UPDATE: Glenfiddich's brand manager points out that the 50ml miniature used in the following review is quite old and that the flavor profile has changed. I have performed a follow-up review.
Archetypes often come in pairs; good/bad; male/female, etc... Yesterday's post recalled Macallan 12 as the sherried archetype of good single malt from my earliest experiences with single malts. Glenfiddich was the bad. As a self-identified beginner I had been steered to a 3 cornered green bottle of no-age-specified Glenfiddich. It had been paler than straw and of a weak insipid character with chalky and sour notes that added years to my journey by inspiring distrust and suspicion. When this was overcome I never returned to Glenfiddich. Once I was gifted another bottle of the no-age-specified stuff and it was the first scotch I ever regifted unopened.
Fast forward to last month when my gracious host who had already plied me with rare Indian rum, top drawer tequila, good malts (Ardbeg and Cragganmore DE), pulled out the Glenfiddich 12 I was open to the idea. It was pale, but more golden than the no age variety. An it wasn't bad. There was sweetness, grass and grain. Thus I came by this miniature - willing to make amends:
Color: pale gold.
Nose: Sweet with heather, gorse, a touch of the flinty mineral taste I recalled - but bracing when better integrated into the mix. There are also some vanilla floral notes that are fresh and appealing.
Entry is sweet and very light. The mouthfeel is ethereally light. There is sweet cereal malt and a grassy meadow note at mid-palate. Then things start to go south. The cereal flavor turns a bit sour towards the finish. It's like I'm tasting an echo of underfinished wort. There's not enough oak to check it (or the oak is too tired). The finish concludes on a sour and chalky note very reminiscent of the primary flavor of the old entry level Glenfiddich (that almost made a white liquor drinker of me). The entry and midpalate of this 12 year stuff is honeyed and way better than that undated material - but the finish is unpleasant and in the same way. To be fair, with extensive time the honeyed aspect begins to tame the sour aspect - but it's too little too late in my book.
It's a walk down memory lane in the wrong neighborhood.
Why this stuff is recommended to newbies I can't understand. It must drive droves away from malt whiskey. It reminds me of the cheap department store telescopes that so many children are given which are impossible to use well and thus turn them off to astronomy. If you need a light and simple scotch, choose a sweet and clean one like the young expressions of Glenfarclas, Glenmorangie, Glengarioch, Macallan fine oak, or a good blend like White Horse, Teacher's Highland Cream, Famous Grouse 12, Douglas XO, Johnny Walker Green, or Gold.