Monday, March 22, 2010

Glenfiddich 18 year old Single Malt Scotch Review

Desert Island Scotch?
Years ago, I think there was a BBC radio program called Desert Island Discs or Records.  Anyway, you know the premise, if you were marooned on an island, what records would you want to have with you?  This is before compact discs, IPODs and all that techno crap.

I like music but after highschool, women and liquor became more deserving of my limited attention span.  Yes!  Janis Joplin's early work was great, but shit, she's dead!

So, if I was marooned on a desert island, naturally with a fair, brunette maiden from the downed ship, who has large tracts of land (to borrow a phrase from olden days), what case of scotch would I manage to salvage from the wreck?  There's a huge selection of 18 year old single malts, but I can only fetch one case.  What's it gonna be scallywag?  The Glenfiddich 18?

On the beach at dusk
Dinner is over.  The oysters were a nice appetizer and managed to simultaneously satisfy and stimulate my hunger.  Having dined on this fair food, with maybe a seafood stew of prawns and shrimp, it is time for a wee dram.  It was a long day on the white sand beach filled with much activity.  We also looked for driftwood to build a fire and shelter.  Now is time to rest and watch the sun set into the ocean and listen to the waves beneath the azure sky.

I do not usually mention the color of whisky in a review because frankly it doesn't mean much.  When whisky is first poured into barrels, it is clear like water.  As it ages the color is acquired from the casks.  A darker color, implies a lengthy period in say a sherry cask.  Trouble is that distillers now use caramel to color their whisky.  Accordingly, a dark colored whisky does not necessarily have any bearing on the age of the whisky.  I am unsure whether or not Glenfiddich uses caramel.  The color of the 18 year old is surprisingly light copper, like that of a penny. 

Glenfiddich 18 is aged in Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks.  If it was aged exclusively in sherry casks, I would imagine it would be darker.  Anyway, what we need to take away from these meandering thoughts is that color is really unimportant to a whisky tasting if you know caramel has been added.  Especially when the tasting takes place on a tropical beach at dusk in the presence of a beautiful lady who ate the lion's share of the oysters.

Nose (undiluted)
The scent to first greet you is rich and luxuriant Corinthian leather of the new Chrysler LeBaron!  No!  I just couldn't resist saying that.  The nose on this whisky is languid sherry, malty and fresh orchard apples.  Rich yet subdued, kinda like those New England private school girls who would never give me the time of day.

Palate (undiluted)
The first flavors to taste is luxuriant sherry.  Glenfiddich 18 year old is not known as a sherried scotch, but sherry is here and plays an important role in the flavor profile.  It's not over the top like in the case of The Macallan 12 and 18 year olds, but it is here.  It is soft, sweet, rounded and followed by boiled raisin bread flavors and strawberry/rhubarb pie. 

Finish (undiluted)
While the palate was sweet, the finish (the flavor that hangs after you have downed your scotch) is drying.  Flavors that linger in the mouth are crab apple, oak, a faint tendril of smoke and that Oloroso sherry from mid-palate.

General Impressions
Somebody's getting sleepy under the palm trees, so I have to make this quick.

Glenfiddich 18 year old is a fine single malt scotch that is reasonably priced and delivers quality.  However, compared to other 18 year old single malts, it falls behind.  This is not the greatest booty this scotch pirate has plundered.  It's not bad, but not what I consider to be truly great 18 year old single malt scotch.  So what is?  Highland Park 18 year old , The Macallan 18 year old and some othersThose 18 year olds have more complexity of flavors.  I guess a criticism of the Glenfiddich 18 year old is that for the age I expected more flavors.  Not a lot more, just a little.

While Highland Park 18 year old and The Macallan 18 are superior in flavor profile, they are also much more expensive.  So, let's level the playing field a bit and compare the Glenfiddich 18 to another 18 year old in the same price range, namely The Glenlivet.  Again The Glenlivet edges out Glenfiddich 18.  Tasted neat, they are neck and neck, but add a little water and The Glenlivet pulls out in front with more complexity.

How Does it Compare to Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Reserve?
In a heads-up Pepsi taste test challenge between the 18 year old and its' younger brother the 15 year old Solera, the younger sibling comes out on top.  This is not to say that the 18 year old is not a fine dram.  It is very good, but amazingly the Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera Reserve (my review here) is better, and at a lower price to boot.

What Happens if We add Water?
Adding anywhere from a drop to a teaspoon of water to scotch can improve or degrade the flavor profile.  With Glenfiddich 18 year old, I like it both neat and with a teaspoon of water.  Really just depends on my mood.  Here is what a teaspoon of water can do to a shot:

Nose (diluted)
Apples move to the forefront.  Definitely more floral.

Palate (diluted)
The apples on the nose appear initially on the tongue and quickly moves to honey.

Finish (diluted)
Oak, smoke and sea salt ocean spray surrounded by a more complex Oloroso sherry flavor.

The Glenfiddich 18 year old is a pleasing, easy-going Speyside single malt offering up apple, oak and sherry flavors with some measure of complexity.  If I was marooned on a desert island, I would not seek this 18 year old to be my sole drink of choice because there are better ones out there.

If you want a safe bet of a scotch gift for someone without knowing their tastes, the Glenfiddich 18 year old is the purchase to make.  If the recipient of your largesse is a scotch nut, choose something else.


Jason Debly
Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2011. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.


  1. Thanks for a great, objective review. I personally like the Glenfiddich 18, but admittedly I haven't tried a broad range of scotches.

  2. I wanted to get something for my fiance that he could enjoy on our wedding day that is a noticable brand and really nice. I am open to the dollars spent- I know he appreciates this scotch more than the Bowmore Isle that I think I heard him say is peaty. Do you have any recommendations?

  3. Hello! Anonymous,

    He would defintely enjoy the following non-peaty scotches:

    Oban 14yrs
    Glenlivet 18yrs
    Glenfiddich 15yrs
    Highland Park 18yrs (probably the best of the list!)

    1. Pardon this newbie, but isn't Oban 14 peaty?? I understand it's from the Highlands; and by peaty, I'm not referring to a peat/smoke bomb from the Islay, but I thought Oban 14 had a misty, briny character, with a background of heather and peat.

  4. In the price range (and if you're not into the peaty islay malts), my favorite is the Cragganmore 12.

    I know it's not a popular malt, but I'm sipping on this Glenfiddich 18 right now and eyeing the bottle of Cragganmore wondering why it can't be so yummy.

    My taste is different than most professional reviewers, who do not rate the Cragganmore that highly, but for those who aren't super in to heavy single malts, give it a shot.

  5. Hi Anonymous,

    I would agree that Cragganmore is not on the tip of every whisky lover's tongue like say other brands (ie. Macallan, Ardbeg, etc.). Critics generally acknowledge that it is good, but seem to fixate their praise and attention on peat monsters like Ardbeg or Laphroaig. Anyhow, that's their loss. Us commoners know what's good, and I agree that Cragganmore is one of the great single malts!


  6. Hello Sir:

    I hope all is well. I was curious of your opinion on how the Oban 14 stacks up to the Oban 18 year? My friend loves Oban and I want to give him a bottle as a gift.

    ~ Anonymous (2)

  7. Oban 18 would make an excellent gift for an Oban fan. The 18 yrs is smooth, delightfully dry and loaded with apple, caramel flavor. Really quite good!

  8. I just finished my first dram of Glenfiddich 18...the odd thing, my first sip supplied me with a most wonderful finish taste, an explosion of nutty sweetness. It was one of the most interesting flavors scotch has ever given me. Sadly, that flavor never returned. I could only catch hints of it thereafter. Not sure if my mouth was shaped and swallowed just right for that to happen or, more likely, my pallet was no longer neutral for that flavor to take place...anyhow, if I can find a way to replicate that fantastic finish I may have found my perfect scotch. Otherwise I'll stick to the 15 Solera as my favorite Glenfiddich. Cheers!

  9. Seriously?

    Seriously?, you really want to know how this scotch tastes?

    I'll tell ya!

    Its bloody great!

    I won't go on with a bunch of self-absorbed, arrogant and pretentious garbage like "it pairs with this" or "it pairs with that" or it has "subtle notes of this and that", or smells like a whore’s drawers, quite simply, its just a goddamned good single malt scotch whisky. In fact, its a great phucking whisky if you can afford it, and I can!!!!! And more than that, it stimulates the creative senses and inflames the genitals and makes you want to rob banks and put the top down and go for drives in the countryside with law enforcement and gunfire!!!!

    It's best enjoyed in the company of real men.

    Like you and a bunch of yer friends gathered on a glacier or on the top of some really big goddamned mountain you climbed in the midst of a blizzard, pouring a few shots to celebrate all while you sing Viking war songs.

    Or with that same group of real men, real men with beards and scars and tattoos, some of whom have robbed banks and stuff and done prison time, some of the others have killed bears and mountain lions and shit, and there you are just you and the men, sitting around a campfire or a living-room filled with books and leather furniture and stuff talking about war and global conquest and trapping wolverines or that woman who's vagina you set on fire with the friction of your massive, manly, magnificent man-meat and how, after you set her vagina aflame, you used those flames to spark up your Cohiba Robusto Fino Cameroon....and then watched her as she cooked you up a blood soaked filet Mignon all the while, clad in her skimpy panties, she kept refilling your glass and vacuumed the house and then she wrote a poem dedicated to your magnificent, manly, massive man-meat. And then you cracked open another bottle of this gift from the Gods, grabbed the maid and banged her until she was cross-eyed, limping and speaking Swahili !!!!

    Oh where was I?

    Oh right, its a bloody good scotch, a little pricey, but worth it if you can afford it........and best of all, Metrosexual Mangina's hate it.

    All the bovine scatology aside, I've had a few bottles of this stuff and its bloody good!!!

    Go buy a quart of it now!!!!


    The Bastard!!!!!!