This whisky is quite unique as it is aged via a “solera” process, used frequently in sherry, where you have a big solera vat (in the case of glenfiddich, made of oregon pine) where the distillers add in new aged whisky before they remove some – and the vat is always kept at least half full. Thus, you add whisky, and remove some – but the whisky you remove contains bits of whiskies as old as the vat itself, resulting in a mix of whiskies from the most recent filling to much older fillings.
In order to fill up the solera vat, whiskies aged in sherry casks are vatted together, and whiskies aged in new oak are also vatted together. The contents are then mixed with more whiskies, this time from refill casks , and this is all added into the solera vat (which has a capacity of 37,000 litres). The whisky is then allowed to rest for a few days before 50% of the vat is emptied to produce a bottled batch of the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old. It’s quite the process – but it does produce something quite unique – a blend of batches from the current year and dating back even to the start of the vat, and each year in between.
This is quite a bit different than the 12 year old – it’s busier, spicier, and once the nose opens up is quite an incredible dram.
Nose: Apple and pear definitely come through, though the apple is more like a golden delicious than the green apple found in the 12 Year Old. Some cinnamon and vanilla come through, with honey, maple, apricot jam, marmelade, alongside dried apricot, raisins, and prunes, and some rich malt. At first I find the nose a bit dense, but it starts to open up and unfold brilliantly with time. Vanilla and apple just come out more and more as it sits. 27.5/30 (92%)
Taste: Malt, with some apple and cinnamon and vanilla on the finish. It’s quite dense – there’s a lot going on. There is some sweet honey underneath, and there is a slightly grassy character alongside the malt with the spice riding overtop it all. I get a slight bit of spicy earthiness in the background, as if from peat, as I find with all the glenfiddich expressions…and there’s some milk chocolate on the finish. There is a great richness to this as well, and the balance is great. The mouthfeel is great in this one. 27/30 (90%)
Finish: A bit fruity and spicy, with apple, vanilla and some lovely honey. Definitely longer and busier than in the 12 year old. There’s some oak as well. Slightly dry, as well. A bit of plum jam comes through as well. 17.5/20 (88%)
Conclusion: This is rich, complex, and bold (at least in the Glenfiddich range). The balance of the nose, taste, and finish is good, and overall this is a very engaging whisky, especially after some time in the glass when it starts to open up and move from dense and bold to creamy and honeyed. 18/20 (90%)