After three months spent exploring a whisky profile that I know well it’s time to move into unfamiliar territory.
If you’re new to the Pilgrimage and don’t know what I’m talking about, or it has just been a while and you need a quick recap, here are the rules of the game.
Every month I pick up a new bottle of whisky. To give the Pilgrimage some structure and set up some good comparisons the year is divided into 4 “seasons”. For each season I have budgeted roughly $150.
- Winter (Jan-Mar): Sherry
- Aberlour 10: $32
- Macallan 12: $55
- Glendronach 15: $72
- Spring (Apr-Jun): Speyside
- Summer (Jul-Sep): Blends
- Winter (Oct-Dec): Peated
My hope was that by building in some rules and limitations I’d be creating an environment that fosters appreciation for even the most humble drams. So far I’d say it has been a success. If you need convincing read the earlier posts…and heck, play along at home! I’d be interested to hear if anybody is giving some of the selections a try, or if any of the Pilgrimage concepts have inspired you to think about things from a slightly different angle.
Moving onward. Speyside.
Speyside is a prolific whisky producing region, home to some of the best recognized distillers in the world. Glenfiddich, Glenlivit, Glen Glen Glen…it’s a Scottish take on the Bubba Gump riff. I’d be willing to bet that in the vast majority of cases the 1st single malt a person tries is from Speyside. It’s perfectly nice accessible whisky…and I just can’t get my head wrapped around it.
In my personal experience the bold flavours delivered via special cask maturation (sherry, wine barrel, etc) and peating take a little while to get used to. After an initial breaking-in period, these bold face-blasting styles become sought-after favourites. By comparison the subtle bourbon-cask numbers come across as uninspired and frankly…a little dull.
I’ve dabbled in Speyside but have become discouraged and scrambled back to my safe zone every time. Picking out the notes and understanding what’s in the glass require time and patience…neither of which I have in abundance.
Because for the next 3 months, like it or not I’m committed to staying in Speyside. Time to challenge my existing ways of thinking and learn some new tricks. Are these truly dull whiskies, or will I learn to appreciate the subtle charms of Speyside?
Speyside Selection #1 – Glenfiddich 15
If you review the Sherry selections, you’ll note my appreciation for the mellowing and additional development that come from aging. So when shopping for my first selection Glenfiddich 15 caught my eye for a number of reasons:
- The distinctive “buck” tins – Glenfiddich is a very well recognized brand, and when I looked at this, I realized that I knew very little about the whisky
- 15 years – same age as the Glendronach that I really enjoyed from the prior month
- This isn’t sherry-cask pricing anymore – I picked this one up for $47.99 – $25 less than the Glendronach 15. Good deal!
The Glenfiddich 15 is produced using the Solera vatting technique. More information on this method can be found on this site or Lance’s excellent writings on Liquorature.com. In this case a variety of Glenfiddich casks are used in the Solera vat. My poor research is evident in the fact that some sherry casks find there way in, something I would have known had I read the back of the bottle more carefully than I did the price tag. I acknowledge it’s a bit of a cheat on my part, but I don’t think they’ve gone too heavy on the sherry and as such I don’t think it is overpowering the baseline “essence” of Glenfiddich.
First impressions? It’s very nice stuff! It doesn’t have the same “oomph” as the sherry finished whiskies but makes up for that with some really nice flavours in a light, fragrant delivery.
Yet to come…
- I’m definitely looking forward to giving Glenfiddich 15 a shot vs. the Glendronach 15 to see how they stack up against one another
- Earlier in the pilgrimage I attempted an Aberlour 10 marinated steak. Yikes…I’m just about ready to post up a whisky-based food experience that did turn out well.
- I have an embarrassing retraction to make. A few posts back I boldly stated that I would start producing proper tasting notes. Well, I am what I am…and as much as I thought that tasting notes would be the “right thing to do”, it just feels forced and wrong. In retrospect, I must admit that I got a little too wound up on the “try something new” ethic of the pilgrimage and as a result, lost sight of my ultimate goal here: having fun. My heart just isn’t in it and I don’t think that any of you need to suffer through the tasting note equivalent of “it was a dark and stormy night…”.
Thanks again for reading – all comments and feedback appreciated!