Canadian Cask of Dreams: Single Malt Review

Another bottle of single malt scotch I’ve had opened in my cupboard for about a year is the Canadian Edition of Glenfiddich’s “Cask of Dreams” from 2012. $100 in Canada for the proper 750ml bottle, 48.8% alcohol, no age statement but supposedly no less than 14 years old. Limited to 20 casks, I bought a second bottle as an investment. So in ten years it’ll be worth $150 instead $100.

The whiskey spent its final three months in new American Oak casks and it’s not difficult to taste the young wood on the nose and palate. Chew on a leaf from an oak tree and sip some strong Darjeeling tea and this what you’d get. I’m probably not selling it well with that description, but it’s not bad. It’s a fairly well-aged quality scotch. It’s just a little sharp at first. I enjoyed the new wood smell of it and a few sips of it neat, but it needs some water. I went with maybe two teaspoons.

It’s a spicy single malt, no smoke, not much earthiness, a dry unsweetened baker’s chocolate feel on the tongue, curiously pleasant because of that unusual fresh oak influence that seems to give it a long almost clove-like finish. I liked it more on the nose than the tongue. The first few drams weren’t much different than the last few drams I got from the bottle. It didn’t open up much with water or time. Maybe a little more sweeter, but not much complexity. Was it worth my $100? Nope. But I would offer it up to friends because, although it’s not great, it’s interesting. I’ll give it that.

P.S.: As with most quality single malts, I could change my mind about this one (I still have a few drams left in a small decanting bottle), but my one-year-long overall impression boils down to yes, it’s an usual scotch, pleasant enough, though not quite in the realm of spectacular for my tastes.

Glenfiddich 12 vs 15

I recently bought some Lagavulin 16 which has always been the king of kings and the holiest of holies for me, the earthiest, peatiest, smokiest of scotches, smooth and warm — but I was underwhelmed. The big blast of smoke and peat I’ve come to expect from Lagavulin was gone. It was as if the bottle had been left open for a month and diluted. Is it possible I got a bad bottling of Lagavulin? A huge disappointment.

My current #1 single malt scotch experience is the honey and vanilla smoothness of Aberfeldy 21. I had the impression that sherry was the dominate flavour but apparently that’s vanilla I’m tasting. The jury is still out on that one. Whatever it is, I love it because it’s opening my appreciation for the non-peaty scotches like Glenfiddich 12, a scotch I never expected to get into. I sampled the Glenfiddich 12 and was so impressed that I decided to go for the Glenfiddich 15. After reading mostly favourable reviews and watching Ralphy’s review of the 15, I expected to like it even more than than 12…

…but I don’t. If the Glenfiddich 12 is like biting into a big block of milk chocolate, then Glenfiddich 15 is like biting into an orange with the peel still on it. Perhaps the Glenfiddich 15 is part of a scotch family that I just don’t get yet. I don’t know.

The 15 is solera matured and I’m pretty that’s why it doesn’t work for me. The solera process more or less siphons off older whiskey during maturation and replaces it with younger whiskey, supposedly to create a marriage of flavours that keeps the whiskey fresh and spicy. It’s not a bad whiskey, but I can tell I don’t like spicy. The 12 has a slight bite but warms while it goes down. The 15 burns compared to the 12. The 12 has a sweet softness in the mouth and a slightly delayed old oak, aromatic sherry finish. (I appreciate any scotch that hits me with a delayed pleasant after taste.) The 15 has a sharp citrus delivery, overwhelming the sherry that barely makes it through to the finish. The 12 smells like an old musky log cabin where someone’s baking a chocolate cake. The 15 smells more like sap, though there’s a touch of sweetness hiding in the corner. I’m sure there’s more complexity to the 15 if you reach for it, but it doesn’t register on my palate. The Glenfiddich 15 seems only slightly more exceptional than, say, a Glenlivet 12.

A 750ml bottle of Glenfiddich 12 is $44 at my local store. The Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera is $56.

UPDATE (March 22/13): I had more of the 15 last night and it was a different experience. None of the citrus burn was present in the nose or palate. That seemed to allow room for a soft sherry sweetness to seep through, much like the 12. I’ll have to remember to hold off on judging a single malt until after I’ve let the bottle breathe a bit. I had a similar experience with a Glenlivet 18. The whiskey left a hard liquor burn on the tongue when I first opened the bottle, but it smoothed out considerably after about a week and three or four drams had been removed. I’ll update again after I’ve given the 15 another go.

UPDATE (June 25/13): I didn’t think I would buy another bottle of the Solera 15, and I haven’t, but it’s not at all a bad scotch, definitely one I’d be glad to try again (and I’m pretty sure I’d would choose it over the unusual though not complex Canadian “Cask of Dreams” Glenfiddich). My first impression of the 15 wasn’t exactly a glowing review, but I’ve since learned that most single malts open up significantly after four or five solid drams have been removed from the bottle and that is clearly the case here. The Solera doesn’t have a long complex warming finish, but the nose is sharp and sappy yet sweet and deep, so pleasant that I want to keep smelling it. In the mouth, I taste toffee and fruit and fresh wood that melts into the tongue without burning. I understand now why Ralphy likes it so much.

Is Glenfiddich 12 Underrated?

I was never a fan of Glenfiddich 12. It seemed like a go-to cheap end single malt for drinkers more keen on getting drunk than savouring the flavour and sensations of the scotch. But having sampled some from a 50ml bottle recently, I’m beginning to sing a different tune. This stuff may be underrated. My immediate tasting notes, if you want to call them that: “Deep vanilla nose and flavour with some light sweet sherry thrown in for good measure. Nothing too complicated but satisfying. A one hit wonder but a good hit. A bit of burn in the aftertaste but not bad at all. I’m pleasantly surprised. May be better than the Aberfeldy 12.” This is what Ralfy had say about it:

I’m beginning to sing a different tune in general for my appreciation of single malts, favouring the smooth sherry infused scotches over the peaty, smoky Islay scotches which have traditionally been my favourites. My notes go on like this: “I didn’t see this coming. I think I’m coming to appreciate sherry more. Just took a dash of Aberfeldy 21 to compare. It’s the comparing that makes me appreciate the scotches more. I keep saying it, but it’s true. The dash of Aberfeldy 21 has sherry, but you can tell it’s a well matured scotch because there’s a delay and then it hits you. I love that delay.”

I was so surprised by the Glenfiddich, I’m tempted to get a bottle of the limited edition Glenfiddich “Cask of Dreams” to replace my Aberfeldy 21 which isn’t likely to last much longer. I don’t know why the peaty scotches aren’t doing it for me like they used to, but I’m not complaining.