At just about every bar I’ve ever been in, if I’m thinking of ordering scotch, it is the Glenfiddich bottle that my eyes are searching for to alert me to the scotch section of the bar. Every once in a while you might see more than one identically shaped triangular bottle. While the Glenlivet and Macallan outsell Glenfiddich in the US the stag laden triangle of Glenfiddich is arguably the more recognizable single malt brand. But it is the entry level 12 that is the face of the brand and the usual bottle on the shelf. The quality jump from the 12 to the 15 is pretty noticeable, which could probably sell the 15 in its own right. However the likely reason for the good quality is also a nifty marketing ploy for a consumer that is intrigued the the process of whisky maturing. They have used a solera system, usually used in the production of sherry, where a large cask, in this case made from Oregon pine, is filled with whisky of at least 15 years of age from sherry, bourbon and new oak casks. Then they pull of half of the pine cask for bottling, and the process repeats. In other words there is likely some very old whisky in the solera, and it is always getting more and more mature on average.
If I could characterize Glenfiddich 15 year, it would be a woody spirit without the sweetness usually associated with sherried or other wood finished whiskies. It smells of all of the secondary wood aromas: sap but not honey, dried baking spices but not sweet fresh baked goods. Fresh fruit like pears but not overripe like fig. The new oak used in the first maturation could be the source of this dry character. The palate has some rich chocolate cream notes with a wave of dry spice and earthy honey on the finish that lingers nicely. A remarkable step up from the 12 year in terms of complexity and sort of an essay on wood aging in whisky in general.