A heritage of innovation: our Solera Vat

31 December 2013

You may have already enjoyed our Glenfiddich 15 Year Old, with its complex layers of warm spice, honey and fruit. But what makes it so distinctive? We asked our Malt Master, Brian Kinsman, to explain the care and attention that goes into this exceptional single malt. 

Being one of the oldest family-owned single malt distilleries in the world, we've carried our pioneering spirit through the generations. It was my predecessor, our fifth Malt Master, David Stewart, who masterminded the Solera technique that makes our 15 Year Old expression so special.

David was so inspired by the sherry bodegas of Spain that he designed a custom-built Solera Vat to add extra layers of smoothness and sweetness to our 15 Year Old expression. Eschewing the traditional, pyramid-style barrel construction, David drew on his 35 years of experience and understanding, as well as the knowledge passed down to him by previous generations of Malt Masters, to create something genuinely new. 

Watch as Brian noses and tastes our 15 Year Old expression here.

European Oak and American Oak casks that once contained sherry and bourbon imbue this expression with intriguing aromas and flavours as they mature for at least fifteen years. Then, with careful timing, we finish some of the ex-American Oak matured spirit in new American Oak casks to add extra depths of flavour. Once they're ready, casks are introduced to one another in our Solera Vat. Handcrafted from oak, the Solera Vat is never fully emptied, meaning that some of the whisky it contains is still the original 15 year old added back in 1998 when we first filled the vat.

This continual mixing process in the Solera vat where only half the contents are removed before more casks are added leads to an incredibly consistent product with a truly extraordinary character.

After the whisky has rested in the Solera Vat, we move it into oak marrying tuns for a period of time prior to bottling to ensure a complex, layered and distinctive flavour profile that's admirably smooth and consistent. What began with just a handful dedicated marrying tuns has expanded to over ninety nine since we first created this expression – a testament to how popular this single malt has become.

 Brian Kinsman