Whisky Tasting #16: Blind Glenfiddich

Blind tastings. The only real way to separate the wheat from the chaff, and allow your tastebuds and olfactories to guide your preferences free from branding, bottle design and age statements. But, you’ve got to be brave. Or at least free from whisky-snobbery – more often than not blind tasting reveals how fickle one’s tastes really are, and makes even the most seasoned whisky expert look like a complete amateur.

Like our previous official blind Chivas Regal tasting, the process is simple:

  1. Good whisky gets decanted into unmarked (or purposefully deceptive!) bottles.
  2. On the night we randomly pick each bottle and work our way down the line, trying desperately (and often, in vain) to identify or make bold claims about them.
  3. Once they’ve all been thoroughly sampled we each get a single vote to pick a favourite.
  4. Finally, the identities of the spirits are revealed, accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The Lineup

Glenfiddich 15 Solera (43%), disguised as Johnnie Walker Black Label. An expertly sherried, fruity and rich Scotch, representing a major step up from the 12 while remaining reasonably priced for a 15-year-old single malt.

Glenfiddich 15 Distillery Edition (51%), disguised as Johnnie Walker Double Black Label. The only near-cask-strength expression in the entire core Glenfiddich range, the Distillery Edition is a powerful, potent, well-aged single malt that shows what the 12 can do when water’s out of the picture. Surprisingly drinkable at full strength, with loads of those Glenfiddich apples and pears along for the ride.

Glenfiddich 18 Ancient Reserve (43%), dressed up as Johnnie Walker Red Label. My personal favourite of the range and a winning whisky all around, this is one of the best value 18-year-old whiskies on the market – featuring that musty, fruity, leathery taste thanks to old spirit in quality casks.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, disguised as… Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve! Surprise! This bottle was hiding in plain sight, throwing even the most cunning whisky nerds off its trail. While arguably not Johnnie Walker’s finest, to many it remains an example of what NAS blends can do given excellent components and masterful blending.

The Results?

The winner, by a landslide… Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve! The sneaky, comparatively cheap, NAS blend stole more than its fair share of votes from the aged, snob-approved single malts. Much to everyone’s surprise. Some of us can’t be seen in polite company anymore.

In second-place was the 15 YO Solera, followed by the Distillery Edition and 18 YO at the bottom with a few votes each. Insane.

But, another fine example of how tastes simple are what they are – the unfortunate few who preferred the 18 YO have tastebuds that need an extra R1000 or so to be sated, while the overwhelming Johnnie Gold Reserve lovers have it a little easier on their pockets. Nice!

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