Glenfiddich 18 Year Small Batch Reserve scotch is a classic sherried single malt that exhibits very high quality. The company’s ownership of its cooperage allows for greater quality control and a better aging process all around.
Classification: single malt scotch
Company: William Grant & Sons
Distillery: Glenfiddich, Speyside, Scotland
Cask type: ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry
Aged: at least 18 years (refers to the youngest whisky in the blend)
Mash bill: malted barley
Awards won: Gold Medal, International Wine & Spirit Competition, 2019; Gold Medal, Spirits Business Scotch Whisky Masters, 2019
- Small Batch Reserve is selected in batches of 150 barrels at a time (hence the name), which enables greater quality control than if it were done on a larger scale.
- Glenfiddich has its own cooperage, which also enables greater quality control and a better aging process.
- It’s quite soft and gentle on the palate, which makes it a great (if pricey) introduction to scotch for beginners, but it may seem a little lacking for more seasoned drinkers.
Color: Light golden orange—many scotches use caramel coloring, and it’s hard to figure out which brands do and don’t. If Glenfiddich does use artificial coloring, it does so sparingly.
Nose: The sherry influence is immediately noticeable, with distinct notes of orange and light chocolate. Malt, vanilla and light honey gain more presence with each nosing.
Palate: It’s more rich chocolate-covered orange from the sherry casks, along with nougat, honey and vanilla from the ex-bourbon casks, and slightly nutty malted barley. The mouthfeel is thick and viscous, with a light spicy kick on the finish.
Finish: Very long, dominated by dried fruit (mainly candied orange peel and fig), malt and oak
Glenfiddich was founded by William Grant, who built the distillery himself with the help of his sons, in 1887; five years later, he built the nearby Balvenie distillery. Glenfiddich was, and still is, used in Grant’s blended whisky, but in the early 1960s, it became the first single malt whisky sold as such outside Scotland; at the time, it was known as a “straight malt.” The 18-year-old expression is aged in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks; 150 casks at a time are selected for marrying in large wooden tuns for an additional three months before bottling.
Glenfiddich is still one of the great Speyside distilleries, and the 18-year-old is evidence of why it’s so revered. This is a beautifully balanced whisky, with the sherry influence dominating but not overwhelming the flavors imparted by the bourbon barrels. It’s not quite as intense a dram as 18-year-old expressions from The Macallan or The Dalmore, which age more extensively in sherry casks, but it’s just as enjoyable a ride—soft, smooth, mellow, elegant—and at a fraction of the price of those two bottles.
Glenfiddich 18-year-old is bottled at 43% ABV (bumped up from 40% in recent years), and it could stand to be at a still higher proof. While it’s rich and flavorful, it may be just a tad too soft for serious whisky-lovers who want a bit more “oomph” in their glass. As it is, it falls a little short of the very top tier of great single malts. That said, it’s still a ridiculously enjoyable dram, meant for sipping and savoring rather than mixing.
Glenfiddich’s iconic tricorner bottle was created by renowned modernist designer Hans Schleger in 1961. Six decades later, it’s still an instantly recognizable hallmark of the brand.
The bottom line: This is an enjoyable example of a sherried whisky that’s rich, complex and flavorful but just a touch too gentle to achieve full greatness. Still, a dram of this should never be turned down.