Synonymous with single malt whisky, Glenfiddich may not have been the first distillery to promote itself by bottling its product in this way, but it was certainly the one to take the category to unprecedented heights of awareness and markets worldwide. It did so by concentrating on producing a standard malt whisky with no age statement to be made widely available and appealing to a variety of palates by gently combining sweetness with peatiness in a way whereby they do not negate each other but combine with great elegance.
That all started in 1963 and Glenfiddich quickly became the first truly global single malt brand. By 1969, the owners, William Grant & Sons Limited, had established the first dedicated distillery visitors’ centre. It is now a top class tourist attraction.
The Grants applied much the same promotional muscle to pushing Glenfiddich out into the world as the big blending houses had done with their brands and with much the same success. A good deal of imagination and inventiveness were applied and David Grant was behind much of this, which included the creation of the Glenfiddich awards for authors on food and drink. I was fortunate enough to be an early Glenfiddich Whisky Writer of the Year!
The distillery itself now operates on a massive scale – 28 stills in two still houses – as appropriate for the home of the biggest selling single malt in the world.
The Grants would have been planning their Glenfiddich venture, which opened in 1886, when Alfred Barnard was touring the Speyside distilleries but no mention of it is made in his chronicles. The distillery was getting ready to celebrate its centenary when I made my visit a hundred years later. It has simply gone from strength to strength since then and has launched a large number of commemorative and special expressions in the process, some of which have become quite collectable, such as the ones we have here.
Glenfiddich had an early spin off in the shape of Balvenie, which occupies the same site, as does the much later addition to the estate, Kininvie, which came on stream in 1990.