Thursday, March 11, 2010

Scotch Whisky Review: Glenfiddich 15

I've been meaning to finish this one for some time -- I have only half the sample-sized bottle of Glenfiddich 15 left, so I'd better review it before it is gone!

If you have been reading my reviews, you know that I enjoyed the flavor of the Glenfiddich 12 quite a bit, while I found the 18 to be disappointing. I had hoped that I might find the 15 to be just right. Let's see how it fits between the two.

In the glass, the color is very pretty -- a somewhat unusual orange-gold, with a hint of dried clover green. It clings well, with luxurious legs.

So what's on the nose? Right off the bat, there is a potent butterscotch aroma, taking me back to hard candies at my grandmother's house. There are some nice toasted nut aromas, particularly candied pecans. There's a definite toasted coconut note, and marzipan. It's got some peaty phenols in the background, too, that definite Listerine antiseptic note, and some pine forest. Perhaps a little dark chocolate and marshmallow, like a pinwheel mashmallow cookie? Give this one some time to warm and evolve -- there's a lot going on in the nose!

On the tongue, it is quite syrupy; the dry sweetness and butterscotch notes are very pronounced. It is hot and drying, like a brandy, but gently so. There's a little salt and smoke; there's a little bit of lemon, but it's in the background, like lemon oil. There's a bit of cinammon. The finish is quite long, with evidence of all kinds of nuts; I taste those pecans, but also hazelnuts and Brazil nuts. The up front butterscotch is quite different and quite distinctive. The lack of fruit and floral aromas is also distinctive -- I wouldn't use either "honey" or "heather" to describe this whisky. Maybe "treacle," but not maple.

I'm told that the 15-year-old is matured using an unusual scheme in which whisky from 3 different types of casks are used: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and new oak. The blend is then aged in a vat made of pine! I'm surprised that I can't taste the sherry much -- I've found whiskies aged in ex-sherry casks to be quite distinctive, sometimes losing some of the other whisky characteristics as they absorb that sweetish, maple sherry note. I usually equate young oak with vanilla, as in a young Glenmorangie, but in this whisky the vanilla is very light. There is a little of that oaky dryness though, and this scheme explains that pine forest note that is always there.

Overall, this is a wonderfully complex balance of flavors. It's sweet, but never cloying; dry, but not burning; peaty, but not overwhelming. The long, buttery, lemony finish is very enjoyable. It would make an excellent dessert drink. I rate it a 9.0 and will probably buy myself a bottle to share with friends.


Jason Debly said...

Glenfiddich 15 year old is the best of the range. I just finished a bottle of the 18 year old, and while good, not nearly as complex as the 15.

If you like this, you should really try Cragganmore 12 year old. One of the best Speyside single malts available.

Paul R. Potts said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Jason! I have never tried a Cragganmore but am always happy to try different distilleries.