Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix

Glenfiddich Snow PhoenixHere is my first review of a malt from the best known of all the Scottish distilleries, Glenfiddich. I have already recorded my thoughts about the low reputation of Glenfiddich (and Glenlivet) among whisky geeks and so will not repeat myself here. The Snow Phoenix may in fact be their most lauded malt in recent years among said whisky geeks and that’s despite it being a NAS (“No Age Stated”) release.

There is a story behind the release, and unlike most stories behind NAS whiskies this one is real. A couple of years ago heavy snow in Scotland resulted in the roofs of some Glenfiddich warehouses collapsing and to save the exposed stock the distillery created a special vatting from those barrels, which were of different ages and types. The resulting whisky was dubbed the “Snow Phoenix” and came in a tin large enough to house the entire population of the city of Phoenix. It was very well received, and unfortunately, but also entirely predictably, it led to Glenfiddich releasing yet more fancifully named whisky (this time with manufactured stories–see the so-called “Cask of Dreams”, and the “Age of Discovery”). I have not tried those others but quite liked the Snow Phoenix, and thus saved a large sample for future reference; and the future is now.

Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix (47.6%; from a reference sample saved from my own bottle)

I believe this included whisky from sherry and bourbon casks.

Nose: Toasted wheat, toasted wood and then expanding honeyed malt. Not a huge amount of sherry influence; not at first anyway. Well, not at second or third either. Some wood resin and then after about five minutes there are hints of orange peel and mild raisiny sweetness. Some lime too and a pervasive dustiness. With time the fruit begins to get more concentrated: orange and lime but also something else–maybe apricot? Water dulls it a little.

Palate: Starts out a little bit blank but after a few beats here come the fruits. Lime and lime peel are the featured attraction but there’s a bit of apricot and some plum jam too. All framed by toasted wood. Nice texture too. Gets maltier with time. Water doesn’t do anything for it.

Finish: Medium. It’s the lime that lingers at first, turning a little musky, and then the wood comes out as well–more polished now than toasted–and there’s some woody spice too and some white pepper.

Comments: This is not a whisky that sets off fireworks and there’s not a terrible lot going on but it is perfectly balanced and deeply pleasurable. Not much sherry influence. A little more intensity of fruit on the palate and it would have edged into the high 80s. Better without water, I think.

Rating: 86 points.

6 thoughts on “Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix

  1. I still have an unopened bottle in the bunker along with the first Cask of Dreams. What was notable was Snow Phoenix’s price at $80. Today a limited release like that would probably be over $100.

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  2. Rumours about the age, or proportional aged content, of NAS-labeled bottles, aren’t worth the paper they’re not written on. One never knows the source of these rumours, much less the accuracy of the information, but I’ve yet to hear one which didn’t talk the value of the whisky up instead of down. There IS supposed to be 30 y.o. in Snow Phoenix, but without information about content proportion all it amounts to is an impressive age to mention for PR purposes.

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  3. I was surprised by how much I liked this one. It is very subtle and gently revealing. I remember when it hit the market. The packaging was a turnoff, but I ended up buying a couple of cases after I tasted it. I’ll be glad to have a few bottles in a dozen years to enjoy.

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