Whisky Advocate

Review: Glenfiddich 50 year old

August 27th, 2009

Glenfiddich, 50 year old, 46.1%, $16,000
We’re drinking liquid history here. Antique gold color. Aromas of dried citrus, lemongrass, and ginger with background honeyed vanilla, dried herb, bouquet of roses, and a wisp of smoke. Very long and evolving on the palate, going from sweet to dry: vanilla custard, crème brulee, white chocolate, candied citrus, juicy oak, polished leather, dried tobacco, and then resinous oak, with teasing dry roasted nuts and hint of peat bog throughout. Long dry, resinous finish. Remarkably well-maintained for its age. I can tell that it’s an old whisky, but it shows good complexity. It’s not tired and excessively oaked.

When compared to the 30 year old and 40 year old expressions, it’s actually more vibrant and youthful than the 40 sample I have. Still, I admit it doesn’t have the deft balance and roundness which I consider a hallmark of the 30. Bottom line here: Anyone who can afford this whisky and actually drinks it will not be disappointed. It’s really nice. But for us regular folk, try to pick up a 30 year old Glenfiddich  if you can find one and you won’t go wrong with the whisky—or the price (relatively speaking, that is).

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

13 Responses to “Review: Glenfiddich 50 year old”

  1. H.Diaz says:

    My duty free Glenfiddich 30 y/o for which I paid $105 several years back, and which I still have, is looking better and better.

  2. MrTH says:

    At $105, it’s a deal. The regular retail price puts it beyond the reach of a lot of us “regular folk”. Might as well be $16,000 as far as I’m concerned. I’m not complaining–there’s plenty interesting out there for me–but I think it worth noting that there are many of us enthusiasts out here who simply don’t have that kind of disposable income.

  3. John Hansell says:

    Mr TH, You’re right. Even $105 is a lot of money.

  4. MrTH says:

    John, I’ve been thinking about why I reacted to your post the way I did…the phrase “regular folk” turned out to be more loaded than you intended. In attempting to draw a line between the attainable and the fantastic, you inadvertently drew it in a place that struck me odd. The fact is, that’s going to happen no matter where you draw it–I’ve run into more than a few people in the forums who are just contemplating making the jump from Johnnie Walker Black to single malts, and are agog at the prospect of spending $60 or $70 on a bottle. In my own case, there is something more complicated going on. I could certainly afford a bottle of Glenfiddich 30, if I really wanted it; in fact, I have a number of bottles in that price range on my shelf. But I haven’t bought any for a couple years now…my values have shifted, and I no longer think it a good use of my money to pay that much for whisky. I’ve reached a quieter and less adventurous point in my whisky journey. My tastes have narrowed somewhat, and I’m much less easily wowed by anything. I yawn at the hype generated over the latest hot release. I went through the same thing with beer, coming to a point where I no longer felt I had to try everything new, and settling into a relatively narrow stylistic range.

    All well and good…the bad part is that I find my attitude has become a bit jaded, and that tends to color my postings here and elsewhere. I look at other enthusiasts’ exuberance with a cynical eye, and snort at the newbies who are all atwitter over Islay, as I was some years ago. Intolerant of me. We are all in different stages of the journey–in fact, we are all on different journeys altogether–and there are as many different ideas about what’s worthwhile as there are about how much it’s worth. One man’s everyday dram is another’s fantasy bottle. And it occurs to me that this must be one of the most difficult things about what you do. When you acknowledge that Glenfiddich 50 is something 99.9% of us will never touch, and mention the 30 as something more easily attainable to regular folk, some smart-ass comes along and says, “‘Regular folk’? Who does Hansell think he’s kidding?” Keeping us all engaged, or as many of us as possible, wherever we are on the spectrum, is no easy thing. This jaded and cynical observer will admit that you’re doing pretty well under the circumstances.

  5. John Hansell says:

    Thanks Mr. TH. I’m trying my best to keep my feet on the ground while occassionally finding it necessary to put my head in the clouds.

  6. Louis says:


    Affordability is a topic near and dear to my heart, as you can’t enjoy something if you can’t afford to buy it. So there are a couple of ways of looking at things.

    Let’s say someone can afford to lease an Accura TL. He/she can also downgrade to a Honda Accord, and enjoy a nightly dram of GF 30 with the lease and insurance savings. Now someone else might just buy a few bottles of Very Old Barton’s bourbon at $12, and dollar cost average the 30 year old scotch into the budget.

    Another option is to normalize the price of whisk(e)y to wine. You get 27 servings out of a bottle of the former, and five for a bottle of wine. A $10 bottle of wine, hardly an extravagance, translates into $2 per serving. That’s a $54 botttle of SMS, actually a bit more than most of us would want to spend on a ‘daily dram’. Now a $300 bottle of SMS eqates to a $50 bottle of wine. That’s seriously into the luxury category, but not insance for a special birthday, anniversary, etc.

    So there are ways of affording the occasional high end bottle, while remaining fiscally responsible.



  7. Barry J says:

    Ah, if I ever find a bottle of the 50 year old in one of my favorite shops in New York City, I’ll just have to ask “Can I get one case please”…followed by “Do you gift wrap?” It’s always a crowd pleaser. In any case I have had a dram or two of the 30…never disappoints….

  8. Chris from Greece says:

    ?r TH

    your message reflects my point of view as well. I was reading it and thought that I had wrote it!!

    My respect to you

  9. […] Hansell reviews Glenfiddich 50 year old (guess what – it’s not as good as […]

  10. Ken says:

    Louis, I use the same “cost per serving ratio” whenever my wife and I are wine tasting and I consider just how much that $18 bottle of pinot noir is costing vs. a bottle of Lagavulin that I could be purchasing (I like wine but my heart weeps a little at the comparison). I don’t know how small a dram you are pouring yourself though, to get 27 servings per bottle! I figure more like 15-20 for whisky to wine’s 4-5 for the same 750ml bottle. So I use a 4:1 ratio to keep it simple.

    I try not to get upset about $1000 per dram whiskies. There are going to be one’s I can never try, either because of price or availability. Good for the multi-millionaire enthusiast who can drop that kind of money on it. I hope he/she appreciates it though and it doesn’t go to waste on someone that would just as easily enjoy dewar’s with soda.


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  12. Veronica Michel says:

    Thank you for this, I want to buy my husband a birthday present and was thinking of the 30 year old Glenfiddich…but was afraid it might not be worth the expense. So this post puts me more at ease…since he has been wanting to try it for several years now.

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