The Malt Mastermind

21 October 2016

William Grant set out to create ‘the best dram in the valley’ and it’s this philosophy that has inspired us again and again to keep innovating and making great whisky. From the first single malt in the 1960s to our groundbreaking 15 Year Old Solera finish – the first of it’s kind, to Snow Phoenix and the use of virgin oak in our Bourbon Barrel Reserve, we have always pushed the boundaries of flavour.

The Experimental Series has given us a new platform to innovate like we have for years but with a clearer, more single-minded approach. It has taken a long time - a couple of years from inception to the launch of the first expressions, but it has been worth every moment.

Our first success, the IPA Experiment seemed like a natural fit from the start for Glenfiddich with the combination of fruity and zesty notes. I was fascinated to see if we could come up with an expression that got the best of both worlds. Ultimately it ended up being an experiment of traditional trial and error to get it right. We planned out the flavour, but really it was about putting it into practice and trialing until we were happy with the result. We managed to capture the balance of Glenfiddich and IPA without compromising on aroma and taste.

Struan-Selection

And then came our second, and somewhat unexpected experiment: Project XX. The original idea was to show the Brand Ambassadors how we go about creating a new expression but it evolved over time to become something that we never could have imagined. We didn’t anticipate the project to work as well as it did but the Brand Ambassadors are so knowledgeable about Glenfiddich that they picked incredible casks. They also had enough knowledge to appreciate the nuances of different casks types so we ended up with fantastic diversity of flavour.

 


Struan-Selection

 

But great success doesn’t happen without many experiments. It can be difficult working with the slow maturation process of whisky work and the fast pace that innovation inevitably brings. Innovation in whisky though, is about filling the pipeline with ideas and accepting not all of them will work. But we have a great team of people who collaborate brilliantly – there is no such thing as a bad idea so if someone suggests something we will try it. We have tried all sorts – wine casks from all over the World, Russian oak, Swedish oak, rum casks, we even tried Herring barrels! Often the results are really great and even if they are not in the Glenfiddich style and won’t be bottled, we still learn something. For me, the experiments have reinforced how much I enjoy making whisky. Following an experiment and seeing how the flavour changes and develops is fascinating. And indeed, some of our experiments will not be ready during my time at the distillery. We are laying down stocks for the future generations, so there is plenty more to come…

 

Read more about the Experimental Series here.