Introducing the world’s largest collection of Glenfiddich

14 July 2014

You might think that the world’s largest collection of Glenfiddich lives here at our Distillery in Dufftown - but the most extensive range of Glenfiddich isn’t even in Scotland. It’s in Denmark.

We recently spoke to avid Glenfiddich fan and whisky collector, Hans-Henrik Hansen, about his passion for our whisky and took a peek inside his treasure trove of a home.

Hans-Henrik Hansen, it’s a pleasure to interview you, thank you for your time...

1. Exactly how many bottles of Glenfiddich do you have, Hans-Henrik? 

At the moment, I have around 540 large sized bottles (20-200cl) and about 140 miniatures of all different variations.

2. When did your collection start and what was your first bottle?

I started my Glenfiddich collection in September 2000. Before that, like many others, I bought bottles on holidays before bringing them home.

To begin with, I used to put them all on the little bar I had in my basement, to fill in empty holes on the shelves. Then I joined a Danish whisky club sometime around 1998. They organised a trip for a group of twenty to visit Scotland in September 2000. The second distillery we visited was Glenfiddich. At that time the Global Brand Ambassador was Danish, Jens Tholstrup. He gave us a great tour through the distillery and we finally ended up at the distillery shop. Some of my fellow travellers bought the first Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve available in the shop but I thought the price was a little high (£250)! We ended up staying in Dufftown for four days and I simply couldn’t forget about the Vintage Reserve, so on the last day, 30 minutes before the bus left, I ran to the shop and bought it. It was Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve 1963 - only 201 bottles from cask number 12371, each with a 47.6% ABV - distilled on 10/12/63, bottled on 14/09/99.

3. Why do you collect Glenfiddich (over other brands), specifically? 

There is one simple reason this this - when we were taken around the Glenfiddich distillery, we were introduced to some great samples for tasting there. At the beginning I was already collecting bottles from other distilleries and series, but a shortage of space and lack of money meant that I decided to focus on one brand - the brand that left me with the biggest impression - Glenfiddich.

I have never regretted that decision.

4. How do you store your whiskies to ensure they stay in peak condition?

All bottles are stored in an upright position but, from time to time, when they are cleaned, they will be turned upside down for a minute or two to ensure the corks remain moist - this ensures the seals reamin intact without drying out.

5. Does your wife share the same passion for whisky as you? What’s her view on your collection?

I believe I’m a little lucky. I started the collection in 2000, met Lone in 2003 and got married in 2007, so she knew what she was up against before she moved in! In the beginning she knew nothing about whisky but over the years she has learned a great deal. She doesn’t drink very often but she has a fantastic nose. Unfortunately her nose likes the most expensive expressions, without even knowing the price! She has often joined me on tours to Scotland and around the world to acquire new bottles or attend events.

6. We suspect you’ve been featured in a whole host of magazines and newspapers in your time, as well as on radio and TV – can you tell us how many times you’ve been visited at home?

I have been interviewed for several magazines and newspapers in the past, including editions in Danish, French, Chinese, Flemish, Dutch and, most recently, Russian.

Regarding visits at home, I can’t put a number on that one. Besides newspapers and magazines, there have been a lot of other visitors from whisky clubs, other distilleries and, of course, people from William Grant.

As Peter Gordon wrote in my guestbook back in 2008, ‘Don’t be surprised of an unending trail of Ambassadors’ - indeed there have been quite a number to date and not only Ambassadors, Jens Tholstrup, Ludo Ducrocq and Ian Millar, but marketing people like Dennis McBain, Don Ramsay, Donald McDonald and the photographer John Paul too.

7. We’re sure you’ve done a lot of travelling over the world with your collection, you’ve stayed as our guest a number of times – how many countries have you visited?

Yes, I travel frequently - Scotland and the distillery have always been the main targets of course. I’ve been invited to stay at the distillery on several occasions, even if it’s just passing through with friends or invited to a great event. I joined the launch of the new 50 Year Old which was fantastic; it lasted for four days and consisted of not only drinking the liquid, but also clay pigeon shooting, fly-fishing and a dinner at Ballindalloch Castle.

I also joined a Brand Ambassador Conference in 2010. It was great meeting all the Brand Ambassadors from all over the world, learning so many new thing about the distillery and seeing places hidden from “normal” people.

In December 2012, my wife and I were part of a group of ten who were in the final of the Nordic Cask of Dreams competition at the distillery. The winner was a happy Finnish guy who had never been to Scotland before. He subsequently had his dream fulfilled plus a trip to the Isle of Man to watch the TT-races.

Outside Scotland I have been to Paris for the Whisky Live Show. The year I went had the theme ‘old bottling’ - the interesting moment for me was when I found out the Glenfiddich distillery was missing some bottles that I had, so they invited me and my wife for four days so they could borrow mine. A couple of years later, we met the former Brand Ambassador Heather Green in New York and had a great evening with her and her husband there. Three years ago we met the William Grant team from Shanghai and Hong Kong, among them Alice Hsu and Sean Lee. We all met in Hong Kong and spent a nice day together and I gave them some interviews for local spirit magazines.

I have just returned from a trip to Russia. I was invited by the Russian Glenfiddich team to talk about my collection in Moscow and Saint Petersburg - two great events with a lot of interested participants. The team, specifically Glenfiddich Brand Ambassador Aleksey Novoselov, took really good care of me.

8. Tell us a bit about the whisky event you run each year, Wild Whisky Weekend

This is an event we started after my first trip to Scotland with Dansk Maltwhisky Akademi. It always takes place at the end of October and this year it will take place from the 17th to 19th. The event itself involves a mix of tastings, great food, entertainment, fun and  sharing a good few drams in the company of good friends. We try to get people over from other distilleries and an independent bottler to run some master classes. Glenfiddich have been over to visit us nearly every second year.

You can see last year’s programme here on my Facebook

9. Which are your favourites in your collection? Are there any interesting stories that accompany them?

I think my favorite would have to be the Vintage I got as a present at the start of February 2007. We were a group of about twenty visiting the distillery and we all ended up in Warehouse 8. There were about fourteen casks lying on the ground ready for bottling and I was lucky enough to be invited to pick one of them out and have my own bottled. I tried to find my own birth year but there wasn’t a 1956 edition, so I found a 1955 (cask 4221) version instead and we extracted 1ltr. What was even nicer, was that since only 70cl would fit in my bottle, I was left with 30cl for sampling. That one is my favorite of all the Glenfiddich whiskies I have ever tasted and it later ended up as a Vintage Reserve of which just 201 bottles were released.

There are several bottles with interesting stories; actually most of my vintage editions have their own story. Here are a few…

Glenfiddich Private Vintage 1978, with only 201 bottles in total from cask 11797 and bottled at 50.8% ABV - it celebrated the marriage of Smt & Sri Sushanto Roy on 10th Feb 2004 and Smt & Sri Sumanto Roy on 14th Feb 2004. The bottles were given to guests at the wedding or friends of the Roy’s. The Roy’s are the family behind the Indian company Sahara India Pariwar. They were the first customers in Asia to purchase an entire cask for bottling in this way.

I’d heard about this bottling and seen a copy of the low front label but had no idea where and how to find it. Some years later, I was interviewed by Serge Valentin from the French Whisky Magazine about my collection, and one question asked which bottle I was searching for so I mentioned the above. Serge told me he was member of a group called Malt Maniacs and they had a member Krishna Nuukala in India. We contacted him and he agreed to look for it.

Four months went by but one day, out of the blue, I received an email from Krishna saying that he had found it. It turns out his boss, whilst on a business trip from India to Portugal, had spoken to another businessman about the whisky. He mentioned that Krishna was looking for the bottle and the businessman told him that he had received the bottle from a Minister in the Indian government as a present.

He was willing to swap it so I ended up sending two bottles to India with a Danish woman and she brought the bottle back. The whole arrangement took more than a year!

Another funny story was about a Vintage that might have been the first bottled back in 1999:

Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve 1968, cask number 13147, with only 249 bottles and an ABV of 50.3% - likely to be the first Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve ever.

I was looking for it for a long time. I had checked all the shops I could find in Portugal, and Jens Tholstrup had even contacted the Portuguese importer without any luck. Nobody knew anything about the bottle. I thought there might have been a mistake and it maybe hadn’t ever been bottled. Then one day I was asked in a nearby wholesale shop 300m from our hotel if I had a certain Glenfiddich in a wooden box. There it was! Nobody has ever found out how it ended in Denmark but I got it. It seems many bottles have stories like this.

10. What top tips could you give someone looking to start buying whisky as an investment?

Normally single cask distillery bottles are the ones that are increasing in value the fastest so it’s a good idea to start buying those. A another very important factor is the contacts you make. You can never have enough - even if you spend hours every day, you can’t possibly search everywhere and some bottles might only be bought and owned by local people, that’s why it’s so important to start knowing as many people as you can.

11. Where do you draw the line between investment and enjoyment? Some say whisky is made to be enjoyed, not kept… so how do you decide which to open?

Even with such a big collection, I still believe that whisly is made for drinking. I open most of the bottles I have a duplicate of, but a few are just too expensive to open. I have been lucky from time to time in the way I have received samples of some of the ones I haven’t yet tasted from friends and the distillery itself.

12. You enjoy drinking whisky too, of course, which is your favourite Glenfiddich to drink on a Sunday? Also, do you drink it straight, with ice or just a few drops of water?

A Sunday dram could be the 15 Year Old, it’s a great whisky with a nice story behind it. I always think of the Solera Vat when I drink. If I spoil myself a little, it could be the same but in the cask strength version you bottle yourself at the distillery shop at 58-59%. That one I might add a little water to but normally I won’t and ice is out of question! Only use ice for blends and mixed drinks.

13. Which bottle of Glenfiddich have you got your eyes on next? Is there one that you are desperate to get hold of?

A new Private Vintage has been released for Dubai, I’m currently waiting for that one. I have been looking for it since I first heard about it:

Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve 1959, the strength is unknown. It's a limited edition of only 6 bottles from cask 3935 to commemorate William Grant & Sons Ltd winning the “International Wine & Spirit Competition Distiller of the Year 1999”. The six bottles were produced to serve at the awards dinner held at The Guildhall, London on 1st November 1999. Three bottles were served at the dinner, only three of the bottles still exist.

There are a couple more, but since my collection is paid for with my pocket money they are too expensive and I think buying them would include a divorce!

14. If the world was ending tomorrow, which Glenfiddich would you open from your collection?

Easy question, the 1955 cask 4221, and if it ended late tomorrow two of them…

Thank-you Hans-Henrik, it’s been great to talk to you. If you have your own questions for Hans-Henrik, why not drop him a line on twitter @hhhglenfiddich?