Marrying time and craft in a great Glenfiddich

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As the last notes from the pipe band drifted into the cool evening air, a hush of anticipation fell over the 50 guests at Tuesday night’s unveiling of Glenfiddich 50 Year Old Single Malt. William Grant & Sons Chairman Peter Gordon – great-great-grandson of William Grant – produced a silver key from his pocket and unlocked the presentation case carrying the first bottle of 50yo to be revealed to the world.

It was a landmark moment for the company that created the single malt category back in the 1960s – and whose flagship brand plays a key role in driving the category today. Peter Gordon says 50yo is “the pinnacle of our whisky making excellence” – and the liquid – which guests including The Moodie Report were fortunate enough to taste on Tuesday – underlines just why.

Although it’s been aged for 50 years, this is a whisky that is remarkably soft on the nose and light on the palate. It’s sweet, with the taste giving way to floral and fruity notes, and it has a tremendously long and lingering finish. The nose and taste are unmistakeably Glenfiddich – and that’s remarkable too, given that the casks that produced it were laid down half a centruy ago.

That in turn is a testament to the skill and patience of the craftsmen that have helped grow this terrific brand. A walk around the distillery in Dufftown offers an insight into why the same values have remained in place for so long. Although Glenfiddich has embraced automation in its production processes like any other modern company, it has married them with traditional whisky-making techniques – and it still relies heavily on the craft of its people.

I was lucky enough to sit with Head Coppersmith Dennis McBain at the banquet on Tuesday, a man with over 50 years experience at the company. He’s a local man, from Dufftown, and is steeped in the traditions and values of Glenfiddich. He told me: “It’s a great achievement to create a whisky of this quality, with the consistency of a true Glenfiddich. Think about it: when these casks were laid down, nothing about the process was automated, right down to the horse and cart. Automation really began in the Scotch whisky making trade in the 1960s, so this is one of the very last whiskies you’ll see that was created using the old traditions. But it still ties right in with the Glenfiddich taste.”

It does, with the knowledge of craftsmen such as Dennis, Head Cooper Don Ramsay and Malt Master David Stewart. On Tuesday night we were fortunate enough to enjoy the fruits of their labour – and those of their predecessors – an experience nobody who was there will forget.

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