Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition
The Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Distillers Edition) was first released a couple of years ago. While considered a “special release”, in some jurisdictions it is available as a regular member of the standard age line-up, along with the 12 and 18 year-old expressions. Not generally available in the US, it can be found here at the LCBO for $95 CAD,and I often come across it in international airport duty-free shops in my travels (along with a lot of NAS travel retail-only bottlings of Glenfiddich).
Like the standard 12 and 18 year-old expressions, this 15 year old Distillery Edition it is meant to be an unvarnished expression of the distillery’s character. That is, these three expressions all come from an undisclosed a mix of mainly ex-bourbon barrels with some sherry casks, with no additional finishing. That said, I personally find the 18 yo typically has a more noticeable sherry component in the mix than either the 12 yo or this 15 yo bottling. The 15 year old Distillery Edition is bottled at a higher than usual 51.0% ABV.
Note that this edition is not to be confused with the more common Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Edition. That expression differs from the standard line by their use of a modified version of the sherry solera system. I can say I’m an expert on the topic, but I understand that the way it works (simplified) is that whiskies from sherry, ex-bourbon, and ex-bourbon hybrids casks (i.e., ones transferred into new oak cask for some period of time) are mixed in a giant “solera” vat. This vat contains whisky from previous batches, and is never emptied completely – as batches are drawn from the vat, more whisky is poured in. The end result is a slightly different profile, compared to the standard age statement line of Glenfiddichs.
Here is how the 15 Year Old Distillery Edition compares to other whiskies in my Metacritic database, starting with other Glenfiddichs:
Glenfiddich 1963 Original Malt: 8.27 ± 0.47 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition: 8.30 ± 0.30 on 7 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 12yo: 8.09 ± 0.24 on 23 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Bourbon Barrel Reserve: 8.43 ± 0.16 on 6 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 14yo Rich Oak: 8.60 ± 0.32 on 9 reviews ($$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Distillery Edition: 8.71 ± 0.31 on 12 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 15yo Solera: 8.59 ± 0.25 on 23 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfiddich 18yo: 8.57 ± 0.38 on 17 reviews ($$$$$)
As you can see, this is the highest ranking Glenfiddich among the entry-level NAS and younger age statement expressions. It also scores near the top of all similarly-priced unpeated 15 yo expressions in my database, as shown below for a representative sample.
Caol Ila 15yo Unpeated: 8.54 ± 0.40 on 8 reviews ($$$$$)
Dalmore 15yo: 8.33 ± 0.50 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Dalwhinnie 15yo: 8.69 ± 0.34 on 18 reviews ($$$$)
Glencadam 15yo: 8.45 ± 0.41 on 10 reviews ($$$$)
GlenDronach 15yo Revival: 8.91 ± 0.28 on 19 reviews ($$$$)
Glenfarclas 15yo: 8.70 ± 0.24 on 16 reviews ($$$$)
Glengoyne 15yo: 8.48 ± 0.54 on 9 reviews ($$$$)
Glenlivet 15yo French Oak: 8.38 ± 0.25 on 17 reviews ($$$$)
Tobermory 15yo: 8.54 ± 0.33 on 13 reviews ($$$$$)
Given this level of support for the 15yo Distilery Edition, I had high hopes going into this tasting (sampled from a friend’s recently opened bottle). Let’s see what I find in the glass:
Nose: Classic Glenfiddich nose, with green apple and some pear (apple juice always comes to mind). Some citrus (orange) and banana. Caramel and vanilla sweetness. Floral notes, but nothing I can specifically identify. A bit nutty. Even more caramel with water. Pleasant, like a more developed version of the standard 12 yo.
Palate: Sweet, same fruits as the nose. Some additional honey and butterscotch now. Also pepper and general wood spice. Indeed, palate is more “oaky” all the way around (i.e., both the sweet vanillins and bitter/spicey wood elements). Silky texture to the mouthfeel, but a bit hot thanks to that higher 51% ABV. Adding water lightens the texture, but it still remains surprisingly “ethanol” hot (i.e., has a kick to it).
Finish: Medium. General sweetness lingers, but is overtaken by the oaky bitterness. Wood spice and pepper continues. A bit astringent (i.e., some mouth pucker).
Classic Glenfiddich character comes through, enhanced by the higher ABV. I like the greater intensity over the standard 12 yo, but I find this one a touch too oaky for my tastes. Personally, I prefer the slightly more interesting 18 yo expression. But I think this would make a good move for fans of the common 12 yo seeking more character and flavour, within a comparable profile.
The biggest fans of this whisky are Andre and Patrick of Quebec Whisky, Jim Murray, Oliver of Dramming and Michael of Diving for Pearls. Personally, my own assessment is more in line with Serge of Whisky Fun and My Annoying Opinions, who both give it a below average score. The lowest scoring review I’ve seen is from Ralfy.