The Glenfiddich 21 stands atop the Glenfiddich core range, and it’s easy to see why. The extra four months that it spends in a Reserva Rum Cask does something really special. It’s kind of like the four months of summer after graduating college in May. Though it’s ready to go, that extra time is sort of like an internship, or the perfect study abroad experience, or a short-lived romance.
But what’s really remarkable is that the good people at Glenfiddich no longer want us to think of this special time so metaphorically. They have thrown back the curtain, and shared with us three different components or stages of the production of the whisky that are not otherwise obtainable except in the imagination. We tasted the retail product alongside samples of the unfinished 21 year old (cask strength) and the rum itself, whose essence remains in the finishing casks.
We had a blast reviewing this “deconstruction” of the Glenfiddich 15 a couple of years ago. Not only can we isolate the distinct elements of the finished whisky, but also appreciate the work of the master blender in putting together a superb whisky. It’s almost like the magician telling you beforehand how the magic trick works and then still eliciting wonder when he performs it.
Imagine coconuts in a hard husk of woven pine needles, cut with a machete to reveal an interior of buttery lemons on which angels repose. Got it? Then you know the nose of this resplendent beauty without even having a glass in front of you. We think the coconuty butteriness comes from the caribbean rum, whereas cedary, piney notes come from the unfinished single malt. What then of the angels? This is clearly the work of Brian Kinsman, for what we have here, as you’ll soon see, is that miraculous mereological mystery wherein the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The mouth takes the modest chorale of the nose and adds additional voices. Caramel, candied sage leaves, and pussy willow branches woven into furniture for well-loved teddy bears. But it’s the mouth feel that is so astonishing. It is as soft as cashmere throat lozenges sent onto our tongues by Scotties Tournament of Hearts curling champion: Ontario’s fearless skip, Rachel Homan. Which is all the more amazing because in the unfinished expression, we had some hints of unpleasantness: emory boards dunked into a retsina barrel and licked by mic’d-up barn cats in front of misophonic teenagers. Here, however, there is utter creaminess and decadence, with coconut again though now in the service of dessert, a fitting reward for the labors of the meal.
The finish is a cool washcloth that has cleaned up spilled lemonade on a fiercely hot afternoon. Then it settles into a register of delicious anticipation. I’m sunk low in a huge leather sofa in a law office when the will is read out. Sure there’s a little kick of spice here, as if from a ginger snap (“I get all of Uncle Horace’s horse farms?”), but then it’s just afterglow. It’s like watching a triple overtime hockey game of unendurable tension when you care neither for the cities represented by the teams or the sport. There you sit upon the throne of your own mind taking in the spectacle of human will and capricious fate with utter neutrality hoping that it will never end.
On the scale of curling terms–
The Glenfiddich 21, deconstructed is the double takeout–This occurs when a stone removes two of the opponent stones from play. This sort of audacious erasure and replacement seems to have been what happened here. But it is also the case that double takeouts correlate highly with victory, and victory is what I have poured into my glass this evening.
–Our thanks to Glenfiddich and Allan Roth for the sample!