The Abbey Whisky Bar Edinburgh, February Whisky Tasting

The Abbey Whisky Bar Edinburgh monthly whisky tasting, February edition. A selection of whiskies presented by Mark Thomson, the Glenfiddich Whisky Ambassador to Scotland. The selection would include a couple of experimental whiskies as well as the mainstream Glenfiddich range.

Before the tasting, we had a lovely meal the main course consisting of a cheeseburger with chips and dips and then a Sundae ice cream!

The tasting

Mark greeted the group and the session got underway at 7 p,m, An enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker we sensed that we were in for an enjoyable evening.

Glenfiddich is a massive distillery which now has 31 stills having undergone an expansion in 1974. Its capacity of 14 million litres makes it the most productive distillery in terms of output. It was started by William Grant in 1886 and is one of only a few distilleries which are still owned by the original family. Despite its size, the production methods used are surprisingly traditional although bottling from the plant is now carried out in Glasgow . Glenfiddich is a typical Speyside malt with elements of fruit and flower in its various labels. For many people, Glenfiddich will be a familiar name even if they only take the occasional dram.

Mark also gave us some excellent advice on tasting whisky. Washing your first gulp round your mouth, before swallowing, in order to allow your sense of taste to adjust to the drink. A second swallow then reveals more characteristics of the malt.

The first whisky we sampled was the Glenfiddich twelve-year-old. An ideal morning or starter whisky. To the nose, I detected vanilla with elements of grass and malt. A light golden whisky. 40 percent ABV.

We then sampled the logical progression of this production process the Glenfiddich eighteen-year-old This is a step up from the ten-year-old in terms of depth. It was possible to detect tropical fruit and spices even some sherry. In colour, it is a darker whisky than the twelve-year-old and can be regarded as a “big brother” to that bottling.

The third whisky was altogether different in terms of its development the Glenfiddich fifteen-year-old. This is distilled in American and European oak and also a Short finish in new oak before being married in a solare cat which has never emptied since 1998 Here you can detect a light fruity freshness with elements of nutmeg.

The final whisky from the main range was the 21-year-old. As expected this is a rich whisky. Full bodied and with a lot of depth, Finished in rum casks from the Caribbean you can almost taste the sand and spray! Glenfiddich uses rum producers partly in order to safeguard production in case of severe weather in the region. Drinking the 21-year-old is very satisfying to the palate. There is a rich toffee component together with spices and fruit. I am sure I could smell banana and others in the group could detect orange.

Mark then introduced us to two “experimental” bottlings from the distillery. Like many other distilleries, Glenfiddich has been active in seeking out new ways in which to influence the flavour of their malts. To date, there have been three experimental malts, the IPA Experiment, Project XX and the latest and massively popular Winter Storm.

IPA was the first of these tastings. This is the result of a collaboration with Seb Jones an open-minded Speyside brewer. During the maturation, IPA barrels are used. This gives rise to a warm whisky with a slight zesty note from the hops used when the IPA was brewed. The various citrus notes remain together with a warming sweetness at the end. A typical retail price is £45 a bottle. ABV is 43%.

The second tasting was Project XX. This the result of a cooperative effort from twenty top whisky experts. It is the result of those experts favourite twenty whiskies from a wide range used for the project. The whiskies chosen had a wide range of characteristics including the barrels they had been matured in. The result is a rich golden whisky. Full bodied and warming. Dominant notes remain citrus, however, there is a hint of Summer candy floss tinged with cinnamon. Again a lovely whisky for sharing with close friends. ABV is 47% and a bottle typically costs about £50.

An excellent evening enjoyed by everybody.

Written by Greg Dunn (Instagram)

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