Whisky Advocate

I helped pick a cask of whisky. Don’t buy it.

January 13th, 2008

When was the last time you ever heard me say that?

First off, let me say it’s not that the whisky I helped to pick is bad. In fact, I think it’s quite good. It’s just that I think there’s one even better. And if you are on a limited budget (these whiskies are fairly expensive), you should get the one I didn’t pick.

Allow me to explain.

This past July, I was part of a group of six people invited to the Glenfiddich distillery to help pick this year’s single cask vintage. (A complete write-up is in the 4th Quarter 2007 issue of Malt Advocate magazine.) The group consisted of drinks writers, chefs, and perfumiers. We were given samples from six different casks to nose and taste (two from 1974, two from 1975, and two from 1976).  We chose one from 1976, Cask #516. Indeed, it’s a nice whisky from I believe was a (refill?) sherry butt. The Spanish oak is very evident, with its crisp oak spices peppered throughout, along with vibrant fruit.

The previous vintage, which you can still find on the shelves from some retailers, is a 1973 vintage, Cask #9874. It was chosen by seven coopers, along with master blender David Stewart, back in 2006. This whisky is from a second fill sherry cask. This is a beautiful cask of Glenfiddich. I rated it a 93 back in the 3rd Quarter 2007 issue of Malt Advocate. I think it’s the best of the Glenfiddich vintage releases over the past several years. Those coopers should change careers and become whisky nosers!

While we were at the distillery, I wanted to compare the whisky we chose from 1976 to the previous 1973 vintage, but they didn’t have any of the 1973 vintage at the distillery. (Not even the gift shop!) So, I had to wait until I got back home to compare the two samples.

The verdict? Compared to the 1976 vintage, the 1973 vintages shows more ripe fruit, a wider variety of flavors, with a softer underbelly. If I had to pick between the two, I would pick the 1973 vintage. Sad part is, I don’t even have a bottle of the 1973 vintage, just the last few drops from  the 100 ml review sample I was sent. ( And, with a price tag of about $600, it’s quite possible I never will.)

But don’t let that stop you. If you have over $1,000 to spend, then by all means buy both, enjoy both, and do your own taste comparison. But if you can only buy one bottle, buy the one I didn’t help to pick.

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