The story of Glenfiddich: From wish to create best dram in valley to fifth-generation family business

Run by the fifth generation of the Grant-Gordon family, Glenfiddich is one of the few Scottish distilleries to remain family-owned

December 26, 2020 / 11:00 AM IST

His wish was simple. He wanted to create the best dram in the valley. So with the help of his seven sons, two daughters, and a single stonemason, William Grant began to hand-build a distillery to fulfill his lifelong ambition. Before the year was completed, on Christmas day in 1887, the first drop of whiskey oozed out from the copper sills of the family distillery.

No fairytale stuff but this was the beginning of Glenfiddich, the phenomenal whisky from Scotland (Glenfiddich means 'Valley of the Deer' in Gaelic).

Scotland had already established itself as the epicenter of all things whisky by then and soon Glenfiddich shot into the forefront of a vast array of glittering bottles that attracted avid fans all around the world. It was born to conquer. When prohibition hit the US in 1923, almost all major distillers in the world either stepped on their brakes or just vamoosed from the market forever. But not Glenfiddich. Under the guidance of Grant's grandson Grant Gordon, the family cheekily increased their production even amidst the ruins.

Charles Gordon, Grant's great-grandson introduced a Coopersmith at the distillery in 1957 followed by the set-up of a cooperage. Glenfiddich is still one of the few distilleries in the world that makes its barrels on site.

The first thing about Glenfiddich that catches your attention is its triangular-shaped bottle. It was created by German designer Hans Schleger, who already had experience in designing posters for British propaganda during the Second World War.

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Until the 1960s, the world outside Scotland was sipping blended Scotch. Glenfiddich, arguably, let the doors open and let the secret known. It was the first distillery to export single malt, already familiar to Scots,  referring to it as 'Straight Malt' and 'Pure Malt'. It meant the whisky you drink comes from a single distillery and only contained malt. Today you know how imposing a Single Malt is in the world of spirits.

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October 2001 was a landmark for Glenfiddich for it released the world's oldest single malt from a single cask named 843. After 64 years, meditating inside the cask, the drink was finally found to be ready for bottling by malt master David Stewart (though the cask could yield enough stuff to fill only 61 bottles).

The phenomenal 'Experimental Series' initiated by Glenfiddich was also a huge success. Pushing whisky boundaries, bending many a rule in aging the spirit like letting it sit in unconventional barrels for a period, the distillery could pull off a range of whiskies with refreshing tastes.

While craft-beer casks yielded Glenfiddich IPA (India Pale Ale) imbuing our whisky with zesty notes of citrus and the subtle tang of fresh hops, casks that previously held Canadian ice wine helped Glenfiddich to create its phenomenal edition - Winter Storm.

Don't assume that it is easy to throw any Glenfiddich whisky into a used cask and wait for its previous inhabitant to lend its taste. In the case of Winter Storm, malt master Brian Kinsman spent months to learn that only older whiskies can stand up to the intense tang of icewine. So they use 21-year Glenfiddich single malt to do the magic. A recent release, Glenfiddich Fire & Cane spends months inside Latin American rum casks before bottling.

Committed to its avid customers in India, Glenfiddich had also launched a special India specific initiative handpicking unique and exotic Indian ingredients and blending them with top Glenfiddich whiskies. Taste the Glenfiddich 12-year-old and see whether you can tease apart the bouquet of Indian flavours - spicy Malabar clove, Kerala black pepper, cinnamon from the Western Ghats, bitter orange from Nagpur, Kashmir peach, spiced coriander from Karnataka, and Mysore jasmine.

Run by the fifth generation of the Grant-Gordon family, Glenfiddich is one of the few Scottish distilleries to remain family-owned.
Manu Remakant
first published: Dec 26, 2020 11:00 am

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