Tradition is the shining sword for many whisky makers, but not for Glenfiddich. This is not to say that the world’s most awarded single malt whisky brand eschews its heritage with a firm hand — the reality is far from it — but unlike other houses that crouch their entire identity on the past, Glenfiddich looks forward to the future and embraces innovation. You need to look no further than the Glenfiddich Experimental Series to be confronted by the distillery’s pioneering spirit.
The first to arise from the need to redefine the boundaries of whisky was the Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, a whisky that arose right at the zenith of trendy unusual cask ageing techniques. This single malt, as it name teases, was seasoned in an Indian Pale Ale (IPA) cask, but not just one acquired from a brewery. Glenfiddich’s Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, actually enlisted the head honcho behind Speyside Craft Brewery, to create an IPA from scratch so they could eventually imbue a precise flavour profile to the final expression. Kinsman wanted zest to accompany the light fresh fruit and floral notes of a classic Glenfiddich, so the duo created a citrusy beer to season their oak casks with.
After a month spent in ex-Glenfiddich casks, the beer was swapped for single malt from the distillery. Three months of finishing in the IPA-seasoned casks have led to a spirit that contains all the qualities you’d expect from a Glenfiddich single malt, with a soft, hoppy bitterness that accentuates the orchard fruit notes. The success of the IPA Experiment has since cemented the whisky as the first Scotch finished in an IPA cask.
Any accolade like that would drive even the best of distilleries to pause the engine for a bit. But within the same time frame, Glenfiddich puts forth the Project XX (pronounced “Project 20”), a single malt that is the combination of whiskies from 20 different types of casks selected from the distillery’s warehouse.
The 20 expressions were not selected at random. All 20 of Glenfiddich’s Brand Ambassadors were invited to be a part of the experiment. These individuals were given free reign around the warehouse to select a single malt they thought to be the most fitting for the experiment, and Malt Master Brian Kinsman eventually tempered the portions of each whisky to create a balanced blend.
The casks range from anything between whisky matured in port pipes to virgin bourbon barrels, allowing the final liquid to go beyond showcasing the influence on a single type of wood on malt into a whole new ambitious territory.
Candyfloss and summer fruits are immediately discernable from a dram, as well as a touch of liquorice and new oak flavours. Open the liquid up with a drop of water and the whisky goes from bright and sweet, to deep and mellow, seducing a long spicy finish that has a touch of tannin.
With Project XX and the IPA Experiment, the brand has proved that the boundaries of what makes a good whisky do not have to be defined by the past. Glenfiddich has ensured that in this age, in a world constantly chasing the new and exciting, there’s always an experimental single malt to meet that demand. Though the series launched in 2016, it is now available in Singapore for local consumers to enjoy as well, so don’t wait anymore to snap up a bottle of either, or both.
To keep up with the Glenfiddich Experimental Series, sign up here, or track #gfexperiments and #followtheexperiment on social media. Retail information is also available on Glenfiddich’s Facebook page here.