A few weeks ago, the guys at Glenfiddich Lebanon invited me and a bunch of other awesome people to taste several single malts offered by the famous Scotch whisky distillery. They flew in Mr. Ian Miller, a true connoisseur of all things whisky-related to help us properly sample Glenfiddich.
Now, as many of you know, I’m not much of an alcohol consumer and even though I tried hard, my feedback can’t compare to the feedback of my good friend who’s a fine whisky enthusiast and collector. I’ve attached his part at the bottom of this post, for the whisky-savvy readers. As for everyone else, here’s what I learned from Mr. Miller
1- The Warmer, The Better
We’re used to seeing whisky in a full glass of ice. Turns out if you really want to peel and experience the layers of flavor the whisky distillers work for years to create, you need to place some whisky in a cognac glass and swirl it in your hands for a few minutes to warm it up. I must say, the taste and aroma were amplified exponentially when we followed Mr. Miller’s instructions.
2- DON’T USE ICE, Use Ice Rocks
That’s something I never thought of, and I’m sure very few of us have. The ice we drink, where does it come from? Now, I want to be as optimistic as possible and assume it’s made from regular tapwater. The mineral composition of the water the ice you’re using was made from, decimates all the effort put into creating the whisky’s flavor.
But, who wants to sit calmly and swirl cognac cups in the middle of a part? You need something to cool you down, and the solution was placed on the table we were sitting on: Ice Rocks. I googled them and found the picture on the right. You guessed it, they’re rocks you throw into the freezer for a few hours. When you place them in your drink, they obviously will not dissolve, thereby chilling your whisky while not diluting the taste.
3- Whisky Ages in the Barrel, not the Bottle
Unlike wine which you can age at home, whisky only matures in the barrels. As soon as it is bottled and sealed air-tight, it stays the same for as long as a century! Once you open a bottle though, it can last up to 5 years.
4- Scotts beat the English and Everyone Else
Ian Miller is of course a scotsman, and consequently, I was mesmerized with his accent throughout the presentation. There’s a reason whisky is often referred to “Scotch” and Mr. Miller convinced me that whisky was indeed their business and how much experience and prowess him and his fellow distiller had. Heck, “whisky” is purely Scottish, and “whiskey” with an e is everything else. Conveniently, Glenfiddich is located in a family-owned distillery in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
5- Making Whisky is Tough
I personally never knew so much work, time, effort and skill went into making whisky. We often believe wine is the real tricky type of alcohol, but from the looks of it, choosing the crop, setting the conditions, specifying the time and even choice of wooden barrel and type of water has an immense impact on the whisky being produced. So, for all you whisky drinkers, appreciate! And for those of you who don’t (like me) respect!
Whisky Expert’s Feedback:
Obviously before actual experimentation it is essential to know the theory. That is why a presentation was done showing the Glenfiddich Family Distillery, and how they make some of the best whiskys in the world. It starts off by picking up some barley, and mixing it with water. The water is a key ingredient, because the quality of water will have an enormous impact on the taste – as an ingredient that is. Afterwards it is put in some sort of oven, and dried up – that’s what we call fermentation. The Next step is distillation. This is where the water and the barley liquor are separated from one another in a cone shaped heater. To that extent the liquid that we then receive is ready to be aged in different barrels. Each barrel is made of a specific type of wood, and provides its own typical and unique taste in comparison to other whiskys. Sherry Casks are known to provide sweetness, while bourbon casks are supposed to vent a vanilla taste in the whisky, and malt is simply not malt if it hasn’t matured at least for 3 years in an oak barrel. After maturation for different period of times in different casks, the liquid is then vented and bottled, and ready to be enjoyed.
Throughout the whole explanation, we were drinking three different types of Glenfiddich Malts. The 12 Years Glenfiddich, the 15 Years Glenfiddich, and the 18 Years Glenfiddich. In order to taste a whisky properly, or any type of alcohol for that matter, the tongue is essentially the main organ to use. Smelling though does play an important role, but it apparently takes years to know how use that. Ian told us that the temperature of the whisky when served releases different tastes at every different degree, that’s why it is best to keep it warm, and drink it without ice – the good type of whisky at least.
Here is my final verdict: The 12 year old is known for the pear-like taste one might get, because of the sherry casks that they use. The 15 year old is less sweet but a bit sharper, while the legal 18 year old, is subtle, sweeter than the 15 and bitterer than the 12.
Here’s a video of Ian Miller talking about Glennfiddich