A 130 year old brand, Glenfiddich doesn't plan to show its old age by holding on to tradition, but instead is learning to take advantage of its experience to create newer, nervier expressions of the brand
By: Soumya Jain Agarwal
Posted on: October 21, 2019
I still remember. It was 2011, and I had settled in for an elegant, fine dining experience courtesy Glenfiddich. It was the launch of Snow Phoenix in New Delhi, a unique expression of a Glenfiddich, which was created out of adversity. It was a sophisticated evening in muted tones, full of silverware, exquisite fine food paired with Glenfiddich, and intelligent conversations in hushed tones.
Fast forward to 2019, and I found myself on an exclusive sunset boat cruise in Chicago, hosted by DJ Dave Paradice, a brand ambassador of Glenfiddich. It was buzzing with stylish dancing people, neon lights, buoyant house beats, and some innovative cocktails made from Glenfiddich.
And as I swayed along with the music, the heady notes of Glenfiddich, and the breeze that evening, I marveled at the transformation the brand had taken in a short span of eight years! From projecting itself as a heritage, classic scotch whisky brand (which it still is in my opinion), the brand is now connecting with millennials in a way which speaks their language, without compromising on the quality or prestige of Glenfiddich.
Having said that, it’s not just Glenfiddich’s marketing message that has evolved, but in the past few years, its products have also become experimental, bold and unique. Take, for example, the Fire & Cane, which marries smoky whisky with non-peated whisky that had been maturing side-by-side in bourbon casks, highlighting Glenfiddich’s sweet and fruity signature style. Taking it a step further, Glenfiddich’s Malt Master Brian Kinsman finished the married whisky in Latin rum casks, sourced from various South American countries, for three months to produce a surprising and unexpected overlay of flavors with added caramel toffee sweetness.
Another experimental, tradition-defying product was Glenfiddich Project XX - a collaboration between 20 whisky experts and Mr. Kinsman, who together developed one unexpected, extraordinary single malt. Going against normal whisky making conventions, Mr. Kinsman invited these experts from 16 countries (the US, Canada, France, Germany, Taiwan, China, South East Asia, Ukraine, Brazil, England, Scotland, Mexico, The Netherlands, South Korea, Russia and South Africa), to explore and each select a cask, 20 in total, from a warehouse at the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Scotland.
After each expert had chosen a single cask of extraordinary liquid, from aged malts matured in port pipes to ancient sherry butts and first fill bourbon casks, Mr. Kinsman skillfully produced the final variant to reflect their individual tastes and interests. The final product transcended everyone’s expectations!
Perhaps my favorite experiment is Glenfiddich Winter Storm, which was inspired by Mr. Kinsman’s trip to Canada’s renowned Peller Estate winery in January 2016. He toured the beautiful vineyards and learned how the grapes had to be picked by moonlight at 14 ̊F as soon as they reached full solidity to produce the ideal ice wine. When Mr. Kinsman returned to the Glenfiddich Distillery, he began experimenting with several French oak Ice wine casks from the Canadian winery, filling them with various Glenfiddich aged malts for six months. Only the rarer whiskies, those aged for 21 years, could cope with the extra ice wine intensity. Armed with more tannins extracted from years in oak, these malts brought out a fresh lychee note rather than being overwhelmed by sweetness. The result was a perfect Glenfiddich 21 Year Old combining both pioneering liquids — the heightened candied sweets and oak flavors of Glenfiddich are complemented by mouth-watering tropical fruit notes and underlying wine notes.
Peter Gordon, Glenfiddich’s Company Director, said during one of these many audacious launches, “As a family run company, we’re able to be bold and innovative with our whisky making...We cherish our independence as it gives us the freedom to work with people who share our values…and continue to create innovative whiskies of exceptional depth, distinction and diversity of flavor.”
Glenfiddich does not rest on its laurels, and continues to push itself to create something newer and more imaginative. With scotch cocktails coming up on the radars of bartenders and their customers, Glenfiddich has, frankly, proven to fuel the trend with just the right products and recipes that not only highlight the scotch whisky, but blend it smoothly with other ingredients. So before we sign off, here are some Glenfiddich cocktails which your taste buds will surely appreciate.
Combine 2 parts Glenfiddich Project XX, ½ part sweet vermouth, ¼ part olosoro sherry, ¼ part tawny port and 2 dashes whisky barrel aged bitters in a mixing glass. Stir and strain into a coupe. Express an orange peel over the cocktail and discard. Kick in the night.
THE APPLE & PEAR
Combine 1 part Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, ½ part fresh lemon juice, ¼ part Drambuie, and 2 dashes Angostura bitters. Shake briefly and pour into a flute. Add 1 part club soda and 1 part non-alcoholic apple cider. Garnish with a lemon twist. Brunch cocktail is ready!