Monday, July 14, 2014

Glenfiddich Solera 15 Years, Dissected and Deconstructed

What was I saying about my penchant for alcoholic events?  Well, the idea of a deconstruction of a whisky was too tempting to refuse, even if it meant traversing the crazy traffic to Kota Damansara at 7-ish pm.

I was intrigued, what this was about.  Actually although I am no stranger to the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old, I was not aware that it actually had a name (Solera), and certainly, when one imbibes this nectar of the gods, one doesn't think too much about its origins, and how it's made.

As it turns out, three very different components are mixed to get the finished product that we know.  And tonight was the night we were to find out which and how.

Lee Ying Zhi, Regional Brand Manager during the Glenffidich Solera Reserve 15 Year Old deconstruction tasting event, introducing the event, and the concept of the event, but what I thought was really novel, was the live tour of the distillery via live feed.

Mathew Fergusson Stewart, ‎Brand Ambassador Southeast Asia at William Grant & Sons hosted the first ever Live Streaming tasting session directly from Warehouse 8, the Glenfiddich Distillery in Dufftown, Speyside.  The last time I saw him at the Glenfiddich event in KL Hilton, he was all kilted up.

[No point reinventing the wheel, the press release is informative and accurate]
Created in 1998 by Malt Master David Stewart, the Glenfiddich Solera process was inspired by the sherry bodegas of Spain and Portugal. As one of the oldest family-owned distillers in the industry, William Grant & Sons has had the time and freedom to constantly innovate and pioneer in new distilling methods, resulting in the renowned Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 Year Old – the first 15 year old Scotch whisky to make it into the top ten best-selling single malts in the world.

What is interesting is the handcrafted American Oak Solera vat, in which the three components are combined to mix, is never emptied.  The 35,000 litre vat is always kept at least half full, much like a starter dough for bread bakers... hence achieving a complex and interesting flavour as time goes by.

In 1998, the Glenfiddich Solera Vat was filled with whisky that was all at least 15 years of age (distilled in 1983 or earlier). The three whiskies used to fill the Solera Vat have all been matured in different types of casks:

15 YO Glenfiddich aged in Bourbon barrels – casks previously used to age bourbon in America (bottle no 1)

15 YO Glenfiddich aged in Sherry butts – casks previously used in Spain to age sherry (bottle no 2)

15 YO Glenfiddich aged in Bourbon barrels, and finished for three months in New American oak barrels that have never been used before. (bottle no 3)

After the Solera vat is filled, the whiskies are left to mix together, encouraged with gentle aeration.
After mixing in the Solera Vat, half of the whisky is transferred into marrying tuns and left to rest for at least three months (a process used for all Glenfiddich variants). The whisky is then chill filtered and diluted to bottling strength with Robbie Dhu spring water.  Now I did not know that all this stuff is actually diluted with spring water.  Which meant when we drank the individual components, it must have been very very strong.  Actually, it was.  Very strong.

The fact that the Solera vat is always left at least half full and significant traces of earlier batches will always remain in the vat means that each bottle of the Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 Year Old will contain some whisky that was distilled more than 30 years ago.  If only the vats could talk.  30 years ago, ...I was but a schoolboy.

As individual components, the Sherry Butts one was the most easy to drink.  It's a bit, but only just, a bit sweeter than the other two, and somehow the high alcohol content doesn't assail the palate like flaming water.

The amazing thing about the live feed was, that you could whatsapp Matthew any questions, and he would answer almost immediately...depending on how long the whatsapp took to reach Speyside.

Here, Matthew is speaking to a guy in a leather apron, who does barrels.  He's known as a Cooper, and it is a rare and sought after profession in the distillery industry.  They work in a cooperage, and are responsible for the quality of the barrels etc etc.

In Summary, thanks to the press release

What goes better with whisky than roast pork with crispy crackling???

Anyway, it was a great night out, especially with the sterling company of Christy Yoong of The Peak.

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