Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Single Malt Whisky is produced using a unique method of aging and blending. Like its 12-year-old sibling, Glenfiddich 15 is exceedingly gentle, fruity, and complex.
Classification single malt scotch whisky
Company William Grant & Sons
Cask ex-sherry European oak, new American oak
Still Type column still
Released 1998; ongoing
Aged At least 15 years
Awards Double Gold, 2020 International Spirits Competition (ISC); Gold, 2020 International Wine & Spirits Competition
As the first single-malt scotch to use the solera method of blending, it’s noteworthy for how it’s made as well as how it tastes.
An exceedingly gentle, fruity whisky that’s both tame enough for newbies and complex enough for seasoned whiskyphiles.
At 40% ABV, it’s a fine sipper, but it’s a bit soft for use in cocktails or even for the addition of ice.
Color: Rich golden amber. Many Scotch whiskies use caramel coloring, and Glenfiddich is said to be one of those brands, so while the color is quite appealing, it doesn’t necessarily come entirely from the cask.
Nose: Though sherry is only one of the three types of casks in which Glenfiddich 15 is aged, it dominates on the nose. Salinity and nuttiness pair with orange, raisin, and hints of honey and dark chocolate.
Palate: There’s lots of dried fruit here—raisins, figs, orange peel, a bit of apricot—with a drizzle of melted chocolate, concluding with a little kick of cinnamon and ginger. The mouthfeel is velvety and tongue-coating.
Finish: Here comes the sherry again, with salinity and roasted almonds leading the way, along with a little kick of ginger candy and hints of oak on the back of the tongue. The finish is long, mellow, and satisfying.
Glenfiddich’s signature 12-year-old expression is the best-selling single malt in the world, so when parent company William Grant & Sons launched its 15-year-old expression in the late 1990s, it needed something that would stand out from the pack: a whisky that would be both enjoyed and talked about. It delivered on both counts.
Glenfiddich 15 is undoubtedly the only single malt to be aged in three different types of casks—ex-sherry, ex-bourbon, and new oak—and then blended in a solera vat. Solera aging is typically used for sherry and South American rum, and it’s hard to explain succinctly. But in a nutshell, newer spirit and older spirit are blended together. In Glenfiddich’s case, the whiskies, all aged for at least 15 years, are married in a large vat, or tun. The tun is never completely emptied, and it’s topped off with each successive batch ad infinitum. Therefore, the Glenfiddich 15 that’s bottled today still contains a little of every other batch that’s been made since the tun was first filled in 1998. It’s certainly an interesting way to ensure consistency.
For all the bells and whistles, the 15-year-old expression is recognizably Glenfiddich, with the signature soft, fruity notes beloved by whisky drinkers the world over. The pear and butterscotch notes of the 12-year-old are replaced by raisin, orange, and chocolate, and it’s a bit spicier, with notes of ginger and cinnamon. But it remains a classic Speyside malt: soft, velvety, and gentle on the palate.
It’s a little too soft to use in cocktails, although it makes a light and delectable Old Fashioned. Likewise, water and ice aren’t necessary; this whisky is very approachable when drunk neat, and adding any dilution is a net subtraction. Glenfiddich 15 is best enjoyed with nothing more and a glass and the time to savor it.
The marrying tun in which Glenfiddich 15 is married before bottling is never allowed to be less than half full. A small amount of whisky, therefore, remains from the original 1998 batch that made the first Glenfiddich 15.
The Bottom Line
Glenfiddich 15 is both a groundbreaking whisky for its unusual aging method, and a classic traditional-style Glenfiddich. Solera blending is as fine a topic as any to discuss while enjoying a dram of this lovely Speyside malt.