Glenfiddich distillery is situated on the doorstep of the picturesque town of Dufftown. It produces one of the most ubiquitous and widely consumed malts in the world, in the form of the Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, but its other expressions are definitely worth investigating also.
The Solera Reserve or 15 Year Old, as it has now been re-branded, has long been a favourite of my sister’s, although she insists on mixing it with lemonade… You drink it how you want though, eh? I’ve tried it ‘untainted’ several times, and it’s a good mix of scents and flavours, though a touch sweet for me.
My preference is for the Caoran 12 Year Old, which is the peaty one. Any Islay fans, wanting to try something a bit sweeter, should head for this. It’s still got the heathery sweetness to me, that I associate with the standard ‘fiddich, but it’s a got a touch more greenery and obviously the peaty earthiness to it. Doesn’t come close to anything on the south coast of Islay (Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavulin), but it may have a distant cousin in the way of a young Bruichladdich…
Glenfiddich has the largest capacity for production of whisky in Scotland. A whopping 10,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year, with it’s closest rival languishing in second place with a formidable 6,000,000 litres flowing into the spirit safes at Macallan. Glenfiddich has been an independently owned business since it’s inception until present day by the Grant family, and it’s no small feat that William and Sons are in third place globally in terms of capacity by owner’s, when they’ve got just four operational distilleries.
In second place, Pernod Ricard have twelve on their books, including Aberlour, Glenlivet and Scapa, whilst the Megatron of the whisky world, Diageo, have a staggering twenty-seven at last count. I think the Grant clan can rest easy in the Valley Of The Deer…
Arriving at Glenfiddich, We parked up and decided to head in straight away and see if we could get a bite to eat. The car park was starting to fill rapidly with an enormous group of German bikers, on Harleys, Hondas and other variants of two-wheeled transportation. I’d spotted this cloud of leather-clad tourists as I stepped out of the car, and had made up my mind that I was not going to be deprived of any opportunity of nostalgic, home-cooking.
My Dad and I grabbed a table, and put the order in for a couple of tomato soups and ham sandwiches. When they arrived, I kind of wished that I’d gone for one or the other, as the portions were immense. Pursuing fine whisky has an incumbent duty of fine food which is all hazardous to your waistline. Great wee cafe though… I noticed about halfway through our meal, that the plates and tables were the same shape as the distillery’s distinctive packaging – a Reuleaux Triangle.
Deciding we’d better get on with the tour, we headed to the reception area, and after informing the kind tour host that we’d like to be in attendance on the next excursion, we took to looking round the various display cabinets, and oohing and aahing at the various expressions on show. Amongst them was the Havana Reserve 21 Year Old. I’ve tried this once with great enthusiasm at The Quaich Bar in Craigellachie Hotel, having been made all the more curious by my Dad telling me that it ended up being Iain Banks‘ favourite on his travels round Scotland’s distilleries as detailed in his book ‘Raw Spirit‘.
Iain did me a huge favour recently, so I bought him a bottle and sent it to him.
Anyway, when I tried it, it was beautiful, but not entirely to my palate, from what I can remember. Loads of Carribean fruity, sugary, darkness, although a more rounded sweetness than the usual heathery honey.
We eventually joined a party of about ten people and were introduced to our guide, a lovely lass who is likely to forget more about whisky than I’ll ever know, judging by the range of knowledge she possessed, by the name of Louise. We had a quick run through of who was from where in our group, and then we were given samples of malted and unmalted barley to pass round. My dad and myself nicked a handful of the malted stuff to chew on. Like crunchy Ovaltine really…
Then off we marched to the mashtuns, bypassing the mills.
And although there is danger of one trip starting to resemble a saga, I’m going to leave it there for now. Next time, I swear I’ll finish this… It’ll include planes, trains, and automobiles, and a very close call that would have ended in tears.