Thanks to /u/Plothound for pouring me this dram.
This is the last of the six Glenfiddich reviews I did in a row. Why? Because it was time. And it’ll be more time when I finally dig out the Glenfarclas whiskies, but… uh oh.
And what a way to end it all: Yes, it would have made more sense to have reviewed this, the third Experimental release from Glenfiddich, prior to the fourth release, Fire & Cane, but we’re here because we’re here and I reviewed the Black Arts backwards and forwards, so why not Glenfiddich?
Glenfiddich 21 Winter Storm is a simple experiment from Brian Kinsman (Malt Master as Glenfiddich): He had visited Peller Estates winery in Niagara, Canada, upon trying Ice Wine.
Now as a non-Canadian reading this, you’re probably having a lot of thoughts: Canada has wineries? The falls have wine? Of course Canada, the frozen North, has something called Ice Wine.
So yes, as someone who lives near Niagara, and buys wine from Niagara, and loves very sweet wines, I have encountered this all myself. Ice Wine is made by leaving the grapes on the vines until a certain temperature below 0 (that’s Celcius), and then harvesting them and using them in creating wine. What you end up with is a very jammy, honey-laden, and expensive wine.
So what happens when one takes a Scotch and then finishes it in an Ice Wine cask or three? The cynical, overhyped dork in me would point to the amount of Canadian whiskies that have already done that, including a certain single malt from a distillery currently in legal troubles with Scotland.
The less cynical person in me is just happy that something from my country impressed someone outside of Canada. Our alcohol industry was used to start the country and then immediately beaten to death and then beaten some more to get the most money out of it.
So we have a finished Glenfiddich. But how does it taste? Did the cask take to Glenfiddich well, or is this another situation that’s going to make mentioning I’m Canadian turn to a bland, generic silence. Let’s see, shall we?
Cask type: Ice Wine Cask Finish
Number of bottles: 8,000
Colour: 10YR 6/10
Nose: Apricot, simple syrup, cereal, bubblegum, grass
Interesting. Different nose, close to what I’ve had on Glenfiddich before, but more tart and sweet. Sugar hits quite a bit, and frankly the whole thing needs the Apricot badly or it’d just be a sweet fest.
Nice enough to nose. Nothing too over the top yet.
Taste: Papaya, honey, pear, caramel, ginger
Tropical elements and honey are coming from the cask, and are driving the dram. The ginger aspect adds some needed dimension. It’s again quite light that you’re going to be drinking a sweeter, fruity dram without much depth, though it’s not going to be something you throw away.
Finish: Honey, apple, grass, mineral, cloves
The finish is a sweeter, more floral Glenfiddich finish. I think the cask influence on the taste had them pull it early, and as such you get less on the finish. It’s light, but not terrible, it’s just a sweet, grassy, and decently balanced finish.
Conclusion: Sadly too light, needed additional strength to really bring it home. So I have a few thoughts in general I’ll try to summarize:
First off, it’s a nice whisky, it’s just not going to wow anyone hoping for a similar quality as the Gran Reserva. The rum cask does more in that case and it tasted stronger, even though it had a similar strength.
Second up I wish Grant’s had tried similar Ice Wine Cask whiskies prior to releasing this, as it shows what happens with Ice Wine Casks: You need to be at cask strength, otherwise it’s just overly sweet. Glen Breton proved that, Wayne Gretzky distillery showed it again. Even having this at a similar abv as the Cask of Dreams would have made it feel worth it.
As it stands this was a nice experiment but the aspects of it need to change: Either it needs to be at a higher strength and thus a lower profit price point, or they need to take younger Glenfiddich and release it after a finish. Without that, it’s just a big white dust collector for your wall.
Scotch review #1556, Speyside review #444, Whisky Network review #2277