old whisky

Article by mario oreilly

Scotch whisky Glenfiddich Nothing is straightforward in whisky. Here is a distillery which makes the biggest selling malt in the world, but still uses coal-fired stills, a technique most distillers have abandoned for being too expensive and liable to give variable results. It’s a light dram produced from tiny stills, when industry wisdom maintains that small equals big.

Only Glenfiddich and Springbank make, mature and bottle on the same site. To be the manager of all of that must be daunting, but lan Millar is up for it. With 25 years’ experience in 10 UD distilleries, lan knows how to get the most out of a plant.

As a modern distillery manager he has to balance the need for a plant to be cost-effective, while preserving the tradition which uniquely impacts on the distillery’s character. ‘The lower the cost per litre, the greater the margin,’ he says.

‘So whisky production is all to do with lowering the cost of the make.’ Unromantic? A distillery manager’s job has always been about getting the best possible yield from the malt, without impacting on quality or character.

Bring three managers together in the same room and you can bet that within minutes they’ll be bragging about how high their yield is. Be will be boys. lan is obviously enjoying the challenge! managing such a high-profile place. ‘This i such a diverse site.

We have floor malting i Balvenie, we have three distilleries Kininv is also on site], one of which is coal-fired, we’ve a cooperage, we’re maturing all the stocks on the one site and bottling it hereĀ« well. Working for a smaller company has enabled me to get involved in areas such a! wood purchase, which I’ve been unable to access in the past, so personally there’s a new depth to the job.’

As a new boy, it also means that he relyed on the experience of his staff. ‘Work with people is the joy of this job,’ he says

A lot of people here have been brought up in rhe whisky industry. Their fathers, inii It’s and grandfathers have worked here lirli in1 them. They’ve great pride in what they tin.ind are steeped in tradition.’

Developing llirii skills is, he feels, fundamental to in.ikinp; Glenfiddich tick. ‘Traditionally, iii.in.igers and brewers haven’t given the i>|iiT.i(ors enough credit for what they have i li ‘lie. The way things are developing it’s the i iterators who are taking more responsibility, whereas in the past they would look up and ask, what to do.

‘We didn’t give them an understanding i ‘I the process,’ he adds. ‘If people are more involved and have more responsibility ilu-y’re more likely to monitor the quality 111 the spirit. If they’re not involved, it’s down to you.

Glenfiddich is up there to be shot at, but no matter what the rest of the trade or the critics say, it keeps on selling. Its site may be a tourist trap (but then it does give free tours), and it may be seen as a sign of weakness or innocence to say you like a dram of ‘Fiddich, but can millions of consumers be that wrong?

OK, it’s not the greatest malt in Scotland, but it has never claimed to be. In its standard issue it’s a perfectly decent (and mixable) drink – a Strauss waltz rather than a Mahler symphony. The newest expressions, the likes of Solera, Millennium and 25-year-old, point to a degree of substance behind the froth.


Glenfiddich Special ReserveHay-like and grassy, with some pear. A sweet start, with a touch of peanut brittle on the finish. * Glenfiddich 12-year-old A malty/oatcake nose with some grassiness. Sweet in the mouth with a mix of white chocolate and gorse. A spicy, creamy little number ivith a tingling finish

Glenfiddich 15-year-old Solera ReserveA mix of dried fruits and milk chocolate on the nose. Touch of fruit and some walnut/orange sherry notes. Crisp, with a finish of fresh raspberries, chocolate and cream.

Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18-year-oldA waft of cereal/bran notes and some sherry wood. A little peat smoke and mocha. The finish has a bint of caramel.

Glenfiddich Millennium Reserve 21-year-oldLovely nose of fresh flowers, nuts and ripe red plums. Soft and quite chocolatey to start; velvety, with a mix of vanilla pod and coffee bean on the very long finish. Subtly charming.

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