While much of England was under water during the month of May, Scotland basked in warm spring sunshine. So it was when 20 Whisky Magazine readers met at Glenfiddich Distillery, in Dufftown, for a tour of both Glenfiddich and The Balvenie distilleries (they are adjacent, although The Balvenie is not generally open to the public), led by David Mair (Distillery Manager) and Jens Tholstrup (Glenfiddich’s Brand Ambassador). Of particular interest to many present was the old fashioned and now uncommon floor maltings, still used by The Balvenie to produce part of their malt requirement.After the tour we made our way to the stylish Robbie Dhu Centre, where special guests are entertained. Some downed a quick dram, while waiting for the others, then we were led by Jens and David (supported by comments from Charlie MacLean, Editor at Large) in a tasting of Glenfiddich and The Balvenie malts. Most present were drawn to the event by their fondness for The Balvenie, but all were impressed by the range of Glenfiddich expressions presented by Jens, showing the effects of maturation from new make spirit to 18 Year Old Ancient Reserve, and especially by the complex fruit-salad and wood notes bestowed by the distillery’s unique solera system for their 12 Year Old Solera Reserve.David presented The Balvenie Founder’s Reserve (12 Years), Single Barrel (15 Years), Double Wood (12 Years) and Portwood (21 Years). The differences between them were extraordinary: virtuoso performances around a coda of dried fruits and vanilla toffee. After this he mysteriously left the room to fetch a ‘special treat’. One reader present had revealed to him that he was the proud owner of a bottle of 50 Years Old Glenfiddich, which at £5,000 the bottle, he was unlikely ever to be able to drink.
David returned with just such a bottle and gave everyone a measure, which worked out at around £350 a nip! It was fantastically deep and rich, and considerably more smoky than we expected from Glenfiddich – so good, in fact, that one of those present later bought a bottle in the distillery shop.Lunch in the spacious, sun-filled dining room next door, with tables sparkling with white napery and crystal, was equally generous. We ate smoked salmon marinated in Glenfiddich, local free-range chicken in a creamy asparagus sauce, crême brulée perfumed with The Balvenie, washed it all down with well-chosen wines, and rounded off with coffee, Glenfiddich liqueur chocolates and whatever we wanted by way of digestif. It was a good job that many readers had brought their drivers with them!Many thanks to William Grant & Sons for wonderful highland hospitality, and a day which will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to have been present.