This month Charles Maclean reviews the Glenfiddich Millennium Vintage.
The numbers 2012 are written large on the carton of this limited edition expression of Glenfiddich, and I was initially perplexed as to why this date should be termed the ‘Millennium'. Maybe the date refers to the Julian Calendar, and the cunning marketing people at Glenfiddich are targeting the monks on Mount Athos, ‘The Holy Mountain', or maybe the Berber people of North Africa, both of whom who still use it...
A closer look at the bottle reveals all: the whisky was distilled during 2000, and bottled in 2012 from a mix of European and American oak casks which have been personally selected - thank goodness they don't say ‘hand selected', as most do - by Brian Kinsman, the company's Malt Master. The vatted whisky is then finished in ex-Bourbon barrels for two months.
The bottle in which the whisky is presented is, of course, Glenfiddich's iconic ‘triangular bottle' - perhaps the most ergonomic ever invented. It was introduced by William Grant & Sons in 1957 for their well-known Standfast blended Scotch (now named Grant's Family Reserve). Many years ago I was told by a Swedish journalist that Prince Ingvar Bernadotte, the brother of the King of Sweden, had designed the bottle. Certainly Prince Ingvar was a famous designer, but Grant's have no knowledge that he created their famous bottle, and suggest it was the pioneering graphic designer Hans Schleger... I wonder.
Glenfiddich Distillery is still owned by the descendants of its founder (in 1887), William Grant, and its product is far and away the best selling malt in the world. It was the first whisky to be widely promoted as a single malt and it is no exaggeration to say that it opened up the whole malt whisky sector.
Although, as with a few other malts, small amounts were released as single whiskies before the Second World War, and sold mainly in the north of Scotland, the Grant family decided to repackage in the familiar triangular bottle - but in dark green glass (the Standfast bottle was clear glass) - and to begin promoting the brand, first throughout the U.K., then, after 1963, worldwide: in the decade 1961-72 sales rose from 7,600 cases to 127,286 cases! In 2011, Glenfiddich became the first single malt in history to sell over a million 9-litre cases; it's closest competitor, The Glenlivet, sold 718,000 cases that year.
It was not only the bottle shape and the decision to advertise that was pioneering about Glenfiddich. Grant's were the first to make use of the nascent duty free shops in Europe - the first was at Shannon airport in Ireland - and as air travel became popular and less expensive during the 1960s, many British tourists discovered this unusual whisky (it was called Glenfiddich Straight Malt) while they were holidaying on the Continent and brought bottles back to share with friends. Unlike other drinks that taste good abroad - retsina and raki come to mind - Glenfiddich did not disappoint when drunk at home!
Another of their clever ploys was to make branded bottles filled with coloured water available free to theatre and film companies. Such a simple move, but it resulted in masses of free ‘product placement'.
Glenfiddich was also the first distillery to open a visitors' centre, in 1969, when at that time, with the exception of Glenturret, most distilleries would not even allow V.I.Ps. and members of the press to cross their thresholds.
Full gold with amber lights; the colour of long-aged Sauternes. The first scents are fruity, with nuts in the background - bruised apples, tinned apricots, mandarin oranges, with fleeting traces of almond oil and soft leather. After a while there is also a light caramel aroma. The taste is sweet, then drying - the influence of European oak - with mixed fruits and a hint of milk chocolate and coconut. A drop of water reduces the aroma, then restates the fruity complex in a slightly different way, and now with a hint of candlewax. The texture is smooth; the taste sweet and fresh, with a subtle tingle across the tongue and a clean finish. The overall impression is ‘mouth-cleansing'.
Occasion: Easy to drink at any time
A fresh and fruity expression of the world's favourite malt!