Palate change: Whisky tasting!
I don’t pretend to be a connoisseur of whisky. I have enjoyed it for many years, but have left it to friends and relations to educate me and ply me with their favourite whiskies, and their knowledge. Recently I had the chance to attend a tasting of Glenfiddich whiskies, as well as a blended whisky and a Balvennie single malt. My notes below are based on my (rather limited) knowledge of whisky, but what I do hope comes across is the difference in techniques and quality in different whiskies. Any time you can taste wines or whiskies of differing ages is really a chance to enjoy something completely different. Our tasting leader explained a few things to us. First, the different oak and barrels used really does affect whisky as much as wine or anything else. Ex-Bourbon oak imparts a honey and vanilla flavour, Sherry oak a fruity flavour, and French oak sometimes a slightly sour note. All whiskies tasted here were 40% alc, and prices supplied are for average retail price in Australia per bottle. I enjoyed these with a cheese plate, and I highly recommend you do the same.
Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, around $55
A triple malt, blended whisky. Smells lovely and smooth as a good blend should, with a tropical and fruity nose. Easily discernible vanilla from the wood treatment, and a strange whiff of orange juice too. Tasting the whisky continues the tropical theme. Banana, vanilla, and general zesty notes. A great lash of maple syrup on the finish too. A nice smooth start to the tasting!
Glenfiddich Single Malt 12 year old, around $70
Nicely coloured, smells a little peaty at first then opens to a cool grassy smell. That’s followed up by textured oak aromas, and mushrooms, apple skins and pear. Quite a nose! To the taste I found apple skins and pears continued (we could just say orchard fruits), and more of that grass.
Glenfiddich Single Malt 14 year old, around $110
Matured in bourbon and sherry barrels, I love the sweet smell of this whisky. After the bourbon and sherry treatment, it goes into new American and Spanish oak. What a life! Smells of subtle cinnamon, and sweet warmth. The taste is nutty, with finely slivered almonds, and more of the sweet American oak. With a dash of water, this whisky became more subtle, soft and long. Gorgeous whisky.
Glenfiddich Single Malt 15 year old, around $120
This is a completely different beast from the 14yo. This shows cherry, ginger and pastry on the nose, and a smooth palate of marzipan, pastry, and soft honey. Round and full in flavour – this is impressive stuff.
Glenfiddich Single Malt 18 year old, around $150
Nose of orchard fruit, spices, baked apples, and baked granny smith apples on the nose. This is a complex old whisky. The palate shows the smooth and balanced textures and flavours you’d expect of a harmonious single malt of this age. Loved it.
Glenfiddich Single Malt 21 year old, around $280
I have to admit, when I saw the list of tastings, this is the one I was looking forward to the most. It did not disappoint, and it actually showed like a mature wine in terms of its development characteristics. Compared to the younger (but not so young) whiskies, this was off the chart. I have to emphasise that it had a very floral nose, with a strong leather tone. The palate showed toffee, strong new leather, and was just super intense. Full-flavoured, it began to show honey, more toffee, and a resiny note with warmth.
The Balvennie Single Malt 12 year old, around $88
Single malt, matured in ex-bourbon barrels. Notes of baked apple and spices on the nose, but didn’t show the sweetness of the Glenfiddich 14yo. On the palate, lots of nice cherry and highly integrated flavours. Weirdly, I got banana skins and fruit skins with a bit of warmth in the glass. Not my favourite, but interesting.