Glenfiddich, known for its single malt Scotch whisky, "has the spirit of a pioneer," says Edinburgh native Mitch Bechard, the spirit's national brand ambassador. "It was the first single malt marketed outside of Scotland, and we were laughed at when we did it."
No one's laughing any longer: Glenfiddich, which has been operating under the same family since it was founded by William Grant in 1887, arrived stateside in 1963 in what turned out to be an incredibly prescient move -- Scotch now pours into this country, and the Glenfiddich brand is one of the best-selling and most award-winning in the world.
Generally, Bechar explains, "Glenfiddich is a very approachable single-malt Scotch. The 12-year-old is a quintessential Speyside," a region known for smoother, less peated Scotches. "The 15-year-old is an incredible expression; it's very smooth and rich," he adds.
But Glenfiddich also does a number of special bottlings, including charity one-offs and a 55-year-old in honor of the 110th birthday of Janet Sheed Roberts, Grant's granddaughter. Only eleven bottles of that whisky were released, with one garnered a whopping $73,000 at auction.
The brand also wanted to do something special to celebrate its 125th birthday this year -- and it wanted to capture the pioneering and ambitious spirit of Glenfiddich in the endeavor. So it unveiled its Cask of Dream campaign, rolling brand new American oak barrels through eleven different cities and asking passersby to write their hopes or dreams on the cask. "We wanted it to be tangible for people signing the cask," Bechard says. Each city tour ended with a party, and then the casks were sent back to Scotland to be filled.
"Our malt-master had to decide what kind of liquid will go into this cask," Behar says. "With brand new American oak, wood will have a big influence. So he combined whisky that was between thirteen and sixteen years old, put it in the barrels and sampled it every three to four weeks. He pulled it out after three months."
"These eleven casks fulfilled our goal of pioneering an entirely new way to conceive of the whisky-making process, resulting in a fine non-age single malt that will return home to America to help realize the ambitions of others," malt master Brian Kinsman added in a statement.
The finished product is smooth, balanced and complex, lightly fruity up front with caramel and vanilla from the oak, which transitions to back-palate savoriness and spice and a lingering finish. It's imminently drinkable -- and though I like the zip of intensity that comes with drinking it neat, Bechard recommends just a drop of water in a small pour to open it up a bit and mellow it out.
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Glenfiddich produced just 3,500 bottles of the whisky, making it an incredibly rare one-off spirit. So though the spirit was just released into the market this month, it'll be hard to get your hands on -- Bechard says it sold out faster in Colorado than almost anywhere else. But if you can find it, he recommends picking up two or three bottles -- Scotch whisky doesn't continue to age in the bottle, so you can add it to your collection without fear of it going bad.
The campaign was so successful, says Bechard, that the company is considering doing it again in 2012. And if it does, Denver is on the list of cities where people may be able to sign their own hopes and aspirations to a barrel.