Sunday, 29 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #83

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Vat (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
Circa £35.00 70cl

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera
For our second dram of at the Glenfiddich Stand and ninth of the afternoon we were steered towards the 15 Year Old 'Solera Vat'

I have heard many good things about this whisky, and it's been near the top of my wish list for a while now, so was really looking forward to this one.

The richly layered Glenfiddich 15 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky is innovatively matured in three types of oak cask: American bourbon, Spanish sherry, and new oak, before being married in their unique, hand-crafted Solera Vat.

That's twice this month 'Solera Vat' has come up when discussing whisky. 

Earlier in the month Kirsteen Campbell from Cutty Sark told me about the Solera Vat that they use, and I had to look it up to find out what it meant, then and although Wikipedia went part way there, I had to ask again and so Glenfiddich kindly explained their system to me:

The Glenfiddich Solera System

The original idea was borrowed from Spanish Sherry Solera systems in which the ‘feed from the top, pour from the bottom’ arrangement allows the whisky to be continually blended ensuring a high level of consistency

The spirit is matured for a minimum of 15 years in either used American Oak casks (ex-bourbon casks, giving lots of vanilla character) or used Spanish Oak casks (ex-sherry casks, giving lots of raisin character) However, some of the 15 year old Glenfiddich from the ex-bourbon casks is transferred to new American Oak casks (unused, virgin wood) for a 4 to 6 month “finishing” period, this adds an additional layer of flavour: honey

This gives what Glenfiddich call an “artist’s palette” of three styles of 15 Year Old whisky which are then combined in the Solera Vat.

The Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Vat System Diagrammatic
The Solera Vat is made from Douglas Fir, holds around 37000 litres of whisky and is always kept at least half full. This creates incredible consistency of character in the 15 year Old Glenfiddich as each batch of 18,000 litres is being added to 18,000 litres already in the Solera Vat

The length of time in Solera Vat is variable depending on demand, but the key element that the vat adds, is the mixing with the previous batch to promote consistency.

From the Solera Vat, the cask strength whisky goes to Solera Tuns (approx 2,500 litres) for a further marrying period of at least 3 months. (Glenfiddich marry all of their whiskies in this manner whether it's 12 or 50 years old, each has its own set of marrying tuns. The 50 Year Old is just married in the original casks, whereas the 12 Year Old has an entire warehouse, Warehouse #6, devoted to marrying tuns alone!

This single malt is then left to settle in the Solera Tun before bottling. The resultant Glenfiddich 15 Year Old has complexity beyond its years – honey and raisin are the primary aromas/flavours but also cherry, orange peel, marzipan -reminiscent of Christmas cake!

The result? A full and fruity nose, with delicate honey and vanilla notes. The taste is elegantly smooth, with a deep flavour that reveals fruit, gentle spice and a touch of oak. The finish is long and satisfying.

Nose: Sherry, citrus - orange in particular, dry wood. Slight suggestion of smoke? Palate: Medium, sherry, raisins. Fruitcake, spices, sweetness.
Finish: Candied fruits, raisins, spices, Christmas pudding, oak takes over.
The Glenfiddich Solera Vat (with the Solera Tun in the foreground)
So what did I think?
Well this certainly didn't disappoint me, and is amazing what a few more years in the cask and a unique vatting can do to a whisky. The Glenfiddich 15 Solera is so very different to the 12 Year Old and overall it is really worth the extra price over it, it's just a shame that this wasn't bottled at a slightly higher abv. That said, this is a great 15 year old from the Glenfiddich distillery, and consistently wins Gold Best in Class at IWSC and ISC awards each year.

It will be staying firmly on the wish list until it's on my shelf. With a birthday and Fathers Day looming I'm hoping I won't be waiting too long!

(Many thanks to Jamie Milne of Glenfiddich for supplying the Solera Vat Photo and process description and diagram. I will get up to see it for myself one day!)

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