Once upon a time, “Scotch whisky” was pretty much synonymous with “blended Scotch whisky”. Apart from some crazed woodland Scotsmen, nobody drank single malts. Primarily because there wasn’t a market for them, which meant single malt wasn’t leaving Scottish shores in any appreciable amount. But also because malts were seen as just component ingredients to the “more skillful” art of blending. Or at least the better marketed art of blending. So people drank blends. And it was good.
Glenfiddich however, was not content. Deep within the cold halls of Castle Grant (or whatever), Lord Grant and his heirs devised a plan to strike back at House Walker, House Grouse and House… er… J&B. Specifically, why make single malt just for the blenders, when they could be selling it straight to the public? Maybe cut out the middlemen and score more of the filthy lucre? Oh yeah – the market. Nobody wanted single malts. To remedy this, they started putting out ads like these in white-collar markets all over the world:
It may not seem like much, but within a few short years of 1963 they had essentially reframed single malts as being desirable for the first time ever – more raw, manly and refined than those common blends. Before long, single malt became a status symbol and the category has been skyrocketing ever since.
Of course in modern times, no decent whisky outfit could overlook the lucrative nature of special edition NAS releases – brought upon the world by Johnnie Walker in the form of Blue Label in 1992 and wildly exploited by Highland Park ever since. Glenfiddich wasn’t going to be left behind.
A few years ago Lord Grant (still living in a twisted parody of life), needed a cool story for a new NAS release (Snow Phoenix having been a bit of a joke). So he sent his Master of the Archives down into the catacombs to retrieve a dusty old volume, a tome containing the recipe for that original 1963 malt. And hence, Glenfiddich – The Original was born. A single malt NAS release with a sexy story, some fancy packaging and a hefty price tag. Here we go!
Okay, first off – alcohol, right up the nostrils. This stuff is pretty hot on the nose, but not impenetrable. Of course you get piles of Glenfiddich 12 rising out of the glass – the classic apples and pears. Some oranges, limes… raspberries and sugar, sort of like opening a fresh bag of jelly babies. Apricots. Lovely!
Apples, pineapples, alcohol and alcohol. This one needs dialing down despite being bottled at Borderline Strength. But even so there’s no doubt you’re drinking a Glenfiddich 12 sibling – taste and smells line up here. There a rich chewiness right at the back of the palate, and salty toffee on the finish. Good good.
Yes, this is how it’s done. Just a dash and you’re no longer fighting it for control. There’s clearly a stronger layer of sherry here than in the 12, but hardly swimming in it. A good balance between cask types, perhaps. Caramel and cloves bob to the surface. Crisp. Clean. Very easy to drink!
I quite liked The Original. It’s certainly not face-meltingly joyful. But nor is it painful in the least. A pleasant, easy sipping drink (once you tame it with water) that shouldn’t give anyone any complaints. And it makes a good alternative to the typical entry level 12s.
Assuming you ignore the price, that is. It’s… very, very expensive for a low-strength, NAS, no-information, bourbon-matured whisky that doesn’t vary too much from the reference bottle. I’m not sure who would crack this open and feel like they got amazing value for money – you’d need to be the most diehard Glenfiddich fanboy to have the magic of the backstory wash over your taste buds and turn this into a bottle you’d cherish. This in many ways is the epitome of the NAS special edition madness, so try before you buy!