Experimentation is not the first thing that comes to mind when one things of larger whisky brands such as Glenfiddich. This storied Scotch distillery, owned by William Grant & Sons, is one of the world’s best-selling single malts, so it makes sense that they don’t need to push boundaries to keep people interested in their products. But this is not, apparently, how they play, as evidenced by the recent unveiling of the aptly named Glenfiddich Experimental Series.
The new Glenfiddich Experimental Series, according to the distillery, is kicking off with two whiskies. The first, Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, is described as being the first single malt Scotch whisky ever finished in IPA craft beer casks. What went on here is that Speyside Craft Brewery’s Seb Jones teamed with Glenfiddich master blender Brian Kinsman over the last year and a half to craft the right beer to flavor the single malt. To that end, they created three separate brews of different strengths and hop levels, and then filled up to nine freshly-emptied American oak casks at a time. The time the beers sat in the oak before being dumped to make way for whiskey was varied.
“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,” said Kinsman in a prepared statement. “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.”
Joining the IPA influenced whisky, which is pricing £45 (about $60 USD), is offering number two in the Experimental expressions: Glenfiddich Project XX. In this particular release, dubbed Glenfiddich’s most ambitious experiment yet, 20 of its brand ambassadors (including this one) were brought in to each select a cask from a whisky warehouse. The resulting choices included “aged malts matured in port pipes to ancient sherry butts and first fill bourbon casks.” Kinsman was put to the test as he blended away to produce a final bottling which reflected “individual tastes and interests.”
“The final liquid was exceptional – and a special tribute to each individual cask the malts came from,” added Kinsman. “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 candyfloss, cinnamon spice, almonds and rich port tannins kick in with the odd hint of licorice.”
Glenfiddich Project XX is pricing at £50 (about $65 USD). Both expressions are available now at various retailers. Assuming these two do well at retail, it is reasonable to expect Glenfiddich will continue to experiment with this series, even as it continues to pump out its more mainstream single malts.
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...