How the Maverick Whisky Makers of Dufftown Took Glenfiddich Straight Malt to America

21 4월 2015

The Highlands of Scotland are used to the occasional revolution. The clans of old thought nothing of a rebellion, an element of the Scots mentality that is still prevalent today. We actually cover a lot of this in our famous documentaries such as Braveheart and Trainspotting! Mavericks have shaped the history of our country and the politics of our nation, and our revolutionary thinkers have brought innovation to the worlds of Science, Engineering, and Philosophy.

But the world of whisky in which we live at Glenfiddich has also changed greatly over the past 500 years. And no change was greater, no revolution as significant, as the Single Malt revolution led by Sandy Grant Gordon, the journey of which we have documented in our latest film, Case of Dreams, in quite spectacular fashion.

The little village of Dufftown is set in the valley of the majestic river Spey, nestled between tree-lined hills in the Highlands of Scotland. One might suspect that this small and sleepy backwater has seen nothing of revolution. And you would be forgiven for that assumption. Indeed very little happens here, other than the slow, methodical maturation of whisky - sometimes Dufftown appears to have more distilleries than people! But it was the people of Dufftown, one family in fact, that brought revolution to the world and changed whisky forever.

Of course the locals knew all about the wonders of a wee dram from the Grants of Glenfiddich. They would enjoy the unique spirit, Uisge Beatha, which only a fine distillery of that calibre could produce. But sadly, the rest of the world made do with blended Scotch, grain spirit seasoned with the malt of the Highlands.

Thankfully Sandy Grant Gordon changed this and made the decision to start exporting his new unique style of whisky, Pure Malt, with the first bottles arriving in America in 1963. The whisky industry at large said it couldn’t be done, but Sandy, with the bold bravado of his fore fathers, was willing to take a chance.

Not only did Sandy export and market the first single malts to America, he laid the blueprint for a new kind of branding, that of Pure Malt Scotch whisky, and a new breed of suave marketeering to appeal to a new breed of consumers. The early messaging “Sit down when you drink Glenfiddich, you may never stand for blended Scotch again” may as well have come from the whisky soaked (m)ad men of sixties New York, who, much like Winston Churchill before them, “put more than just whisky into their speeches”.

William Grant built his distillery pursuing a dream, to distill the best dram in the valley of the Spey. But he also instilled in his children the determination to create, to strive and forge whiskies with the same integrity of the thick copper from which their stills were crafted. That attitude has remained throughout five generations of the William Grant family and throughout all the unique expressions. From the first ever Pure Malt Glenfiddich in 1963, the first cask finishes of David Stewart in 1982 and Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix, all risen from cold adversity, to the Solera system, an unnecessarily long and complicated marriage of casks and finishes to produce our signature 15 Year Old.

So, raise a glass of Glenfiddich to those who do things differently. Who aren’t afraid to rebel. And, while you sip that fine single malt, think of all those times you battled through adversity by doing things a little differently, because that’s the spirit of Glenfiddich, 128 years of maverick whisky creation, and counting.

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