Friday, October 3, 2014

Draped In Purple & Gold- Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’

Glenfiddich 26 Year Old in all its glory
There is but a few whisky companies in this town (Sydney, Australia) that put on a launch event like William Grant & Sons. The recent launch of the Glenfiddich 26yo ‘Excellence’ was no exception to the rule. Revealed to the Australian public on the 23rd September 2014 the Glenfiddich put the word out to the Glenfiddich Explorers club mailing list for a chance to be one of the very limited invitees at the launch. With only 26 places available it was a first in first served basis making myself one of the lucky ones to respond fast enough (it s not often I win anything). Not long after personal invite also came my way so I quickly reshuffled and asked fellow D.T.W.C. member and father-in-law The Grey Bush if would he take my winning ticket and attend with me. Did I have to even ask…?

The Glenfiddich is classing this release a luxury expression. Aged at 26 years old this expression has been matured exclusively in American White Oak Bourbon casks, the first single malt from Glenfiddich to ever do so. Fetching a pretty penny of $590AU you will be expecting something special to appear from the bottle. Purple and gold announce this beauty from the package to glass and it surely is one of the more lushly presented Glenfiddich’s I have encountered.

The Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’ launch was held at the one of Sydney’s prestigious living museums Elizabeth Bay House. Classed as “one of the most splendid private houses ever built in Australia” there is few other locations suited to launching one of Glenfiddich’s luxury expressions. On arrival we were greeted at the door by the late great and not so dead (more about that next time) brand ambassador James Buntin, before being ushered into an astonishingly lavish structure of truly epic proportions. In the few times I have been past this building I had no idea just how magnificent it was inside nor the fact it was even open to the pubic.

See My Baby and Gwens Garden
Quickly finding my feet and before too much of the crowd arrived I headed for the bar to quench my thirst only to discover this 26yo regal gent, draped in purple and gold, tucked into darkness on the left side of the bar. That’s not good enough for a photo I thought, so gingerly I shuffled the ‘Excellence’ to the other side of the bar to let some light shine through the contents. Of course the the ‘Excellence’ was not open but standing dutifully beside the bottle were 2 fine cocktails on offer which did not go untouched. ‘See My Baby’, a cola coloured cocktail contained a mixture of Glenfiddich 12yo, Pedro Ximenez, sugar syrup, plumb bitters and orange rind which left the palate with a sugary shock a little too rich for a evenings beginning. ‘Gwens Garden’ took on a much needed fresher appeal combining Glenfiddich 12yo, Creme de Cassis, Raspberries and Ginger Beer. The real winner of the two in my books.

Not before too long a 4 string quartet strung up to resound throughout the chamber while a variety of canapé’s made the rounds to fill a few holes. The exciting part at this point was that the room was at least 1/2 to 3/4 full of the Glenfiddich Explore’s winners. Everyone was just wandering around introducing themselves and chatting about how they managed to be invited and what excited them about such an event, bringing a very refreshing state of mind.

Simon Butterworth photos
Descending into the Elizabeth Bay House Cellars was where the real action was to take place. Lined throughout the cellar was a collection of photographs depicting the orchestrated creation of the Glenffidich 26yo ‘Excellence’ by celebrated photographer Simon Butterworth. 26 photos for 26 years from barrel to grain to whisky back to barrel again. The familiarity of the story portrayed may not be new to most but it is not often your able to appraise these visuals all in one place let alone be sipping the whisky they are celebrating at the same time.

Located in the rear of the cellars was the bar. Found it! Decked with all those things that define the Glenffidich family the bar was open to temp with: Glenfiddich 12yo; Glenfiddich Rich Oak, Glenfiddich 15yo, Glenfiddich 18yo, Glenfiddich 21yo. Open bars are always good, and the Glenfiddich Explore’s guests certainly were not shy of a dram but the hero of the night was of course the Glenfiddich 26yo ‘Excellence’. Watching the glasses being poured in the back room left us all wanting. Brand ambassador James Buntin made the introductions before glasses of the ‘Excellence’ made the rounds. It was indeed a crescendo worth waiting for. It is always hard to get notes down on a night like this and you really just want to be part of the action. As it may be sometime before I see another dram of this I made dash for the back stairs making haste to not miss a drop in my glass as pen hit paper.

The bar in the back cellar
Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’
Distiller: Glenfiddich
Region /Location: Dufftown, Speyside, Scotland
Alcohol / ABV: 43%
Cask: 100% American White Oak Bourbon Casks

Nose: Extremely floral with strong scents of honeys, sweet fresh figs and mild citrus. Lashed to the back was spiced cereal notes of brown sugar glazed bread & butter pudding.

Taste: Clean on the initial draft that then proceeded to ignite fresh dry spices on the tip of the tounge and jowls. Medium oaks, some strapped leathers followed by the typical metallic tang of a bourbon cask but very much all in the background. Faint tails of liquorice begin to form that are not at all apparent on the nose.

Finish: Long, warming, and moving to a dry high heat in the throat.

Overall: A vibrant delivering and a powerful balance with neither too much oak and leathers that many whiskies of all makes at this age are known for. Really, really, really impressive. I was constantly referring to the Glenffidich 21yo and thinking 'huh?' with shocked suprise at just how alive the 26yo was in comparison.

Various guests and a four piece
A heckle here and a tipple there the William Grant & Sons and Weber Shandwick teams made all the guests exceptionally welcome. Even as the crowds thinned, "fly you fools" we kicked on for sometime after as the Glenfiddich 26 Year Old ‘Excellence’ raised its head not once but twice more. William Grant & Sons / Glenfiddich have become increasing consumer friendly of late (who said they weren't) by reaching out to the Glenfiddich Explore’s community and putting on these exceptional spreads. It is not just press getting in on the fun anymore. If your not a members of the Glenfiddich Explorers and would like to become involved in events like these I suggest you signup pronto.

Thanks to again William Grant & Sons and Weber Shandwick, it was a swell time.

The Baron