When William Grant and his nine children built their first distillery in Strathspey, Scotland, in 1886, they could not have imagined that 135 years later, they would have the world’s best-selling single-malt whisky. Yet that is the reality for William Grant & Sons, the company that’s been making the iconic Glenfiddich for the past three centuries.
Still owned by the Grant family, the company produces 12 Scotches, ranging in age from 12 to 64 years. Managed by the fifth generation of the Grant family, Glenfiddich has won scores of awards over the years, and made appearances in both film and television.
We chatted with David Allardice, a native Scotsman and full-time brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, to find out how the makers of this legendary whisky feels about being the most wanted Scotch on the planet.
Cigar & Spirits Magazine: How rewarding is it that Glenfiddich is recognized as an iconic brand?
David Allardice: To be considered iconic is incredibly rewarding of course, but even more so, it’s humbling. Glenfiddich stands where it does today because of the work of six generations, 130 years of family ownership, and so many brilliant employees who make up the Glenfiddich extended family. While it’s easy for a brand to get lost in its own awards and accolades, the real honor for Glenfiddich today is to be able to carry on the tradition of every person in this brand’s history that brought us to this point.
What are the standards that inform the growth of the brand today?
As the most-awarded single malt Scotch whisky, we’ve never stood still. To this day, we’re still pursuing our founder’s goal to be the “best dram in the valley.” Since 1887, the brand has shown that we are not afraid to take risks and try something new in order to continue to evolve and grow stronger. This theory has become central to allowing the brand to stand out against strong competitors over the years.
To maintain consistent innovation, Brian Kinsman the Glenfiddich Malt Master since 2009, continues to learn from past malt masters to preserve the brand’s distinct style, while simultaneously using his background in science to find incredible new ways to drive innovation and brand growth.
Please share with our readership about the history and prestige of the distillery.
Glenfiddich is one of only a handful of distilleries still run by the same family that built it back in 1887. For 133 years, we’ve honored our heritage, including the tried-and-true processes of whisky-making that built the brand into what it is today. But beyond tradition, it’s important to note that for 133 years, the brand has been driven by a spirit of innovation. That spirit has been the key to Glenfiddich’s longevity, and in more recent years, it’s been absolutely pivotal for us to continue driving the category forward.
Who would you say is the typical Glenfiddich drinker these days?
Today’s whisky drinkers are more diverse than ever, so we couldn’t fairly single out one archetype of “The Glenfiddich drinker.” As a brand committed to driving the growth of the category, we think this is a great thing. It shows that “the finest dram in the valley” has successfully traveled farther beyond the valley than could have been imagined 133 years ago when we were founded. Today, Glenfiddich drinkers—and whisky drinkers in general—have discriminating tastes and put value in products that are authentic and well crafted. They are curious by nature, and like to explore different flavors, and understand the heritage behind the products they enjoy. That’s why the balance of tradition and innovation has remained so critical to our continued success and growth.
What are the biggest sellers?
Glenfiddich has one of the most diverse ranges of whiskies in the category, starting at our Original 12 Year Old expression and going all the way to our luxurious and incredibly rare 50 Year Old expression. We also have excited limited edition releases like 21 Year Old Winter Storm that have become instant collectables. However, our Original 12 Year Old remains the bestselling single malt Scotch whisky in the world, and is the standard for the fruit forward Speyside style that Scotch whisky drinkers around the world love.
How does Glenfiddich go about pushing forward while maintaining its core values?
Since 1887, the brand has followed a founding “family philosophy” with the goal of continuing to push boundaries while producing the highest quality whisky possible. Perhaps the strongest evidence of how we have pushed the industry forward comes from the family’s drive and determination in creating the Single Malt Scotch Whisky category, back in 1963. In following this philosophy, we don’t think in the standard business cycles, but rather in generations, which allows Glenfiddich to maintain its legacy of category changing innovations, while preserving the tradition that sustained the brand for 133 years.
Which expression of Glenfiddich do you recommend pairing with a cigar?
I’m very pleased to share with you my ultimate go-to Scotch and cigar pairing. My favorite expression of Glenfiddich, the Solera 15 Year, a perfectly balanced, rich and flavorful whisky that rewards you with the taste of orchard fruit, honey and a subtle yet lingering ginger spice. A dram complimented perfectly by one of my all time favorite cigars, Alec Bradley’s famous Prensado.
The Prensado by Alec Bradley Cigars is constructed with great attention to detail. The cigar is layered with subtle flavor variations, from the initial taste of cocoa followed by a hint of nuttiness, finishing with vanilla bean and espresso. This pairing is full of complex flavors but so well balanced, an experience so enjoyable, you’ll want to revisit time and time again. With that said, this is just one of the many incredible Scotch and cigar pairings in a world of seemingly endless choices. I encourage you to enjoy your own experimentation to find the right pairing for you.
What should our audience be on the lookout for in 2023?
The Time Reimagined Collection will be rolling out across various markets and consists of three extraordinary single malt whiskies that each capture a moment in time, Glenfiddich 30, 40 and 50 Year Old. The rarest within this highly sought-after collection is the 50 Year Old; a stunning portrayal of Simultaneous Time–exploring the parallel and complex conditions and effects that have influenced this refined liquid. The 40 Year Old represents Cumulative Time–drawing attention to the layers of accumulated flavor within its liquid, made possible via the remnant vatting process first pioneered by Glenfiddich. Completing the collection is the 30 Year Old Suspended Time–the moment when the Malt Master suspends the development of the whisky, showcasing the purest expression of the distiller’s character.
That’s a very exciting collection. Thank you for getting us up to speed, David.
Thank you as well. Cheers.
by Audrey Pavia