Funny how whiskies have a habit of creeping up on you, when you least expect it.
Here we are, heading up to Glasgow and a quick cursory glance as we walk past Gatwick Airport's World Of Whiskies revealed something very interesting indeed. Travel retail is clearly a HUGE market for whisky companies and, as we've often mentioned in the past, a proving ground for potentially new products. Admittedly, some of them are destined never to make it past the security scanners into the specialist whisky shops, but occasionally some bottlings (such as Laphroaig's Triple Wood) seem to make a peaty bid for freedom, much to the delight of consumers across the globe.
So it was perhaps rather timely that Glenfiddich decided to do something a little different, in a bid to spring a surprise on the whisky buying traveller.
Glenfiddich are no strangers to the travel retail game. The success of the Age Of Discovery series (see our previous review for more details) has clearly given the Dufftown giants a taste for further exclusive bottlings. And with that in mind, they've drawn on the rich heritage of the distillery. Their brand new travel retail release (which has apparently, according to World Of Whiskies, just hit the shelves this week) harks back to a time when most distilleries were swathed in a rich, pungent peat smoke.
The Glenfiddich 125th Anniversary Edition is a distinct departure to any Glenfiddich expression we've tried before. Bottled with no age statement, the liquid will surprise and delight in equal measure... let's find out why...
Glenfiddich - 125th Anniversary Edition - Travel Retail Exclusive - N.A.S. - 43% - £70
Nose: Hang on... this isn't right, is it? Alongside the familiar notes of rich dried fruit and citrus oranges is a weighty smokiness, mixed with a touch of Islay'esque carbolic soap. That's right - it's truly a smoky devil. In a blind tasting we'd be fairly confident that not a single person sampling it (perhaps excluding the whisky's creator, Brian Kinsman and Glenfiddich's indefatigable ambassador Jamie Milne) would pick this out as a 'Fiddich. The smoke is wonderfully balanced, refined and sweet, partnering the orange zest perfectly. Think a nice big thick slice of buttered toast, slathered liberally in dark, rich, thick cut marmalade, which has been enhanced with a little bit of your favourite peated whisky and you're on the right lines.
Palate: Bang - there it is again, but in greater intensity. The peat smoke partners with rich orange marmalade, dark chocolate, malt extract and notes of dried apricots. The whisky is viscous and sweet on the tongue initially, leading to a drier oaky note further in. Lovely stuff.
Finish: The smoky notes linger, alongside a tart orange zest and a hint of creamy (more familiar) 'Fiddich maltiness.
Overall: Did not expect this, at all. Let us quantify that statement. There's no doubting that this is a well put together whisky, but the additional smokiness really raises the stakes to become an absolute 'must try' dram. For those of you who have wondered what Glenfiddich would be like with a fairly weighty waft of smoke at its heart - this is the moment you've been waiting for. You will of course have to get yourself on a flight somewhere, but leave enough time to drop by W.O.W. Running to gate 55 as the final call for BA2958 to Glasow is announced, with a mouthful of peated whisky isn't advised - as enjoyable as it may seem!