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Whisky Review #72 – Bruichladdich Black Art 4 1990

Bruichladdich is a distillery that is full of surprise. They have three different ranges of whisky that covers everyone’s palate. The distillery believes in giving people choices. There are the Laddie and its varieties, which are the unpeated whiskies. They are also Port Charlotte and Octomore, which are peated. Some of these are heavily peated.

The subject of today’s review is the Bruichladdich Black Arts 4, a series of limited release by Bruichladdich. It is part of the unpeated expressions that the brand is famous for. The Black Art Series is mysterious, because, only its creator, Jim McEwan, knew the actual casks used for the creation of the liquid. The only thing that we know is that the liquid is a 23 years old single malt Scotch whisky.

The Black Arts 4 is the fourth incarnation of their Black Art Series. Working with beautiful American and French oak, it explores the intimate relationship between spirit and wood. This liquid is so exquisite that some have been found quoting Shakespeare while drinking this extraordinary whisky.

“Stars, hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires,” – Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Regardless if Shakespeare would love this whisky or not, let us dive into the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Dark Amber
ABV:49.2%

Nose: Sweet toffee notes mixed with red apples and berries tingle the nose at first. Soon, we get warm spice that lingers in the background. The nose promises a spicy palate even if the sweetness of toffees and fruits are present. (17/20)

Palate: Predictable spice warms the palate immediately with light sweet berries notes and sticky toffee following right after the spice. Sweet barley sugar appears in the second sip. The palate develops into a sweet medley that reduces the spice. (17/20)

Finish: The finish is medium with sweet berries and red apples lingering on the palate. It is slightly astringent and dry at the end. (18/20)

Body: It is well-balanced but predictable. There is no surprise for this Bruichladdich Black Art, but it is a tasty dram for those who have not try the Black Art Series. (30/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This is the first Black Art I had. Even though I could not compare what I had to the other expressions in the Black Art Series, I think this is a good presentation of what classic Bruichladdich is all about.”

Geel Choc: “Wow…I love this Black Art 4. It is also the first Black Art I had, so similar to Flora; I can’t compare it with the others. However, I think it is a level-up from The Classic Laddie with more complexity. Good dram!”

 

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Isle of Arran Distillery – The One and Only

The Isle of Arran Distillery sits in the foothills of the village of Lochranza on the north-west tip of the Isle of Arran. The owner of the distillery chose this location because of its vicinity to Loch na Davie. Loch na Davie holds the purest water in all of Scotland because granite and peat cleansed and softened the water in its slow meandering down from the mountaintops.

Short History of the Isle of Arran

The Isle of Arran used to house about fifty distilleries on the island. However, most of them were illegal, and smuggling activities went on for a period. Similar to Campbeltown, the proximity to water made producing and selling moonshine easy. However, as time passed, these illegal distilleries either obtained licenses to operate officially or close down. The last legal distillery on the Isle of Arran, called Lagg, was closed in 1837.

History of Arran Distillery

Harold Currie, a former director of Chivas, founded Arran Distillers in 1994 with the intention of building a distillery on Arran. Construction started in 1994 but halted after a pair of endangered golden eagles built their nests on a cliff near the distillery. As a result of the interruption, the distillery opened only in 1995. Arran distillery also took on the silhouette of two golden eagles as part of their logo.

The first spirit ran from the stills at the Arran distillery on 29th June 1995 at precisely 14.29 hours. It is the moment of glory for the Isle of Arran as it is the first legal distillation after more than 150 years of non-activity. The distillery was forced to store some casks in the warehouse of Springbank distillery due to their small capacity. However, in a recent revolutionary upgrade, the Arran distillery is now capable of storing and maintaining its production efficiency.

An interesting note about the founder, Harold Currie, is the fact that he was 70 years old when he decided to build Arran. He lived to a ripe, old age of 91 years old and left the distillery in capable hands when he passed on.

Production Methods at Arran Distillery

Arran distillery continues to use the traditional methods of producing whisky. The only drawback for the distillery is its lack of space for a traditional malting floor. Nonetheless, they buy their barley from the best source in Scotland to ensure high quality.

Arran distillery used barley and water from Loch na Davie to make their whisky. First, the barley and water are mixed in a mash tun to make wort, which then goes into wooden washbacks. The workers then add yeast to the wort for fermentation. To ensure a fruity new make, fermentation at Arran runs between 52 hours to 72 hours. The result is a liquid called “wash”, which is what we know as beer.

The workers double distilled the wash in copper pot stills and the final new make is a liquid that is about 68% alcohol strength. The distillation team placed this colourless liquid into oak casks that previously held sherry or bourbon. The wood gives the colour and character of the whisky, so the choice of the cask is one of the crucial influence for the final product.

Most of the Arran whiskies are bottled at either 46% abv or cask strength, so the flavours and aromas are retained for enjoyment. There are some of them which are bottled at 40% and 43% abv.

The Range of Arran Whiskies

Some bottles from the range of Arran’s exceptional whiskies

Arran has an impressive range of whiskies despite its young age as a distillery. All of the single malt whiskies at Arran are non-peated except for one. While most of their single malts are non-age statements, they do have age statement whiskies in their core range. We highlight some of them below:

Arran Lochranza Reserve

This is a non-age statement whisky bottled at 43% abv. It was released to celebrate the location of the distillery and named after the village. It is made up of 7 to 8-year-old whiskies mostly matured in bourbon oak casks.

Arran 10-year-old single malt

The Arran 10-year-old single malt is their flagship single malt. It is the backbone of Arran distillery, and one of the most enjoyed Arran whiskies in the world.

Arran 14-year-old single malt

The Arran 14-year-old single malt is one which is exceedingly popular among whisky drinkers. Slightly more complex than the 10-year-old, it is the go-to Arran whisky if you are looking for more complexity and richer flavours.

Arran 18-year-old single malt

The Arran 18-year-old single malt is the premium league of the Arran range of whiskies. The complexity is heightened at 18 years old, and the whisky displays rich and matured notes of Arran’s signature – orchard fruits and vanilla.

Arran Machrie Moor and Machrie Moor Cask Strength

Arran Machrie Moor and its cask strength version are released yearly since 2010 in small batches. Every batch is slightly different, but the core flavours are mostly the same. The difference is more prominent in the cask strength version as the abv usually differs from the previous year batch.

In addition to the above, Arran also experimented with wine cask finishes. Currently, they have three different wine cask finished whiskies labelled as cask finishes.

Arran Port Cask Finish

The Arran Port Cask Finish is the first experiment of wine cask finish. Using barrels from Portugal, the port wine cask give a sweeter finish to the typical Arran Malt.

Arran Sauternes Cask Finish

The Arran Sauternes Cask Finish is a sweeter version of the Port Cask Finish due to the influence of the delicious white wine that is Sauternes. The whisky is highly complex with notes of the white Sauternes shining through.

Arran Amarone Cask Finish

The Arran Amarone Cask Finish is a marriage of the Arran malt with the cask of Amarone wine from the north-east of Italy. The Amarone cask imparts a bright reddish tinge to the whisky and gives higher complexity to the drink.

There are other Arran whiskies such as the Smugglers Series, The Bothy Quarter Cask, the Robert Burns Single Malt and the latest release of the Arran Malt Distiller’s Edition. The newest release celebrates the 10th anniversary of Arran’s master distiller, James MacTaggart working with Arran Distillery.

Arran In the Future

Arran distillery has much to offer to the world of whisky, and we look forward to more exceptional whiskies from them. There is new of a 21-year-old Scotch coming in 2018 so do stay tuned for more! Arran is also building a second distillery in the southern tip of the Isle of Arran, in the village of Lagg. The new distillery will take over the making of the peated Machrie Moor series. Estimated to complete only in 2019, the future of Arran is looking brighter with each passing moment.

 

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Whisky Review #66 – Arran 10-Year-Old

The Arran 10-Year-Old is the entry level to its incredible range of whiskies. Made with the occasional whisky drinker in mind, this whisky is approachable and easy to drink. If it is the first time you are trying Arran, the 10-Year-Old is an excellent bottle to start. The liquid that made up the 10-Year-Old is 20% from ex-sherry casks and 80% from ex-bourbon casks. The result of this mixture is a sweet, fruity and slightly spicy concoction.

Let’s check out the review without further ado.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 46%

Nose: Sweet vanilla cupcakes greets the nose with a touch of spicy cinnamon. Notes of citrus fruits (oranges, lemons) follow after to create a sweet and gentle nose. With some time, fresh oak appears to deepen the complexity of the whisky. (15/20)

Palate: Sweet vanilla notes couple with red apples coat the palate beautifully before citrus fruitiness rush in to fill the palate. The mouthfeel is soft and mellow, creating an almost silky feel. (16/20)

Finish: A relatively long finish with sweet apples and a slight citrus zest. Hints of spice linger in the throat. (16/20)

Body: Reasonably balanced for a 10-year-old whisky with a straightforward character. It is indeed an entry level whisky that can be enjoyed by everyone. (29/40)

Total Score: 76/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “I like the Arran 10-Year-Old for its simple character. It is an approachable dram and one that beginners can easily adapt to. The sweet, fruity spice adds complexity to the mellow notes of the whisky.”

Geek Choc: “It is a simple drink that can be enjoyed anytime. If you have friends who are not whisky drinkers, this is a good dram to introduce if you want to convert them into whisky lovers!”

 

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Whisky Review #65 – Bruichladdich 20 Years Old Duncan Taylor

Bruichladdich fans will agree that it usually taste of sweet vanilla notes and is spicy on the palate. However, have you thought about a Bruichladdich that has almost no spice, and instead, takes on a light, grassy note? No? Well, neither have we! Until now…that is.

The subject of this review is a Bruichladdich 20-year-old by the independent bottler, Duncan Taylor. Distilled in 1992, the liquid matured in oak casks for 20 years before getting bottled in 2013. The total yield is 300 bottles.

Let’s look into this excellent dram now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 52.4%

Nose: Grassy to the max! It smells like an early morning stroll in a meadow, where flowers are just starting to bloom. The sweetness is minimum, but instead, floral notes are prominent. Peppery spice floats in the background, but it is not strong. Un-typical Bruichladdich! After airing for near 30 minutes, the sweetness of white peaches can be detected in the background, making it more typical Bruichladdich. (17/20)

Palate: The taste is light grass and floral all at the same time. Slightly acidic with light peppery spice. Unlike the Classic Laddie, this whisky has almost no spice. After a while, honeyed notes surface and push the spice further into the background. After airing for near 30 minutes, the palate changes completely. The grassy notes are gone and are replaced by sweet white peaches, making the taste more like a typical Bruichladdich. (18/20)

Finish: The finish is short with some sweetness. It does not change with time. (15/20)

Body: It is a simple whisky, but well-balanced. Mind-blown at first but slowly, it develops typical characteristics of Bruichladdich. This is a shot of whisky that can be savoured over an extended period just to see it blossom into its full Bruichladdich character. (32/40)

Total Score: 82/100

Comments:

Geek Choc: “I did not expect a surprise when I ordered this dram, but boy, did it surprise me with its difference from the typical Bruichladdich. I like the grassy notes and the fact that the spice is minimum. It is nice to taste something different now and then! It is probably a good idea to drink this again in a month’s time to see if the oxidation in the bottle makes this “more Bruichladdich” than what I had.” 

Geek Flora: “When Choc told me that this is grassy, I thought he was drunk! Nonetheless, I was impressed when I nosed and tasted this dram. That is fantastic! Well, it is a pity that Spice did not get to try this one because he was overseas. We will drag him along if we try this again!”

 

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Kilchoman – Islay’s First Farm Distillery

 

Picture Credits: Kilchomandistillery.com

Kilchoman is one of the newest distilleries to be built on Islay in 124 years. Anthony Wills, the founder and managing director of Kilchoman chose Islay because of its reputation for producing exceptional malt whiskies. Kilchoman is one of the smallest distilleries in Islay, producing 120,000 litres of alcohol annually.

History of Kilchoman Distillery

Picture Credits: www.kilchomandistillery.com

Anthony Wills founded Kilchoman in 2005, after running an independent single cask bottling company for eight years. The first distillate of Kilchoman ran in December 2005, and the first cask sealed on 14 December 2005. Anthony noted the interest in limited release single malt whiskies growing from the 1990s through his independent bottling company. He wanted to begin a distillery to cater to the growing demand, but he wanted his distillery to be different. Choosing Islay wasn’t difficult because of his family roots, the fertile land and the plentiful water and peat for drying the malt. Kilchoman is the ultimate farm distillery where Anthony “takes whisky back to its roots”. Whisky distillation mainly began as illegal operations on farms back in the 1700s and 1800s, so “taking whisky back to its roots” means that Kilchoman mirrors the beginning of whisky distillation.

Building the Kilchoman Distillery

Rockside Farm is selected because it grows the best malting barley on the island. The buildings on the farmland are also perfect for a distillery. Nonetheless, the real challenge was raising funds for the distillery. Anthony raised £1 million from private individuals, the local board and bank. These individuals and enterprises rose to the challenge when the distillery needed a further £3.5 million in the early years of the distillery. Kilchoman’s success is a direct reflection of the passion and dedication of these people in the community.

The Whisky-making Process

The exciting video above explains the whisky-making process at Kilchoman distillery. From barley to bottle, Kilchoman did it all.

The Whisky from Kilchoman Distillery

Kilchoman distillery has an impressive range of whiskies despite its relatively young age. Many of their whiskies have won awards, including their flagship Machir Bay, which we have reviewed. Two other note-worthy bottles are the Kilchoman 8-year-old, which we found to be excellent and sophisticated, as well as the Kilchoman Single Cask.

Kilchoman Distillery Moving Forward

We believe that Kilchoman will grow bigger and better in the years to come. The young whiskies from this distillery have been a pleasant surprise to the whisky community; so we believe that the older ones that are to come will be satisfying too!

 

Whisky Review #53 – Kilchoman Machir Bay

Picture Credit: masterofmalt.com

We had a taste of Kilchoman Machir Bay at one of our local bars sometime before we tried the 8-year-old. We would say that this pales in comparison to the 8-years-old on many levels. Nonetheless, it is a dram that bears the typical Kilchoman signature.

Let’s dive straight into the tasting notes.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Gold
ABV: 46%

Nose: Light peat and sea-salt air come first before hot chilli spice springs up unannounced. Once the spice envelops the nose, nothing else is prominent. Even airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes did not bring changes to the nose. (15/20)

Palate: The first taste is some sweet berries with some light peat. Some sea-salt lingers in the background. However, the chilli spice comes head-on shortly and envelops the whole mouth, blocking out the sweetness of the berries as well as the peat. We tried airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes to see if things change, but besides a more prominent sea-salt note in the background at the beginning, nothing much changes. (16/20)

Finish: The finish is long with sea-salt and some fruity sweetness that surfaces again after the liquid goes down the throat. The finish remains long after airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes. There is no significant change. (18/20)

Body: This is not the most well-balanced dram in our opinion. The whisky lacks complexity when compared to the 8-year-old. The overwhelming chilli spice is also a minus point in our opinion as it covers up all the other flavours of the whisky. (28/40)

Total Score: 77/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This is quite disappointing as we were expecting a little more complexity and punch from Kilchoman, especially when this whisky has won numerous awards. The overwhelming chilli spice is possibly the culprit. However, what is truly lacking is the complexity of the whisky.”

 

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Whisky Review #52 – Kilchoman 8 Years Old

Kilchoman distillery is the newest distillery on the island of Islay. It is also the first distillery to be built after 124 years of relative inactivity. Anthony Wills, the founder and managing director of Kilchoman distillery, founded the distillery in 2005 and the first distillate ran off the stills in the same year.

It is one of the smallest distilleries in Islay, producing only approximately 120,000 litres of alcohol annually. What makes Kilchoman stands out is the fact that they grow their barley on site and owns a traditional malting floor.

The bottle for review today is distilled in 2009 and matured for more than eight years. It is an 8-year-old because of strict Scottish laws on its labelling.

With such impressive backing, let’s dive into the whisky and see how it holds up!

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Pale Gold
ABV: 46%

Nose: The nose is full of smoked bacon and aromatic peat smoke at first. Floral notes and soft ripe fruits surface after a short while. After airing for about 10 minutes, the smoke went into the background. Lemon and citrus fruits notes come forcefully to the forefront while the aromatic peat stays in the background. (17/20)

Palate: Spicy chilli padi assaulted the palate straight on without warning. It almost feels like drinking chilli oil. The peaty smoke is still aromatic but stays in the background. Nothing more is tasted because of the strong chilli spice. After airing for 10 minutes, the spice receded, and ripe fruits notes begin to surface. The peat smoke also wafts into the forefront. The sweetness of the fruits now coats the palate pleasantly. We added one drop of water to the dram to test out how it reacts with water. The effect is great! The spice reduces to reveal sweet white fruits and floral notes immediately. (18/20)

Finish: The original finish is relatively short with peat smoke and the soft sweetness of citrus fruits. After airing for 10 minutes, the finish becomes more protracted and sweeter. The peat and spice are now very pleasant and lingers in the mouth and throat. After adding a drop of water, the finish extends longer, and the ripe fruits coat the mouth and throat. Gentle spice lingers in the throat for a while. (18/20)

Body: A well-balanced dram for an 8-year-old with enough complexity. The way the whisky evolves with air and water is fantastic. It is whisky that is worthy of the time spent on it. (35/40)

Total Score: 88/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This is one surprisingly good whisky. That initial chilli padi spice was not something I enjoyed, but the evolution of the whisky with air and water was good. I had another Kilchoman previously – the Machir Bay – and it wasn’t the most fantastic. So this young whisky certainly surprises me. Recommended to try!”

 

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Whisky Review #44 – The Single Cask Balmenach 12 Years Old

Balmenach Distillery is not a well-known one considering its links to the blending houses. In the 1800s, the distillery was one of the many illicit distilleries in Scotland. James McGregor founded the Balmenach Distillery officially in 1824 after he obtained a license. The McGregor family sold the distillery in 1992 and it was mothballed in 1993 by its new owners. Inver House Distillers bought the distillery in 1998 and the first distillate of Balmenach was produced in March 1998. The distillery provides blending houses with whisky and hardly ever bottle their own single malt. However, rumours have it that we might see something from Balmenach in 2018. The distillery also produces the popular Caorunn Gin on its premises.

Balmenach distillery uses worm tubs for distillation, which makes their whisky sulphuric. Worm tubs make use of 100m long copper coiling submerge in water for distillate to pass through. While copper usually “purify” the sulphur in the distillate, worm tubs make it harder for the copper to perform “their duties” as they have to clean the water too. That results in a new spirit that still contains sulphur.

Let’s move on to the review now.

Tasting Notes:

Colour: Deep Gold
ABV: 50%

Nose: Hmm…the first nose reminds me of Juicy Fruits – the popular chewing gum flavour from Wrigley’s. Sweet bananas, cherry liquorice and cotton candy blend together to create a pleasant nose. Hints of savoury meats (roast pork) and spices linger in the background. (18/20)

Palate: The entry is full of butterscotch and banana, but the spice that is promised in the nose is also on the forefront. The blend of sweet and spice makes a good balance on the palate, making it a relatively easy drink even at 50% abv. (17/20)

Finish: A long finish that is spicy with some sulphuric notes. The sulphur becomes extremely distinguished if water is taken when the whisky is still lingering in the mouth. (17/20)

Body: A superb well-balanced expression that impresses me with its quality mix of sweet and spice. The palate delivers what the nose promises and the finish does not disappoint. (35/40)

Total Score: 87/100

Comments:

Geek Flora: “This whisky brings me back to my childhood where I chewed on Juicy Fruits gums for hours even after the flavours were gone. Putting my sentiments aside, I think this whisky is a great dram as it makes a good balance on the nose, palate and finish. If you are thinking of buying your next whisky bottle, do consider this one!”

 

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The Amazing History of Glenfiddich

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling single malt owned and produced by William Grant & Sons in Dufftown, Scotland. Better known as a Speyside single malt, Glenfiddich clinched the most awards at the International Spirits Challenge so far. It is one of the few Scottish distilleries that are family-owned with its current owner being the fifth generation of William Grant’s descendants.

History of Glenfiddich

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

William Grant was a visionary of his time. For 20 years, he harboured the dream to “make the best dram in the valley”. He realised his dream in the summer of 1886, where he, together with his 7 sons and 2 daughters, set out to build the distillery by hand, with only one stone mason to help. It was completed one year later.

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

William named the distillery “Glenfiddich”, which is Gaelic for “Valley of the Deer” and a stag became the distillery’s symbol. The first drop of spirit ran on Christmas Day, 1887. It was a memorable day; one that paved the way for Scotland’s single malts.

William’s grandson, Gordon Grant joined the family distillery in the 1920s, when Prohibition was in full swing. Instead of halting distillation, he increased whisky production. Due to his insights, Glenfiddich was one of the 6 operating distilleries in Scotland with fine, aged whiskies, ready to be sold, after the Prohibition ended.

In 1957, Charles Gordon (William’s great grandson), built an onsite infrastructure that included having coppersmiths onsite to maintain their copper stills. A dedicated cooperage followed in 1959. These 2 infrastructures proved to add strength to Glenfiddich as it made them self-sufficient later. Almost at the same time, Glenfiddich also launched its now-iconic triangular bottle, which houses all their liquids up till today.

Growing the Glenfiddich Brand

The 1960s to 1970s were tough years for whisky distilleries. Many of the smaller, independent ones were either bought over or closed down. William Grants & Sons increased the production of their whisky and introduced both advertising campaigns as well as a visitor centre in order to survive the tough years. This period effectively marked the “birth” of modern-day single malt category as the company decided to market single malt as a premium brand in its own capacity.

It is interesting to note that William Grant & Sons are also one of the pioneers to package its bottles in tubes and gift tins. They also understood the importance of duty-free markets for their whiskies. These marketing strategies worked for the brand, and it grows to become the best-selling single malt in the world today.

The Glenfiddich Ranges of Whisky

Glenfiddich whisky is produced at its distillery in Dufftown, Speyside. They take water from the Robbie Dhu springs and use various oak casks sourced from the Caribbean and America (Rum and Bourbon) as well as sherry butts from Jerez, Spain. The distillery has 28 hand-made copper pot stills and a team of coppersmiths maintain them on site. Glenfiddich has an extensive range of whisky from the core to the rare and the experimental.

The Core Range

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The core range includes their signature 12 YO, 15 YO, 18 YO and 21 YO. Each whisky is finely crafted to their individual taste profiles. The core range is popular and is enjoyed by many whisky drinkers around the world.

The Special Edition

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The special edition range consists of expressions bottled for a reason. For example, Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix was created in 2010 after warehousemen worked 24/7 to rescue maturing casks in minus 19-degree Celsius after extreme snow collapsed some of their warehouse roofs. Snow Phoenix was the result of the marrying of the finest of those rescued casks.

The Rare and Vintage

 

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The rare and vintage collection is Glenfiddich’s most exclusive and oldest single malt whiskies. The distillery auctioned these bottles for charity and broke records all over the world.

The Cask Collection

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

The Cask Collection is Glenfiddich’s global travel retail edition. They represent the family’s pioneering and innovative spirits.

The Experimental Series

Picture Credits: www.glenfiddich.com

This ground-breaking series of single malt whisky is the proof of the family’s philosophy of freedom and possibilities. Both of these expressions came from collaborations between Malt Master Brian Kinsman and someone outside of the distillery.

Glenfiddich Today

William Grant & Sons continues to bring exceptional whiskies to the international market with their Glenfiddich creation. There is no doubt that future generations of the family will continue the proud tradition of Glenfiddich and bring it to greater heights. We look forward to more amazing creations from the distillery in the future.