Recently, Scotchblog was fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to a private tasting with Ian Millar, the Global Ambassador for Glenfiddich. Ian is truly a preeminent authority in the world of single malt scotch. Having met Ian a few times before, including at last years Whisky Live in Toronto, this was a rare opportunity to speak directly with the whisky master.
We braved a blustery, wet evening on the way to the Park Hyatt rooftop lounge, a classical and intimate whisky bar on the top floor of one of the cities grandest hotels. It features an outdoor patio which Ian recommends as a choice location to smoke a fine Cohiba along with some whisky. On this day however, we'd be confined to the indoors because you simply can't the take the rainwater out of the scotch.
Our visit began with a tour of the Glenfiddich's popular range of 12, 15, and 18 year old malts. The 12 and 15 remain consistent as ever, and readers will find them discussed extensively in previous articles. This time our sampling of the 18 year old was accompanied by a delicious maple creme brulee which provided a sweet, creamy offset to this deep and mature scotch, and it opened new levels of this otherwise more challenging expression. Once again, the importance of food pairings was underscored as the key to opening subtleties and hidden elements in both new and familiar whiskies. As Ian pointed out, people often take too-direct an approach to pairing food by accompanying whiskies with fare that accentuates the most prominent notes of the whisky, instead of counterbalancing the flavours to reveal a dram's true character.
We then moved on to the reason for Ian's visit to Toronto, the Canadian release of an extraordinarily rare 50 year old Glenfiddich single malt. We view it as something akin to the launch of an ultra rare supercar; a benchmark of the peak of craftsmanship in whisky to which others may aspire. Ian spoke at length about a unique contest sponsored by the Glenfiddich in recognition of the 50 year old coming to Canada, called North of 50, in which the entrants will nominate fathers and other great mentors. The prize for the 9 lucky winners and one guest is a trip to the Fairmont Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta and an invitation to an exclusive tasting of the full Glenfiddich range and the new 50 year old, which will sell at over $25,000 CAD. If you know a scotch drinker worthy of nomination, submit your entry at www.glenfiddich.ca by July 1st.
We asked Ian, what makes the 50 year old a special malt and not just an old one? He replied that the liquid is comprised of two carefully selected 1955 casks to produce just 500 bottles of which they will release 50 bottles per year worldwide, and two of these bottles will come to Canada. The tasting notes describe this expression as a pale gold, harmonious and complex. The nose is vibrant with notes of rose petals, green tobacco leaf, oak and a hint of smoke. On the palate it begins with zesty orange marmalade, toffee and through a depth of layers including aromatic herbs and soft fruits. The finish is described as exceptionally long with dry oak and a trace of peat. Before our meeting was concluded, there were some additional rare treats.
We went on to sample the Glenfiddich 40 year old as well as a very limited private vintage 42 year old, both of which were very impressive, and will each be reviewed on the blog soon.
Thanks again to Ian for his time and Meghan of Jesson + Co. for putting the meeting together, we look forward to seeing you both again.