I have a bit to a confession to make. If you look back all of the photos I’ve posted up until now, you’ll notice that I rarely include anything made by Glenfiddich. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy their whisky and I happen to have a tremendous amount of respect for the brand. After all, it was Glenfiddich who we can thank for pioneering the Single Malt whisky category in its entirety. But when it comes to spending my own money on a bottle of single malt whisky, Glenfiddich has been one of those brands that seems to get lost in the shuffle. It’s an incredibly popular brand, possibly the most popular in all of Scotch whisky, but for one reason or another I haven’t felt he same level of ‘excitement’ for their whisky as many others have.
Suddenly, all of that is beginning to change. For reasons I cannot explain, I’ve been craving, yes craving, the standard Glenfiddich 12 Year Old. For months now, I’ve been looking at this massive collection of whisky I have accumulated at home and catch myself thinking, “You know what, it’s a Tuesday, I could really go for some Glenfiddich 12 Year Old right now”. Glenfiddich 12 Year Old! But of course I don’t have that bottle at home because every time I go out to purchase it I find myself drawn to some other alternative that I have deemed more ‘exciting’ at the time.
And then, just as I was beginning to flirt with the idea of reintroducing Glenfiddich back in to my home bar, the distillery went on to release something truly special. Something that from the moment I first read about it, got me more excited than I have felt for a whisky in quite some time. That whisky is the new Glenfiddich Project XX.
Project XX is the second release in the distillery’s new Experimental Series, a project intended to “push the boundaries of Scotch whisky” as we know it. If you’re reading this on Instagram, there’s a good chance you’ve come across a Glenfiddich brand ambassador here or there. They are the colorful personalities who have the good fortune of getting paid to travel the world representing one of the most respected brands in Scotch whisky, all while having what appears to be an amazing time in the process.
Glenfiddich loves their brand ambassadors so much that they invited them to partake in a project that every whisky enthusiast around the world can only dream of. These 20 lucky soles were flown to Scotland to for a meeting, let’s just presume it was a secret meeting in a dark, candle-lit room, in one of the distillery’s many warehouses. They were each asked to select an individual cask of their choosing. 17 of the ambassadors chose American oak ex-Bourbon casks, 3 chose sherry casks and 1 chose a big, beautiful Port pipe.
Their powers combined, the 20 ambassadors presented their casks to Glenfiddich’s master blender, Brian Kinsman, who was tasked with the creative challenge of formulating a new single malt whisky from nothing more than the liquid before him. While he was not required to use all of the liquid from each cask, he had to use some, be it as little as a single liter or even a drop. The result? Glenfiddich Project XX, or “20” as it is properly pronounced.
As far as I’m concerned, no other brand has entrusted their ambassadors with the ingredients for a new product. This is, in my opinion, a testament to the genuine family-oriented culture that exists inside William Grant & Sons, the parent company of Glenfiddich. And while I happen to love this story (and sure, it did have a slight influence my decision to purchase this bottle), I think we can all agree that nothing here matters more to than the whisky itself.
Project XX is a unique to the Glenfiddich lineup in that it is both non-chillfiltered, naturally colored and bottled at an usual but very much welcomed 47% ABV. In other words, rejoice my fellow whisky enthusiasts, rejoice. It’s priced locally at $80, which places it just above the 15 Year Old Solera and just below the 18 Year Old on the pricing scale. Is it worth it? Let’s find out.
On the nose, oh wow here we go. An immediate waft of classic Speyside fruits; juicy red apple, over-ripened pear and thick dollop of honey. Then comes the sherry influence: dark, almost seductive notes of dark fruits, wood spice, and a hint of clove. We know that at a Port wine cask was used in this vatting but it’s barely detectable on the nose. I would
Imagine it’s at least partially responsible for the wonderful complexity this spirit seems to possess but it’s true aromatics have taken a back seat to its Iberian neighbor, Señor Oloroso. There is a lot, I repeat a lot, going on in this glass and it’s all very intriguing.
On the palate, the whisky is thick and viscous in all it’s non-chillfiltered glory. Wow! What a joy it is to experience Glenfiddich this way. There’s an initial wave of vanilla followed by blood orange, honey and a light oakiness on the back end. It’s bright and vibrant but just as you begin to ponder just how youthful this whisky may be, the rich seductive notes of the Oloroso sherry casks seem to add plenty of depth to satisfy even the harshest of NAS critics. It’s all very drying, which seems to suggest there is definitely some older whisky in here. How old? Hard to tell really but going off the experience I’ve had with some of the other Glenfiddich expressions, my guess would that some of it has been matured for a full 18-20 years. The finish is medium to long and all rather spicy, making for a wonderful conclusion to an elegant but very lively dram.
Final thoughts – And I shouldn’t be surprised because I had tasted it twice before making the decision to purchase this bottle – Project XX is quite possibly the most exciting release from Glenfiddich in a long time. It’s a classic Speyside single malt with a “new world” attitude. There’s a wonderful balance between youth and maturity and no shortage of flavor up front. Glenfiddich, I am officially back on board.