It’s kind of an unwritten rule for get-togethers with my father-in-law, that we each bring a bottle of scotch to share. We never go too over-the-top with the whiskies that we bring… It’s all about sharing a dram or two, not trying to impress each other with something expensive. (Pops puts a lot of ice in his dram and we want to feel comfortable leaving whatever is left in each other’s cabinet, but maybe we’re just a little on the cheap side!) Nevertheless, we do both like to bring something expected to be a new experience for the other. Generally, it’s quite a bit of delicious fun!
Well, this year was once again time to spend Christmas with my wife’s family and this time I decided to bring two bottles that fit the bill for our little whisky exchange: a personal inexpensive favourite in Bruichladdich Classic Laddie and something I hadn’t yet tried before – Glenfiddich 14 yr Rich Oak. (In case you’re wondering, Pops’ bottle was Aberlour 12.)
Apparently this Speyside malt is aged for 14 years, using Glenfiddich’s usual casking regime before separate finishing periods in both European and American casks. This whisky is bottled at 40% abv and it cost me about $65 CDN.
This whisky displays a rich coppery-gold that brings bourbon to mind. I suppose this could be expected but it also has me wondering about caramel colouring. My usual tot and swirl results in some moderate legs that dissipate quite quickly.
In the Nose
The name alone had me expecting a big blast of wood from this dram… That’s not really what I found, however. The oak does linger in the background but it’s not an assertive aroma nor one that really seems to provide a backbone or common thread to the nosing experience. Instead, I picked up some of the usual Glenfiddich character: orchard fruits, vanilla and a herbaceous note. Each of these were rather muted, though, and that herbal note, in particular was quite a long way off from the fresh, grassy quality that I usually enjoy from Glenfiddich and many other Speyside malts. I also find vanilla and a touch of biscuity malt but it’s kind of flat.
With water, the fruits stand out a bit more and become a little more juicy and maybe even somewhat tropical.
On the Tongue
If I had to sum it up succinctly, I’d say this whisky comes across as rather bourbony, without coming close to the complexity or deliciousness of a quality bourbon. There is sweetness, but a metallic bitterness quickly makes you forget about it. There are a few spices but they are overpowered by vanillins. The oak is certainly there but it’s a muddy sort of dominating flavour, if that makes any sense – it just doesn’t compliment anything else that’s going on in my glass. The finish is on the short side, with bitter oak tannins and a dry, acrid metallic after taste that again suggests the use of E150a.
With a few drops of water, I found the oakiness and the vanilla flavours were tamed and pointed in a more complimentary direction that allowed a malty sweetness to come forward. Water also helped some citrusy flavours to assert themselves and it also changed the finish into something more toasty much less bitter.
I don’t usually water my whisky but I was forced to try it with this one. While I was not enjoying my first couple of drams, my father-in-law was finding his glasses of scotch-flavoured ice to be quite delicious… So I figured I could give it a try. In this case, I found a little water transformed the Glenfiddich 14 yr Rich Oak from something almost undrinkable into a pretty decent drop.