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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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).


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.

Just what the Doctor ordered

The Balvenie tasting, hosted by Dr Sam Simmons

The other week, the good folks at the Oak Barrel in Sydney  managed to secure Dr Whisky himself for a free tasting session of The Balvenie.

Who’s this Dr fellow? Sam Simmons (aka Dr. Whisky) is The Balvenie’s Global Brand Ambassador and just happened to be in Sydney for a whirlwind two-day tour that included no less than four events. Good thing he likes the stuff.


Walking in there, I think my brain naively told me ‘whisky ambassador? Must = Scotsman’, so I did a bit of a double-take when Sam spoke and I realized he’s actually a Canuk – and a genuinely funny and down-to-earth one at that!

The informal atmosphere of the Oak Barrel really lent itself to some great discussion and banter and both Sam and James (from William Grant & Sons) were genuinely knowledgeable, good sports. Bravo Balvenie, bravo!

What the Doctor prescribed


First up was The Balvenie 15 year old Single Barrel, (cask #10786 bottle #317 for the boffins out there) and as expected, it was on form. Big Balvenie honey and toasted vanilla notes with a hint of banana on the nose. Creamy on the palate with that wonderfully feisty, warming finish that comes with the higher ABV of 47.8%.

This was followed by the (new to Australia) 17 year old double-wood, which has spent 17 years in American Oak (aka ex-bourbon) barrels, followed by around nine months in European Oak ex-sherry casks. The 17 really comes across as a richer, more succinct version of the classic 12 year old double-wood and the extra 3% ABV (it’s bottled at 43%) is a lovely touch.

Rounding out the trio was the decadent 21 year old Port Wood. This expression starts life in American Oak, before being transferred to ex-port pipes for around four months. In the scheme of 21 years, four months doesn’t sound like a long time, but we’re told that the pipes are saturated with a vatting of some of the finest vintage port out there (~30 year old port, I believe) The richness and depth is fantastic, especially for a 40% ABV bottling. You get the classic Balvenie honey and creaminess mixed with wonderful rich, red-fruit notes and some chewy oak.

Really hoping I get the chance to review each of these in a bit more detail at a later date.

That wasn’t all though

As if that wasn’t enough for a Friday arvo tasting, there was still one more surprise in store. Sam was kind enough to bring along a 40 year old cask strength Balvenie, hand-filled by The Balvenie’s master distiller himself, Mr David Stewart. This was a money-can’t-buy whisky, so it was pretty special indeed.


After four decades in European Oak casks, the ‘73 had taken on an amazing mahogany colour and had a rich, full nose to match. At a natural strength of 55.2%, it was a heavy hitter, but still perfectly drammable (is that even a word?) without the need for water. It was incredibly complex and not overly oaked, which was quite a surprise considering how long it had spent in a cask. A seriously stunning whisky.

What’s remarkable is that despite the four different finishes and four different ages, you could really tell that these were all Balvenie. That marvelous creamy honeyed character really carried through all four expressions in its own way.

No doubt Sam’s schedule would have been pretty exhausting, but he still made time for everyone and didn’t miss a beat. A big thank you is in order for Sam and William Grant & Sons for their time and to the Oak Barrel, for hosting a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible tasting.