On a particularly cold Friday evening I ventured into the Melbourne Good Food and Wine Show on Glenfiddich’s invitation to board the Glenfiddich Whisky Wanderer, a 1972 vintage bus which has been converted into a whisky bar on wheels! Australian chef Matt Moran introduced us to what he loved about Glenfiddich and then the distillery’s brand ambassador, Luke Sanderson, took us on board for a very special evening of whisky tasting and blending, and to craft our very own Glenfiddich single malt from the three core ingredients used to create Glenfiddich’s 15 year old solera.
Ready to join me? All aboard!
The large green bus sported rose gold rims and it was stocked heavily with Glenfiddich single malt. Its upper deck was lined with tables, and sitting on top of the tables was the liquid sunshine that is Glenfiddich single malt.
After whetting my appetite with a cocktail made with (you guessed it) Glenfiddich single malt, I ventured up to the upper deck of the bus to start drinking and blending whisky!
At my table I was greeted with five glasses of whisky, an empty beaker, and three partially filled bottles each marked “New oak”, “American oak” and European oak”. The lower left glass contained Glefiddich 12 year old single malt and the lower right glass contained Glenfiddich 15 year old solera single malt.
The three upper glasses each contained a sample of whisky from a corresponding sample bottle. There was:
- a nip of Glenfiddich single malt that had been aged for at least 15 years in ex-bourbon American oak (that was from the “American oak” sample bottle);
- a nip of Glenfiddich single malt that had been aged in ex-bourbon American oak and finished for three months in new oak (that was from the “New oak” sample bottle); and
- a nip of Glenfiddich single malt that had been aged in ex-oloroso sherry European oak for 15 years (that was from the “European oak” sample bottle”).
These three single malts had been flown over from the Glenfiddich distillery in Scotland after being drawn from their oak casks only a few weeks earlier.
Smelling those whiskies conjured fond memories of my tour of the Glenfiddich distillery last year, during which I got to tour Glenfiddich’s warehouse No. 8. It was in that warehouse that I had the opportunity to stick my head inside the large wooden solera vat that is used to marry the single malts that eventually become Glenfiddich 15 year old solera (a year on and I can still smell the warehouse and the vat, with its aromas of glazed cherries and gingerbread).
Now, in Melbourne aboard the Glenfiddich Whisky Wanderer, I was faced with the exciting task of crafting my very own Glenfiddich single malt with the three ingredients that are used to create Glenfiddich’s 15 year old solera: Glenfiddich single malt aged in ex-bourbon American oak for at least 15 years, Glenfiddich single malt aged in ex-bourbon American oak for at least 15 years and finished for 3 months in new oak, and, finally, the pièce de résistance in my humble opinion, Glenfiddich single malt aged in ex-oloroso sherry European oak for at least 15 years.
I was blown away by the Glenfiddich single malt aged in ex-oloroso sherry European oak – it was a rich liquid fruit cake of a dram, with a drying Oloroso sherry kick. I wanted this lovely kick of sherry to be the centerpiece of my whisky’s design. Whilst I was in the mood for a sherry bomb, I also wanted to experiment with crafting whisky.
I tried marrying the “European oak” single malt with the “American Oak” and “New Oak” single malts a few times. Each marriage had a different composition of each of the three single malts. The first marriage contained a lot of the American oak single malt, the second marriage contained less of the American oak but more of the New oak single malt, and, finally, the third marriage contained mostly the European oak single malt with just a splash of the American oak and the New oak single malts – that last combination was, for me, just right! In the end, I stuck to my initial desire, and created a sherry bomb of a Glenfiddich.
The experience made me appreciate the difficulty of a master blender’s role in creating, and then consistently re-creating, a particular flavour profile in a whisky. The Glenfiddich 15 year old solera’s profile strikes me as a crowd-pleaser with a large spectrum of palates in mind, so it was much more balanced and easy going than my heavily sherried Frankenstein of a single malt.
Happy with my creation, I gleefully stumbled down the stairs of the bus to collect my personalised bottle of Glenfiddich 15 year old solera.
*Thank you to Glenfiddich and Red Havas for their invitation to this media event.