Being a whisky enthusiast, I’ve signed up to many blogs and many, many more twitter accounts to share thoughts, experiences and notes. One aspect that I’ve been itching to participate in is a live tweet tasting and luckily enough in April, a message came through from Steve at The Whisky Wire to say that the WU name had been pulled out of the hat! The dram in question was the new expression in Glenfiddich’s burgeoning Experimental Series: Glenfiddich IPA.
The long story short is that this expression has been matured in used beer casks that had previously contained an IPA brewed nearby to the Speyside giant. Interestingly the beer itself is not actually commercially available for consumption but this tweet tasting did also include a bottle of the brew in question: their enigmatically entitled “Brew Two”. The package also came with a vacuum-sealed slice of blood orange peel – this was to form part of the third drinking element for the tweet tasting, namely a Glenfiddich IPA “serve” (see video here)
So how did it all play out? Well, all participants needed to be ready for 7pm, with their packages ready for serving up the whisky neat (I had a Glencairn glass at the ready like I am led to believe that a true whisky sampling boss should do), the beer (tulip glass charged) and then the serve (housed in a tumbler with ice waiting in the wings).
Being my first tweet tasting, I checked in with the chosen few early doors using the hashtag “#GlenfiddichIPA” just before 7pm. Steve (@TheWhiskyWire) then provided the preamble and also introduced the Glenfiddich Rep Mark Thomson (@SingleMaltMark) who would be fielding the tweeters’ queries throughout the hour long session.
Sure enough with 7pm the nosing notes started to fill up my hashtag-specific feed. I’ve put my tasting notes below to separate this blog out but I was also pitching in with what I could smell. Whilst predominantly orangey/zesty to my nose, it was interesting to see what everyone else was sensing and sure enough the power of suggestion meant that I started picking up suggestions of apples, malt biscuits etc. Someone did note along the way that it seemed like it was becoming an elaborate tasting note competition, which, to be fair, it did start to feel like. I did want to believe though that there were probably some more refined noses and palates involved in the session, and, as I noted, one of the beauties of whisky tasting is that it is always subjective and you are always correct with your own opinion and experiences.
The other thing I noted – maybe just being a bit too keen – is that it seemed to take quite a while before anyone started to actually taste the whisky! I appreciate the need to “let it breathe” etc but I was getting twitchy – especially after a full working day. When we did move onto the tasting, the notes started to fly in with some more and more loquacious notes. I actually got wrapped up in it too and was guilty of letting the dram start to do some of the talking – especially when I noted that the slight spice transformed the Jaffa cake tastes to Jamaica cake ones! If that’s what I thought though, then surely I was right too?! Well, it was fun anyway.
Some notes then followed about the aftertaste and finish before we then moved onto the beer. Not surprisingly for a whisky tasting, the notes on the beer were fewer in number and variety, but we were plied with more information about the teaming up of the distillery and brewery guys involved in making this ‘experiment’. For instance, we were informed that it was a deliberately bitter IPA to try and get those notes into the barrels for the whisky to pick up.
What became noticeable about the tweet tasting was the benefit of the MC duties by the pros. Being curated by both the tweet tasting rep and the distillery rep meant that you were constantly being fed legit info in addition to the melee of everyone’s thoughts. What’s more was that our queries were almost instantly answered and sparked mini conversations were available to all readers. In fact, it turns out that a lot can be told in just 140 characters. For example, when I enquired as to why it was called “Brew Two”, Mark from Glenfiddich quickly responded to note that several brews were made by the brewery and the experiment team (Brian and Seb) with the second being the batch of choice.
Maybe because it was a whisky-focussed group, the rate at which people were tweeting their notes started to vary with time (especially when beer was grabbing the limelight). Some still seemed to be really lingering on the first dram, but to be fair, everyone did seem to diligently wait for the proper instruction to move on, rather than plough ahead.
When it came to the third drink, the opinions really started to become more diverse. Being a first timer, I couldn’t tell if it was just because of the drink taking hold in the contributors or because it was down to the fact that the drink was to involve ice. Before the session, when talking to a friend about the upcoming tasting, we pondered if serving a whisky with ice and slice was going to ruffle the feathers of some single malt purists amongst the readership but the comments were (largely) favourable. Whilst it did make for a really refreshing drink/cocktail, it did seem however that the final drink seemed to get fewer comments again. Or maybe I was just getting more inebriated and just missed them.
One useful thing that I did manage to remember and practice was to fight the urge to finish each drink and leave a little bit for a quick side-by-side comparison towards the end, which did serve me well (so to speak) from a “tasting session” perspective.
By the time that 8pm arrived, the session seemed to have shot by and all participants parted ways with pleasantries and praise, and I’ll take the opportunity again here to thank Steve at The Whisky Wire for allowing me to partake.
Overall, I felt that it was a great first experience. It was informative yet informal; nicely tempered; and ultimately, very satisfying. Definitely something that I’d want to do again. I was a little apprehensive about effectively just sitting and drinking at home, but the use of social media really did make it feel like social drinking.
N: Really sweet nose – light rounded and citrusy with a strong smell of barley sugar sucking sweets (after the nose prickle)
T: Zesty flavours burst out and the orange flavour really delivers leaving a biscuity/cake – like a Jaffa cake.
F: Zest disappears fairly quickly and the remnants leave some gentle spice and ginger and a little oaky dry finish
V: This is a really tasty and moreish dram. Not actually sure how much the IPA Cask influences it though there is a little oaky maybe hoppy aftertaste (power of suggestion?) unless it is extra fruit because there is a big explosion of zest that leaves a battle between citrusy Jaffa cake and spicy Jamaica cake. What I’d love to be able to do is taste the same whisky without the IPA maturation as a comparator to see what the real effect was.
At £45 per bottle, I’m not sure that it’s good enough for me to part with my cash but given that this whisky is very clearly being branded as “Experiment #1” then this is definitely one to watch and very interesting to see Glenfiddich breaking out of the mould.
Overall, it was a pretty crisp, and traditional British-style IPA (challenger hopped) rather than the current hipster-hooking New Zealand or American West Coast hop bomb IPAs. It get better by the mouthful and had a proper “old pub” taste to it.
Glenfiddich IPA Serve
The chilled shock of sipping the ice cold dram really pushes the orange citrus flavour through and the blood orange peel totally rounds it off. So much so that it actually tastes like a cocktail without having any other liquids in it. Like a boozy Capri Sun! On a hot day, this would be a superb, refreshing drink, and quite far from being your standard single malt tasting experience.