Finally the embargo has lifted on me talking about the Glenfiddich IPA and Glenfiddich Project XX product launches under Glenfiddich’s new Experimental Series range, and wow are whisky drinkers the world over in for a treat.
Heritage whisky brands often play relatively safe, releasing formulaic age statement releases that step up three years at a time, occasionally a limited edition that breaks away from that format and an ever-increasing array of non-age statement releases at the lower end of the market.
Glenfiddich is anything but formulaic; their brand is anchored in a being the Maverick Whisky Makers of Dufftown, and boy do they deliver on it.
Glenfiddich is all about quiet innovation, releasing ‘maverick’ whisky products or undertaking ‘maverick’ pursuits as a business and not really grabbing the megaphone to shout about it. We’re talking; first company to commercially sell single malt whisky, first to export internationally, the building of the Girvan grain distillery and many, many more.
Oh, and incidentally, there are 75 different cask types currently maturing in one form or other at the Glenfiddich distillery.
Which brings us on to the release of the first two Experimental Series releases; Glenfiddich IPA and Glenfiddich Project XX.
It is always an incredible honour when you get a personal invite from one of the most well respected brand ambassadors in the business, Mark Thomson, UK Brand Ambassador for the brand. But when it came in I cleared my existing plans immediately and accepted with gusto.
A few days later, in a far-cooler-than-I-would-ever-feel-comfortable-in apartment within The Hoxton Hotel in East London, a group of prominent whisky and spirits writers and journalists gathered to find out why the hell we had all been summoned
It was totally worth it.
After welcome cocktails and a catch up with Tiger, Matt, Karen, Billy, Ian, Kat and of course the awesome Dave Worthington, we mooched through to a perfectly manicured ‘front room’ where we heard about the projects, and were introduced to Seb of the Speyside Craft Brewery.
Glenfiddich IPA Single Malt (available now on Amazon)
Seb and Brian proudly spoke about what felt like a science-fuelled collaboration with charts, recipe concepts, aroma chemistry and all manner of both beer and whisky geekery.
Essentially, Seb created an IPA, using British hops including the notorious challenger hops, he then filled the beer into American oak casks that had previously held Glenfiddich for around twelve years to make the most of the delicate flavours already present.
These casks were then left outside in a temperature-controlled container to soak in to the casks, as well as allowing the beer to take on some of the whisky and oak notes so that the IPA ultimately achieved the aroma of an empty cask.
The beer was then bottled and the casks refilled with an aged Glenfiddich for a few more months to allow it to mellow and to pick up additional complexity.
Brian Kinsman, Malt Master for William Grant & Sons, was at pains to say that the goal was not to create a whisky that tasted like a beer as “this would defeat the whole point”, but to create a whisky that had multiple layers that would otherwise be unexpected from Glenfiddich and the Scottish single malt category.
The result was a whisky that had a fruity soft, creamy nose with pangs of pineapple that thickens with time in the glass. On the palate the same notes were present for me as well as an amped up creaminess coupled with a hop note that led to a slightly bitter note that evolved into quite hot spices. Lovely.
Seb finished the tasting of the Glenfiddich IPA by saying that for him it was an “exciting project to be a part of, [I] learned a lot about whisky science and hope that Brian learned that some beers are good.” [Cue: laughter]
“The idea behind the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment was quite unusual but one we were passionate about – we wanted to really play with the flavours to see what we could create. Glenfiddich’s first whisky finished in IPA craft beer casks is testament to us challenging ourselves to produce something vibrant and unusual. The result is a liquid with a zesty citrus note followed by soft, sweet vanilla and a hint of fresh hops. The innovative flavour comes from carefully hand selecting the right malt whiskies to complement the extra hoppy notes.”
– Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman
Glenfiddich Project XX (that’s Project Twenty, not Project Double X, also available on Amazon)
This is an interesting one; the twenty Glenfiddich brand ambassadors from around the world came together at the distillery, were nudged into a warehouse and given free reign to pick six casks each that they thought would be interesting to release, based purely on the information provided on the cask itself.
From there, they sampled each the following day, narrowed the selection down to one each that they felt would create something quintessentially Glenfiddich.
It was the vatting of these casks that became Glenfiddich Project XX.
Just look at the packaging; the thumb print on the bottle and the secondary pack (that’s the tube to non-packaging geeks) is an amalgamation of the twenty ambassadors’ thumb prints so that they all share a piece of this product and to capture the moment in time where they as a group created something special.
Bottled at 47% ABV, on the nose I was getting lots of soft, exotic fruit, juicy in places that dr
aws you in and makes you want to spend proper time with the dram. The palate develops significantly, it really is lovely, exotic fruits shine through again with the addition of white pepper and a gentle warming mouthfeel.
“The final liquid was exceptional – and a special tribute to each individual cask the malts came from. The Glenfiddich Project XX we’re launching today is a recreation of that initial small vatting. 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.”
– Glenfiddich Malt Master, Brian Kinsman
In summary; two superb releases that visually look incredible (look out for a whole article dedicated to Glenfiddich’s bottle designs coming soon to GreatDrams) and taste brilliant… all at surprisingly fair prices (see below). Interestingly, both Glenfiddich IPA and Glenfiddich Project XX will be permanent additions to the Glenfiddich range, they are not limited editions.
The Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, at ABV 43%, 70cl, will be available in most grocers and specialist whisky stores at £45.00 from 6th September and the Glenfiddich Project XX at ABV 47%, 70cl, will be available from specialist whisky stores nationwide from September at £50.00.
You can watch my YouTube review below:
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Also published on Medium.