Glenfiddich 26 year old

Launched in Sydney, Australia

I’ve been dragging my feet a bit when it comes to updates. Not intentionally of course, but as much as I’d like it to be, whisky isn’t my bread and butter. So when the bread needs buttering unfortunately things on the whisky front sometimes take a back seat, but hopefully I’ll get back into the swing of things as the year starts to slow down a wee bit.

The Launch

Now to the reason you’re reading this post though. Back in September, the guys from William Grant & Sons held a rather lavish soirée to officially welcome Glenfiddich’s newest expression – the 26 year old – into the Australian market. This comes at a rather appropriate time considering they’ve just recently discontinued their 30 year old expression.

Elizabeth Bay House

The evening unfolded at Elizabeth Bay House in the Eastern-Sydney suburb of – you guessed it – Elizabeth Bay! If you’ve never been here (and no doubt most of you haven’t), it’s nestled among a mixture of art deco and modern apartment blocks in one of Sydney’s premier harbour-front suburbs. Directly across the road sits one of the most well manicured parks you’re likely to come across and beyond that, the sparkling waters of Sydney harbour.

Elizabeth Bay House

Entering the grand foyer, waiters circircled with canapés whilst a string quartet played ambiently in the background. There are many things that William Grant & Sons do well when they host an event, and without a doubt, food is always one of them. There must have been a dozen or so different dishes and I spent way too much time taking photos of them.

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Nestled under the main staircase, bartenders mixed a series of Glenfiddich-based cocktails, whilst neat pours of the core range were also on offer.

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Our host for the evening was Glenfiddich Brand Ambassor, and all ‘round legend, Mr James Buntin. This also happened to be one of his final public outings here as a week or so later he was off to the UK to take up his role as Balvenie’s newest Brand Ambassador. To all my UK friends, should you ever cross paths with the gent on the left, go say hello and tell him Sydney misses him!

Glenfiddich 26 year old

This handsome bottle wasn’t opening itself any time soon, so I took the opportunity to sneak off and explore a bit. After all, this is one of Sydney’s oldest historic houses and there was plenty of history to see. Eventually I descended the sandstone stairs into the house’s cellar. Here, the passageways and rooms were lined with a series of 26 photographs by Scottish photographer Simon Butterworth.

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It turns out that there was actually a really neat concept behind the photographs.

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To celebrate the release of the 26 year old, Glenfiddich commissioned Simon to take a series of 26 photographs capturing the production of the whisky itself. From the felling of the oak used in the original Bourbon casks, to the coopering process, barley malting, distilling and maturation.

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The images told a fantastic (and rather emotive) story of the whisky making process and the people behind it.

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The crowd soon followed suit and after some healthy sampling from the second Glenfiddich bar setup down in the cellars, it was time.

Glenfiddich 26 year old

James did the introductions, whilst waiters distributed ‘Excellence’ to those in wait.

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Whilst everyone cheers’d (is that even a word?) and enjoyed their pour of 26 year old down in the cellar, I retreated back up the stairs like the whisky nerd I am, to find somewhere peaceful and quiet to enjoy my dram contemplatively.

Walking into the now deserted foyer area of the house, I bumped into the cellar master of the SMWS, Mr Andrew Derbidge, who appeared to have had the same idea as me. At events like this, it’s far too easy to keep chatting and enjoying yourself. But given the exclusivity and price tag of this dram, I knew I wasn’t likely to be trying it again any time soon, so I made the effort to get some proper notes down.

Dram held to the nose in one hand, pen and notebook in the other, we both stood there in silence and got our nerd on.

Glenfiddich 26 year old

Nose

The main things I picked up right off the bat were those classic Glenfiddich baked pear and light fruity notes (well, that’s something I often associate with Glenfiddich). This time though, they were somewhat spicier, with hints of coconut and a certain dusty nuttiness I likened to marzipan.

Palate

I found the 26 year old had a fairly light body to it, but still managed to be oily. A fair whack of spice up front turned creamy, almost crème caramel like, revealing a nice full mouth of flavour. Sipping again, some of those older oak notes appeared – I got some kiwi, zest and coconut on the palate. I had to pick up the bottle to check that this was indeed a 43% ABV whisky as it carried a fair bit of heat with it, feeling like it had a higher ABV (a nice thing in my opinion).

Finish

The sweet creaminess lasted for a good while, however I found the dominant notes on the finish to be spice and tarty zest. As you’d expect of a whisky of this age, some drying oaky notes (some might say pencil shavings) became more apparent as time went on, but I never found them unpleasant.

Glenfiddich range

The Glenfiddich 26 year old is available in Australia now, with retail process starting at $499 a bottle. A sincere thanks to William Grant & Sons for the invite, a highly enjoyable evening that I still remember vividly.

The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask

Official launch, Sydney Australia

Attention Australian Balvenie fans – The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask has just been launched locally!

In true William Grant & Sons style, this was cause for celebration, so on a recent Monday evening, celebrate we did. Where should The Balvenie hold an event for the release of a rum-finished whisky? A specialist rum bar of course, so it was off to Sydney’s The Cuban Place/Parke Davis.

Balvenie Craft Bar

Guests approaching the venue knew they were in the right spot when they spotted this hand-crafted Balvenie sign at the entrance and were greeted by the sound of authentic rasta-sounding steel kettle- drums.

Parke Davis

Descending the half dozen stairs into the swanky sub-ground Parke Davis, we were greeted by our ever consummate host – The Balvenie’s Sydney brand ambassador – Mr James Buntin.

James

James’ partner in crime for the evening would be Melbourne-based Dick Blanchard, who I’d had the pleasure of meeting a few day’s prior at the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championships (post to follow shortly).

It should be said that Dick has a knack for crafting some rather special whisky-based cocktails and had put together this Balvenie-inspired duo to get the evening started.

Menu

A handful of friendly hellos were exchanged before a handful of Balvenie was received, your choice of a cocktail or perhaps something from The Balvenie’s core range? The 12 or 17 year old double wood, the all new 14 year old Caribbean Cask or perhaps a healthy dram of the luscious 21 year old Port Wood (if you happened to bump into the right person!) They were all on offer and the crowd made a good dent in their stocks!

I started with a Balvenie-inspired Dark & Stormy and Parke Davis’ bartenders made short work of mixing a couple down.

Balvenie Stormy

Oh yeah, they’re also pretty efficient at pouring a mean Beachcomber or two…

Pyramid

Balvenie – a story of craftsmanship

The Balvenie don’t just place pride in their liquid, but also in the craftsmanship that brings it to life. From the partial onsite maltings, to the in-house cooperage that prepares their barrels, they take a very hands-on approach to whisky making. As such, they also display an appreciation for those who exude the same passion in their own craft.

Drum

To really highlight that connection, The Balvenie had invited along Charles Moller to present a short, but genuinely fascinating, intro into the world of crafting steel kettle-drums. It’s not the first time The Balvenie has been involved with local artisans either, setting up a craft bar in Melbourne’s famous laneways back in November 2013.

Release the rum-finish

We were here for a particular reason though and that was to see the official release of this fine dram into the local Australian market.

Balvenie trio

So with a short enthusiastic toast from the captivating Mr B. we welcomed The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask to Australia.

Balvenie toast

So what’s it like?

In short, pretty damn enjoyable. So enjoyable in fact that I totally forgot to jot down any tasting notes on the night.. bugger.. The geniuses at Balvenie obviously figured as much and had the forethought to but together these goodie bags, complete with a crafty hand-labeled sample.

Goodie bag

After mulling this one over for a while, I got sweet syrupy malt on nose, layered with brown sugar. Whether the label is prompting me to look for it, I’m not sure, but I also get some golden rum notes too. Searching a touch longer, it’s not hard to find the classic honeyed-apple Balvenie notes buried underneath. A very round and perfectly approachable nose.

Sample

Fairly thin on the palate and immediately sweet, yet drying at the same time. Oaky wood spice develops quickly along with bitter dark chocolate and a hint of orange pith. These tart drying notes are nicely balanced by a rounded sweetness, which almost comes across as confectionary like at some points (think lolly bananas and fresh marshmallows). Add to that some hints of vanilla and a noticeable rum note, both of which come out toward the back of the palate and remain on the finish which turns oaky and drying once more.

I think the main take away from this is to not expect a rum flavoured whisky. It’s not a flavouring (thank goodness for that) – it’s a finish – one which builds on the underlying approachable character of Balvenie, creating something a bit more special.

Having also tried the 14 year old Cuban Cask, I admit that I did notice a difference between the two and the Caribbean Cask is certainly my pick of the duo.

Warehouse 24

If you liked the look of this event, you too can get involved!

Whilst some distilleries have mailing lists, or token membership groups, The Balvenie’s Warehouse 24 program genuinely makes an effort to connect with their fans the world over. Regular competitions are mostly open to international entrants and special events are held in major cities everywhere.

Group

In fact, invites to the Caribbean Cask launch were extended to Australian Warehouse 24 members – just for being members! Whether you’re reading this in Australia or abroad, it’s worth checking out.

Where, when and how much?

The Balvenie 14 year old Caribbean Cask is bottled at 43% ABV will be available in Australia from the finest liquor retailers from August at a recommended price of AU$115.

Balvenie 14

Big thanks to The Balvenie and William Grant & Sons for hosting such an enjoyable evening. And to James, farewell from your Australian fans, thanks for all the laughs and we hope you have a blast in the UK.