Credibility and objectivity

Posted 16 August 2019 by Matt / In Glenfiddich
The Dramble reviews Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old

Bottle Name: Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old

ABV: 43%
Distillery: Glenfiddich
Region: Speyside

Regardless of how passionately you enjoy drinking (and many prefer the drinking to the thinking), if you’re going to put yourself out there as a whisky writer, you should endeavour to offer some analysis and critical thinking. It’s not easy. It takes time. But, whether you’re a keyboard warrior or a seasoned pro, doing the research and offering an objective view allows your audience to make up their own minds based around the facts presented. It’s simply good journalism. And that’s dying.

A little knowledge can either go a long way, or be a dangerous thing – but, grand, sweeping statements rarely portray events in a neural or unbiased manner. If you’re passionate about whisky and spirits you surely want to present a fair and honest account of the industry that you love right?

Well not everyone….

“If I may be frank, most super-old Scotches are super awful. Here’s why: Most good Scotch is bottled starting at around 12 years old. Fantastic offerings can also be found up to the 18- to 21-year-old range. Beyond that, the oak tends to overpower everything else going on in the bottle.

It’s rare for me to take aim at another’s work, but this article in Wine Mag offers one writer’s opinions and portrays them as facts. And some of these ‘facts’ are anything but – they’re simply wrong. The piece presents a scattering of well-known attributes about the production of whisky and its maturation, but none of them are properly explored, linked together nor drawn from – instead the focus is on suggesting that Scotch whisky has a best before date – and that this can be clearly delineated by age alone.

There’s nothing wrong with not enjoying older whiskies – but proclaiming them all as simply “…oak tannins” with “..bragging rights” shows both a lack of experience and a lack of objectivity. I’ve regularly tasted whiskies that have been over-oaked – at 3,4 and 5 years of age (overpowered tiny virgin casks will do that). I’ve similarly seen bottles at similar young ages which result in bragging rights (Chichibu anyone). At the same time, the opposite is true – take a knackered 4th fill cask and you can leave it decades (and it'll still be tired and underdone).

Listen, there’s nothing wrong with holding the opinion that all super old Scotches are horrible – it’s your palate and your right to hold an opinion. But once you take that opinion into the public domain, once you share that opinion with others looking for education and enlightenment. Once you present your palate choices as set in stone facts, then we’re certainly into the more dangerous side of possessing a little knowledge. 

Today’s review is of Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old – which, according to some should be heading towards being an near undrinkable tannin-fest.

The expression was introduced in 2014 as the distillery’s second bottling in their excellence range (following the 18 year old). Unlike all the other expressions in the Glenfiddich age statement range is the only bottling (currently) which forgoes sherry influence for a pure ex-bourbon maturation. It’s bottled at 43% ABV and is available for £359 from Master of Malt – a mere £9 more than it’s RRP of £350 back when it was released. Interesting how some bottle prices accelerate whilst others are deliberately maintained (a topic for another day).

Nose: Fruit-forward with peaches, apricots, pineapple and guava. Wild honey and crisp furniture polish is joined by vanilla sponge, coconut shavings and freshly-pressed waffles. Running throughout – full grain leather, old parchment, steeped fruit tea and scattering of mint leaves. There’s not too much scope for dilution, but a few drops adds some expressive orchard fruit – apple and pear alongside strudel and golden syrup. Generally light, fruity and sugar-led, but pretty elegant and welcoming at the same time.

Taste: The arrival has more of a syrupy body than you’d expect from 43% - it offers some texture and mouth cling. Juicy ripe fruits are up first – orange, mango and peach segments served with spit-roasted pineapple (Um Bongo – which is apparently still available – amazing) . Fruit is quickly followed up with cask – and it has considerably much more influence than on the nose – white pepper, freshly grated ginger and some puffs of charred cask ends. Running throughout – wood lacquer,  polishes and a handful of candied lemon peels. Reduction here should be approached with care – but it adds flavours of burnt honeycomb, freshly-baked pastries and spiced apples.

Finish: The shorter side of medium, tropical fruits and peppery spice fade into the back whilst charred drying wood takes over.

Glenfiddich Excellence 26 year old is not deep, nor profound, but it is nevertheless exceedingly tasty. The fruit-packed nose is genuinely the excellence that the bottle name refers to  - packed full of expressive stone and tropical fruits, all wrapped up in a perfectly judged polished oak blanket. The palate and finish don’t quite reach the same dizzy heights, but they’re still both full of vibrancy, poise and elegance. There’s not quite enough depth for this to be a truly contemplative whisky, but the balance is pretty faultless.

Score: 87/100


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