Monday, August 17, 2009

Glenfiddich 12 year old - Single Malt Scotch Review

Motivation for Writing this Review
I receive a lot of email from people who read my reviews wanting advice on a good “starter” or “entry level” single malt scotch to try. I also have gotten more than one gripe from people who complain I tend to review very expensive, high end spirits. So, in response to those emails, here is a review that is dedicated to the casual consumer of scotch who wants to try a good, middle of the road single malt scotch that will not break the bank.

Iconic Symbol of Scotch for the everyday person?  There are two images conjured up by the mind of Joe Q Public when he hears the words “scotch.” He will first think of the trademark symbol of the “striding man” of Johnnie Walker advertisements followed closely by the image of a green, triangular Glenfiddich bottle that you invariably see on the shelves behind most bars around the world.

Nose (undiluted)
Delicate, subtle scented tendrils of white chocolate and maraschino cherry drift upwards in a most pleasing manner. You have to pay close attention to detect this bouquet.

Palate (undiluted)
Initially sweet, honey like taste, moving to heather, tarragon, then vanilla and oak.

This is a viscous (think oily texture) dram such that the scotch rolls thickly all over the palate and in that manner not as refined as more expensive single malts (ie. Highland Park 18 yr old) and even some blends (ie. Johnnie Walker Black). I am using the word “refined” in a certain manner. What I mean is with scotch whiskies that are refined, the various flavors are very well defined, such that you can pick them all out like the colored feathers of a peacock. Conversely, Glenfiddich 12 year old serves up a flavor profile where the various flavors are all rolled together in a non-distinct manner kind of like a television set out of focus or a LCD TV viewing an analog channel. While I would describe the flavor profile as unrefined, do not interpret this as a flaw. I am just attempting to describe the style or ambience of this scotch. One final point about the flavor profile that is worthy of note. There is very little if any peat

A salty ocean spray finish with some more heather. No burn here just a pleasing warming sensation as it goes down. Totally inoffensive. If you ever wanted to try drinking a dram of scotch “neat” (meaning without the addition of ice or water, just straight) this is the one.

I started out drinking scotch with lots of ice, as I did not enjoy the burn or warmth delivered by scotch, but over time my tastes evolved such that I required less ice until the present situation, where I drink scotch neat, mind you in little or tiny sips.

The “length” of this scotch, meaning how long the flavors linger in the mouth is very brief. What lingers though is a distinctly malty taste that is enjoyable with a little mint or lemon peel flavor accompaniment. Very nice.

What happens if served with ice? Drink this with ice and the scotch becomes much more fruity. Flavors of grapefruit and pear come into play. Makes for a very refreshing beverage that goes down very easily on a hot summer’s day.

Glenfiddich 12 year old offers up an entry level single malt scotch that is reasonably priced and delivers an inoffensive and enjoyable tasting experience. If you are seeking to impress guests this would not be a suitable dram. While decent, inoffensive and pleasing, it is not complex, luxurious or interesting to the serious scotch aficionado. I recently had this when I walked off the golf course on a cold and blustery day and it warmed me and my spirit as I casually chatted with some golfers in the clubhouse. Perfect in that sort of setting.


Jason Debly

© Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.


  1. This is the scotch I picked up on a whim upon returning from a stay in the US at a duty free shop. At the time I can remember thinking that the price was awfully high for "some liquor". Now that I understand the value of Scotch the price point of Glenfiddich 12 seems to be my starting point.

    I found it to be an "ok" malt, but as I love the intense, big, smokey malts I can see why I felt that way when tasting. I will, however, based upon your review be buying a bottle of Glenfiddich 15yr.

    I found your blog from comments you left on Paul Potts blog - "Geek Like Me Too".

  2. Hi Mike!

    The Glenfiddich 15yrs is a huge step up from the 12 yrs, but it is not a huge and intense peat/smoke bomb. The 15 is a honeyed Speyside dram with great complexity, notes of heather, etc.

    If you like the smoke and peat bombs and want to pay a bit, the best is Lagavulin 16 yrs.



  3. Hi Jason, I do have a bottle of Lagavulin 16 in my cabinet that I take out for special occasions or if it's been a bit of an overly stressful day.

    I do also enjoy the sweeter side of Scotch, Balvenie in particular, which is why I am considering the Glenfiddich 15. However, if I'm going to enjoy them they need to be a bit more on the rich side. I can't sense much of a difference between Glenfiddich 12, Glenmorangie Original, Scapa 12, etc etc.

    Have you tried some of the older Balvenie's - 15 & 17 in particular? I've also recently sampled some Jameson Master Selection 18 and was very intrigued by it.

  4. Instead of the Lagavulin 16, you might also consider Bowmore 12 yrs. Much more reasonable price point for the same family of flavor profile.

    As for Balvenie, the only one I have had it the 12 years Double wood, and can't say it was very impressive. The other bottlings are not available in my area, so I cannot review them at this time.

    Jameson I hear is very good when you get into the offerings above the standard no age statement bottling (which is revolting in my opinion). Can't say I have tried them though.

  5. Have the Bowmore 12 as well, and the Laphroaig QC.. I'm an Islay fan.

    I purchased the Balvenie DW based on tastings I had done of the Balvenie 15 and 17. Like you, I was underwhelmed with the DW. It was good, but man the 15 and 17 were stellar. I was tasting them for close to an hour after my last sip.. cinnamon nutmeg apple pie. The 15 and 17 are not available in our area as well, however we have a local bar with a fantastic Scotch stock - which is how I managed to get my lips on the 15 and 17.

    Thanks for the blog BTW, I think I may become a regular here. Keep up the good work.

  6. Mike, welcome aboard and feel free any time to post comments.

  7. Do you get a hint of a metallic aluminum flavour in the finish? I always seem to spot it and it throws me off in the 12 year old. It surprises me that not many people document in reviews. Still a good malt at a decent price. Very smooth and delightful.

    1. Yes and im glad you pointed this out.
      2nd time now ive made this mistake in buying another bottle.

  8. Marius, I think what you are describing as metallic aluminum flvor may be oak, unless of course you have a bad bottle (not likely).

    You have to remember to judge this malt in its price range. It is an entry level single malt of the 12 age statements. In that sphere it's pretty good, not fantastic, but good. For fantastic, try Cragganmore 12 yrs.

  9. I agree with you. I don't know if you are familiar with Ralfy's whisky review videos on youtube, but I came across his review on the Glenfiddich 12 ( the other day and strangely enough he pointed out the metallic note as well. I was begging to think I was confusing it with something else till he confirmed it.
    I have been told great things about Cragganmore 12. I have it on my shopping list.

  10. I tried this for the first time about 2 months ago while on a work trip to Colorado. It could have been the atmosphere (a beautiful back yard full of trees and flowers after having lived in Brooklyn for the past 8 months) but man, I loved the stuff. Was so balanced. Just a nice cascade of light flavors over a really full and creamy body. Not sure why people are so hard on this single malt other than it's ubiquitousness.

    1. I think people just assume because it is so widely available that it can't be any good. Not so! Good value for money play here.

      Glenfiddich 12 is an entry level single malt. Some of the critics/people who bash this may be comparing it to single malts at a higher price point, and so such comparisons are not valid.


  11. Hi Jason, in my town Glenfiddich 12 costs only $2 more than JW Black. Do u think it's worth to pay $2 more & go for the G'fiddich 12, or is JW Black still a better value at this price point?

    1. I think Johnnie Walker Black Label is superior to Glenfiddich 12. Black Label is more complex, intricate in terms of flavors. Glenfiddich is very smooth, viscous, and flavors are blurred or smudged together in comparison.

    2. Aspiring EnthusiastAugust 30, 2013 at 1:33 AM

      Thanks a lot. That helps!! :)

  12. I lost my single malt virginity to this one. In my early 20s I had been a solid Chivas Regal on the rocks with a twist of lemon guy and chasing it with Heinekens, thinking I was the sh*t compared to the drivel of drinks next to me (and of course rolling off the stool as wasted as anyone else). Then I met single malt and it was so smooth and fine and pure and floral and I simply thought that's what single malt meant. Any fine meal later, which meant a restaurant rather than Burger King, I angled up to the bar to see what 'good' scotch they had and delighted in these finer things, clueless that I was only sipping in Speyside. I think its been 25 years now since I've had a Fiddich and it's darn well time I go back and thank 'her' for the favor. Cheers my friends!!