In a first for the whisky industry, Scottish distillery Glenfiddich has launched its latest expression into the Australian market: Winter Storm. Glenfiddich Winter Storm sees the tasty Speyside sipper aged in ex-Canadian ice wine casks, which imparts a sweetness upon the final spirit.
Ice wine is a dessert wine made in various parts of there world, where matured grapes are picked and then crushed whilst still frozen on the vine, in climates which allow for it. The water content from the grapes (usually riesling) freezes solid, whereas the sugars and dissolved solids remain unfrozen, resulting in a richer, sweeter grape juice.
Launched at Tasmania’s Frogmore Creek Winery last month, Australia’s only producer of ice wine, Man of Many was lucky enough to be in attendance at the official announcement, and to try the delicious dram ourselves.
As whisky is becoming a more and more celebrated spirit category, distillers are at a scramble not just to keep up with supply, but also find new ways to keep an ever-demanding clientele satisfied. And as barrels become harder to come by (and more expensive) getting experimental with ageing processes has become more than just a necessity, it’s a form of innovation.
Winter Storm is the brainchild of Brian Kinsman, the Malt Master at Glenfiddich. During a trip to Canada in January 2016, Kinsman visited Peller Estate – a renowned winery in Niagara where the grapes are picked by moonlight, at -10?C, during the freezing winter months that one would not normally associate with good winemaking practices. He took some of these barrels back to Scotland, where he filled them with a range of Glenfiddich’s aged malts, to see what the outcome might be.
“Only the rarer whiskies, those aged for 21 years, could cope with the extra ice wine intensity”, says the veteran distiller.
“Having more tannins, extracted from years in oak, these malts brought out a uniquely fresh lychee note instead of being swamped by sweetness.”
The final liquid to be poured off these casks is a 21-year-old malt whisky which has been described by the folks at the famous distillery as, “Perfect”.
Australian winemaker Craig McDonald, who is the Vice President of Winemaking at Ontario’s Peller Estates, stated, “It was a privilege to work with Brian on this experiment. We go to extreme lengths to produce our intensely sweet ice wine and are always looking for ways to push the boundaries of taste, so I was intrigued to see how it could be used to create a new unexpected whisky. The resulting liquid is a unique combination of the warming soul of whisky and the frozen cold of Icewine.”
Even the suggested serving is a shade out of kilter to the norm: a single frozen grape. While a fitting homage to the liquid’s origins, it’s also a small and cheeky reminder to the purists who daren’t sully their liquid gold with ice or water that the spirit is, as it has always done, evolving. And it shows too in the bottle design. Glass? You’re out. Ceramic is in.
Glenfiddich Winter Storm is the third instalment in the Glenfiddich Experimental Series, which is, as the name suggests, the distillery’s attempt to modernise their offering, and add excitement to a range that is already revered by connoisseurs globally (it is, in fact, the highest-selling single malt in the world).
The first in the series, Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, saw their whisky finished in oak casks which once held a fruity, bitter beer: Speyside IPA. The flavours were bold and zesty, with the fresh citrus influence from the hops delivering a pleasant mid-palate which flowed into a soft, sweet vanilla aftertaste.
The second was Glenfiddich Project XX pushed the envelope even further. Eschewing the norms of master distillers carefully guarding their best-kept secrets, Glenfiddich invited 20 whisky experts from 16 different countries to collaborate, blending all manner of cask finished and ages, to create a no-age-statement whisky that was par excellence. In the Glenfiddich Project XX, Candyfloss sweetness and a rich vanilla oakiness open to hints of apple blossom, summer fruits and ripe pear.
Glenfiddich Winter Storm astutely follows in the tradition of its predecessors in the series, shaking up the ways in which we perceive premium whisky, and offering something unique to the consumer. With a consumer base that is consistently becoming more and more curious as they are savvy, it’s experimental drams like this which set the tone for the future of the spirits industry.
Glenfiddich Winter Storm is available at good liquor stores and bars from the 19th of August and has an RRP of AU $350. Man of Many travelled to Tasmania as a guest of Glenfiddich.