Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #384

Glenfiddich 1958 Private Vintage
Cask 8642, bottle 135, bottled 5th July 2006
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
46.3% abv

I have been reading a lot about water lately, in particular (obviously), how it relates to the making of Scotch whisky. The importance on a very practical level is clear: distillery founders in days gone by needed a good, clean source that was steady and inexhaustible, or at least seemingly so. Water is key to the whole whisky making process (malting, mashing, ferementing, heating, cooling, etc) and without it we'd have little more than a pretty yeasty breakfast cereal and some superior race would have found a way to serve us porterhouse style. Good thing we scared them off by such a glorious display of intelligence as usquebaugh.

In the 70s, and still in some promo materials today, distilleries really made a big marketing stink about their water sources. It made sense as single malts were just emerging in global markets and the consumer needed simple, memorable, and romatntic points of difference to know, say, Glenlivet from Glenfiddich. Add to this the business reality of consolidation that was running rampant at the time and larger companies were centralizing their bottling plants and using treated water to bring their malts and blends down to desired strength. Obviously, a major point of difference at that time would have been adding unique value to unique NATURAL water sources.

Glenfiddich is the only Scotch Single Malt Whisky to use a single spring source in all processes from mashing to bottling, and most folks who have a bottle or tube at home can read about the Robbie Dhu spring, a spring so important to the family that William Grant himself bought the surrounding hills to protect it. Romantic? Check. A great show of integrity? Certainly. But does it actually effect the TASTE of the whisky? Science says "meh."

The Scotch Whisky Research Institute is an amazing scientific body that is funded by whisky makers large and small to perform research of value to distillers, the wider industry, the environment, trade organizations (the SWA, for example), and the government. Today, the SWRI is involved in a wide variety of research projects, but most of the research into raw materials, a category under which water would no doubt be included, looks primarily at barley and other cereals, yeast, wood, and starch/gumlike polymers contained in cereals. So, does that mean the water verdict is already in? Does the water used in production of scotch whisky have any effect on the final flavour of a given whisky?

Big thanks to Ian Millar to bringing this treat to an event I attended in Miami. And extra thanks for letting me take this old dame back to my room...

For more Glenfiddich distillery info or to see all Glenfiddich had on the mission, click HERE.


A warm, rounded nose of soft spice notes, caramel, green grapes, fudge, and walnuts. Beautifully rich and elegant.

Surprisingly bright, sweet sherry notes that dry into raisins and figs, eventually sandalwood, licorice root, freshly ground coffee and dark chocolate. Long oak driven finish with sweet/bitter balance of coffee/cocoa bean and winey flavours.


Stellar sherried oldie. Perfectly sippable at strength with bright, bold flavours that walk rather than run, whisper rather than scream. A gentle giant of which I wish I could have had more than a thimble-full.

Malt Mission #381
Malt Mission #382
Malt Mission #383
Malt Mission #385

Malt Mission HOME

1 comment:

Bb said...

Water probably has no effect on the distilled spirit, but perhaps does at the filling stage, reducing abv to 40 / 43%?