery I asked Brian about his experiments and what told him when an experiment was ready, and what told him if one was failing, to which he told me that “some have died as they could not work commercially, for examples casks from Russia we wanted to play with just could not work from a commercial and logistical standpoint, others have not matched the Glenfiddich house style despite sometimes being absolutely lovely and me loving it personally. The thing with our experiments is that they must be a true expression of the brand character.”
Craig McDonald, winemaker at Peller Estates, who’s icewine casks were used in this experiment added that “it is our main business to do our core products well, then at the top end is a wine playground; seventy percent of what we do is core, twenty percent is retail and winery products and at the top is ten percent playground products where we have a go at creating the new, and interesting and boundary-pushing products. I always say to me team that it is important that we make mistakes, but that they must always be smart mistakes that have been attempted for a reason; that’s experimentation.”
Curiously, for a man as credible and as accomplished as Kinsman, he has a side to him that is thoroughly intriguing once you scratch the surface, especially when asked about what he finds hard about what he does – “the hardest part for me is writing tasting notes, verbalising what I am thinking and feeling and making that relatable is a challenge, and the biggest tip I can give anyone who wants to be able to articulate tasting notes better is to smell what is around them, in supermarkets, in airports, look at how these ingredients are described and start to build up your vocabulary”.
So what is icewine?
For those not familiar with icewine, it is a high-end Canadian product dating back to 1984 and is made from naturally frozen grapes that give off one drop of ice wine per grape… seriously… and can only been picked when the temperature is -8ºc. Essentially a bat signal goes out that alerts the producers in any locations that it is time to pick these frozen beauties, and the pickers will literally be out there for up to eighteen hours getting their pick on. That’s gotta be chilly.
The resulting wine is sweet, thick, best served chilled, and packs a lot of flavour in to each sip. The Peller Estates ice wine is phenomenal.
The main event, the whisky
The Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Winter Storm clocks in at £199 so is definitely not cheap, but in my humble opinion a solid price for not only an amazing whisky, but a stunning bottle with one of the best examples of packaging design I have seen in the last three years, is insanely well balanced, slightly sweet smoky note reminiscent of early eighties and seventies Speyside classics. Sweetness of the ice wine so well integrated, pineapples, tropics, kiwi, subtle dark fruits, hints of citrus especially lemon zest, and a soft note of Apple and pear flesh on the nose.
The nose opens up to reveal a cheesecake note with time in glass. Slightly creamy and biscuity notes not present initially on the nose after about fifteen minutes.
The same notes follow through to the palate, that ancient smoky note grows – Brian tells me this is the enhanced tannin influence, that citrus note grows as do the orchard fruity note, maybe I’m imagining it but there is a luscious grape note with a sweetness that isn’t sickly, but makes you want more.
For those looking to understand the best way to enjoy their whisky, Brian advises to add water to taste, but not to put ice in your whisky as you can taste “maximum flavour at room temperature, reducing with water to just below the alcohol burn, although this will be slightly different for everyone”. When asked about why water is important when tasting whisky, Brian explained that “it is a chemical process, and some flavour compounds are very de-soluble so when the alcohol by volume, ABV, is over thirty percent the flavours open and the solvent effect is lost when water is added“.
What a stunner, I will definitely be picking up a bottle from the online Glenfiddich shop, and you should too!