SpiritsThe Collection

Time travelling through the Glenfiddich Archive Collection

Amid a perfect winter wonderland, Speyside’s Glenfiddich launched its historical Archive Collection with festive fanfare. Kristiane Sherry was there to share in the spectacle – and taste back through the distillery’s decades

Words by Kristiane Sherry

Three Glenfiddich whisky casks
The Collection
(Photo: Lateef Photography)

Glenfiddich is a storied distiller. Its history stretches back almost 140 years, and to this day it remains family owned. Whisky geeks can obsess over the scale of the site (if you include Balvenie and Kininvie, it’s the largest in Scotland). Others are enamoured by how its different still shapes and the use of Solera-style vatting informs the liquid’s character. For some, it’s the stories of the humans who have shaped the distillery that are the most compelling. But there’s one remarkable narrative that doesn’t get enough airtime: that the very first spirit from the Glenfiddich stills flowed on Christmas Day 1887.

It’s a fitting tale, given the timing of the launch of the Glenfiddich Archive Collection. We would be the first in the world to discover the remarkable new line-up of single malts launching in the coming weeks – and we just so happened to be visiting during an unseasonably wintery snap ahead of the festive season.

The snow falls thick and fast. Soon, Speyside is blanketed in that soft, quilted cover that brings an enchanting quiet. The Glenfiddich stillhouses, warehouses and distillery buildings take on new forms beneath the white aura; a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of snow and steam and that strange luminescence from the crispness of it all. It seems serendipitous, as the three releases are said to be symbolic of the Scotch distillery’s aim to capture a moment in time.

glenfiddich distillery in the snow
(Photo: Lateef Photography)

Indeed, these three single cask bottlings – 1987, 1984 and 1973 – are each the equivalent of a letter from the past, giving a glimpse into the whisky-making of yesteryear. The trio celebrates the ‘family-run distillery, incredible array of casks and great liquid style,’ says Glenfiddich global brand ambassador Struan Grant Ralph.

While these are serious releases, the distinctiveness of each shows they were bottled to be enjoyed

‘By releasing hand-picked rare casks, we are looking to the foundations of the brand to inform the future,’ malt master Brian Kinsman explains as the bottles are opened and drams are poured inside the former maltings. For such illustrious liquid – inherently rare due to age and the nature of single casks – the atmosphere is light, convivial. Festive, even. It’s fitting. While these are serious releases, and the scarcity and price means the collector will be front and centre, the distinctiveness of each shows they were bottled to be enjoyed.

glenfiddich archive collection casks
(Photo: Lateef Photography)

Let’s start with Glenfiddich Archive Collection 1987. It’s the one that feels most timely – and the easiest moment to capture in a bottle. The refill American hogshead was laid down on Christmas Day in 1987 to mark 100 years of the distillery. The cask choice mirrors the sentiment perfectly. This is a whisky that’s Glenfiddich through and through. Crunchy green apple and pear, a sweet nuttiness, exactingly balanced. ‘It was a whole year of celebration for the distillery,’ says archivist Andy Fairgrieve, who delved into the cask ledgers to choose the whiskies. More than three decades on, that milestone is being celebrated in the most fitting of ways.

The distillery character is still there, but so too are dark chocolate, coffee – the kind of deep, earthy notes that only time in barrel will reveal

The 1984 expression evokes the role of the cooperage onsite at Glenfiddich. While sherry casks pop up throughout the portfolio, Kinsman and former head cooper Ian McDonald both agree the prominence of the sherry influence here was quite unusual. The distillery character is still there, but so too are dark chocolate, coffee – the kind of deep, earthy notes that only time in barrel will reveal. This darker side of Glenfiddich is a rarity indeed.

Finally, the 1973, which is ethereal both in nature and availability. It’s a delicate creature, all gentle aromatics and meandering notes. Spend time with this and you’ll be rewarded richly. It’s a grown-up Glenfiddich that brings poise, elegance and a depth rarely found, a treasure with a price tag to match: £33,500.

glenfiddich distillery in the snow
(Photo: Lateef Photography)

All three invite you to consider how the distillery, and even whisky itself, has evolved over time. The commissioning of a new, cathedral-like stillhouse is the latest Glenfiddich chapter. But the original stillhouse, where all three of these expressions started life, still stands, and has seen so much life. Time feels elastic when it comes to whisky maturation.

After the tasting, we head out into the snowy night for a short walk over to Warehouse 8. Inside are the three very casks the Archive Collection was drawn from. It’s another powerful moment where times collide, with the flavours and philosophies from the past in front of us in physical form. That’s it: casks are flavour’s time capsules. And through Glenfiddich’s Archive Collection, we are invited to discover the spirit that flowed before.

Glenfiddich Archive Collection

The Glenfiddich Archive Collection launches shortly in 2023. To register interest, sign-ups are live now on the Glenfiddich website