Greg Dillon – Editor and founder of GreatDrams, is fresh off the plane from Canada where he got to witness the newly released third expression in the Glenfiddich Experimental series, Winter Storm. This is an incredibly apt name, considering this Whisky is matured in icewine casks. Glenfiddich Winter Storm is available from their online distillery shop now, priced £199. Before we crack on with the tasting notes, a little science on icewine.
What is icewine?
Icewine is an interesting type of dessert wine that is made from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. Glenfiddich’s Master distiller Brian Kinsman was inspired by the Peller Estate in Canada, where the winery harvests their grapes in the middle of the night, when temperatures can reach -10˚C.
The grapes are so hard when their crushed that it is not unknown for presses to break during the process. Only a small amount of grape juice from these types of grapes can actually be used to make icewine and it takes longer for the wine to mature (around 3-6 months). The resulting liquid is incredibly sweet with a lot of sugars and tannins, so it’s unsurprising that this is a dessert wine.
These are the types of wine made at the Peller Estate that inspired Kinsman to mature his malt in icewine casks. Wine casks have long been used to mature Whisky, but due to the intense nature of icewine, this particular combination had never been tried. The key was to find a Whisky that could withstand the highly concentrated sweetness of the icewine casks. Kinsman brought in the help of Craig McDonald, Peller Estates VP of winemaking, to source some of the best French oak icewine casks available.
“It was a privilege to work with Brian on this experiment. We go to extreme lengths to produce our intensely sweet icewine 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.” – Craig McDonald
The Rest of the Series
This is an exciting moment for Glenfiddich as it is the third release in their experimental series, with their IPA and Project XX. Glenfiddich IPA saw the distillery doing a similar experiment by maturing their Whisky in bespoke IPA barrels. The IPA itself was created specially for Glenfiddich, to ensure that the flavours were just right.
This experiment, like with Winter Storm captures the intense flavours of another liquid and allows these to be incorporated into some very fine malt. Project XX saw 20 big names in the Whisky industry come together to taste different malts, choosing only a certain few to be put through for blending.
This resulted in a sweet and complex liquid that has been hand chosen by people who know exactly what a good dram should taste like. This is an exciting direction for the distillery and shows their drive to move a centuries old industry forward.
Winter Storm opens with a nose of lots of tangy tropical fruits and sweet notes. Pineapple, mango and apricot all come through, with a bold intensity. They are full of life and bursting with flavour. There is also a lot of white sugar and vanilla flavours that act as softer notes to the stronger fruity flavours.
The wine is obvious on the nose and blossoms on the palate. It really grows and it is clear why a 21 Year Old was needed to deal with the intensity of flavour. The icewine lends itself to the mouth feel, which is drying and smooth. More white sugar and caramelised fruits come out, with pineapple and grape taken the fore.
There is a lovely hint of Turkish delight that adds floral gentleness to the palate. This is a wonderfully complex and intriguing dram. The finish does not linger long, but is refreshing and mellow, with lots of sweetness.
Author Greg Dillon has just released his first book, The GreatDrams of Scotland charting the rich history of Scotch whisky, including Glenfiddich distillery stories. His book can be ordered through Amazon and his site.
Now I want to hear from you. What is your favourite Glenfiddich whisky? Will you be putting the Winterstorm on your wishlist this Christmas? Leave a comment in the box below.