Monday, October 16, 2017

Review - Glenfiddich 21 years old Winter Storm

The Winter Storm is the third bottling in The Experimental Series from Glenfiddich. The whisky has been created by Brian Kinsman, the brand's Malt Master, and uniquely uses Canadian ice wine casks made from French oak for a short finishing period. These have previously matured ice wine, made from grapes frozen on the vine and picked at night, produced at the Peller Estate winery in Niagra. Following a period of experimentation, Kinsman discovered that older whiskies reacted best with the casks. Therefore, the Winter Storm is a 21 years old expression with a six month finish in the ex-ice wine casks.

Glenfiddich is located in the Speyside town of Dufftown. It is one of Scotland's few remaining family owned distilleries and was constructed by William Grant himself in 1886/87. Glenfiddich is still owned by William Grant & Sons today. The name is taken from the Fiddich glen, the valley in which it lies and translates as 'valley of the deer' from Gaelic. The distillery is massive and has a capacity of 12 million litres per year, making it one of the largest single malt distilleries in Scotland.

The Glenfiddich Experimental Series is a permanent range of single malts from the famous distillery and it kicked off with two expressions – the IPA Experiment and Project XX - last year. Both, like the new Winter Storm, were created by Brian Kinsman, who continues to work on forthcoming additions.  The series is designed to highlight the continual experimentation and innovation that Glenfiddich has undertaken since its foundation in 1887.

“Only the rarer whiskies that I experimented with could cope with the extra ice wine intensity that comes from the ice wine casks. Having more tannins, extracted from years in oak, these malts brought out a uniquely fresh lychee note instead of being swamped by sweetness.”
Brian Kinsman.

The Glenfiddich Winter Storm (Experiment #3) is bottled at 43% ABV and is a limited edition, although actual numbers have not been revealed. It is available now through specialist whisky retailers in selected world markets and will cost £199 a bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour is pale golden yellow and the nose has an immediate fresh vibrancy to it. There are initial aromas of honey, vanilla and white chocolate. These are supported by delicate aromas of sultana, hard boiled peardrop sweets, candied lime and lemon zest. It offers a heady mix, backed up by hints of tropical fruit (especially over ripe pineapple and lychee) and earthy wood spices.

On the palate this whisky is quite tangy and mouth watering at first. The fresh vibrancy from the nose dominates, especially the notes of candied lime and earthy wood spice. It is only with time that some sweetness develops to balance this. A lovely mix of dried tropical fruit (the pineapple and lychee again, plus a hint of mango), sultanas, golden syrup and white chocolate. This is followed by something biscuity, most reminiscent of cookie dough, and a hint of dessicated coconut. There is also an earthy hint in the background - is that peat smoke? The slightly bitter edge is never far away and takes control again towards the end - think of grape skin, red apple skin and nutmeg.

The finish becomes increasing dry and slightly bitter. The sweeter and fruit notes fade to leave the candied lime prominent. This is backed up by increasingly earthy wood spices, especially cinnamon and all-spice, along with a hint of cocoa powder and crisp green apple.

What's the verdict?
The Glenfiddich Winter Storm is a departure from the first two releases in The Experimental Series, but one that shows there are no real boundaries that they are not prepared to cross. We cannot think of any other whisky in our 9+ years of blogging that has been matured in an ice wine cask. It will be so interesting to see what direction the experimentation takes them, in a similar way to the Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch series.

There is a wow factor to this whisky. That said, it will not be to everyone's taste - the tangy and slightly sharp notes create an interesting flavour profile which sees them battle with sweeter characteristics. The mix is intriguing and has created a whisky almost unlike any other that we have tasted. Bottles are selling fast, so make sure you snap one up if you are interested.