Every so often people have the chance to live out a rare occurrence. A surreal moment that, though you already know it is fleeting, takes on a dream like quality in the sense that you fight to extend every last second of it. I experienced one of these instances when I was handed a glass containing this ultra-rare Glenfiddich while attending the unveiling of the 55 year old Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve.
Born of a 6-month marriage of two 50 year old casks in legendary Warehouse 8 (home of the Solera vat used to create the 15 year old
expression), this whisky is built with malt from a bygone era. One in which Glenfiddich was still operating its own floor maltings and firing the kilns using Speyside peat as a fuel source. The light, inland character of the region’s peat is devoid of the iodine and salt notes that are so prevalent in Islay whiskies, thus adding a smoke characteristic in a manner most peated whiskies struggle to manifest today.
It from this malt that this dream dram was made and more than 50 years later found its way into my grateful, excited hands.
Nose: The first thing that emanates from the glass is the smoke of the aforementioned Speyside peat, carrying behind it orange blossoms and toffee. Below this, leather fuses with vanilla and cocoa, conjuring memories of Christmas cake had while sitting on the hearth beside a fire. After roughly 10 minutes that fireside smoke character begins to take on a subtle barbecue note that serves to only heighten the depth of the experience.
Palate: Smoky tangerines and Seville oranges dance on one side of the mouth while brown sugar and honey flirt on the other. In the middle, leather and light pepper notes play out over a marzipan and vanilla rhythm to flawless effect. All of this is ensconced within a wonderfully creamy, buttery mouthfeel, the most striking revelation of which is just how incredibly crisp and defined the flavours are.
Finish: Fantastically long. The tangerine twinge takes on an intriguing freshness while sizzling over the smoky vanilla tones. Allspice and cloves arrive momentarily until the marzipan provides one last flash of its presence. From here everything settles down slowly; each element fading like the dying embers of a fire until the fruit becomes undefinable, the smoke but a memory, and the absence of the whisky a stinging reminder of just how fleeting many of life’s great moments can be.
Overall: There is absolutely no question that this is one of the finest whiskies I will ever have the pleasure of enjoying, and a memory that I will conjure with intense focus for many years to come. From start to finish it is simply stunning; the very definition of brilliance in liquid form.