We were lucky to have the opportunity to speak with Struan regarding some of the iconic bottlings within The Perfect Collection and find out more about Glenfiddich's reputation for producing some of the greatest single malts.
Struan Grant Ralph is the current Global Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich. Struan has worked for William Grant & Sons since 2011 in various roles which have taken him across the world. He began as Brand Ambassador for Glenfiddich in the Asia-Pacific market for two years before spending a further three in the American market. In 2016, Struan was appointed "Global Ambassador" which sees him travel the world to share the culture, history and stories about Glenfiddich whisky.
What are defining characteristics of the Glenfiddich brand that has led to it being held in such high esteem across the globe?
Glenfiddich was a pioneer of the Single Malt category and has continued to innovate throughout its 133 year history. It also has a wealth of aging stock, a legacy of family ownership for 6 generations, and a rich variety of cask types of great integrity.
How has Glenfiddich maintained their reputation for excellence so consistently over the decades whilst other brands’ fortunes might have waxed and waned?
The handing over of skills from generation to generation - our craftsmen and woman spend decades perfecting the art of whisky creation and those skills are handed down through the years. We have an incredible team working at the distillery – passionate whisky makers – all of whom are dedicated to making the best dram in the valley!
What do you think the range of expressions produced by Glenfiddich can offer both those looking to consume and those looking to collect?
A great deal of interest. On one hand for those wishing to collect we have snapshots of whisky history, never to be repeated like the 1991 release of our first ever 50 year old. For those wishing to consume, we have the opportunity to taste some the first ever Single Malts to ever carry that name outside of Scotland.
THE RARE COLLECTION BOTTLINGS
Could you provide an overview of what makes the Glenfiddich 1937 Rare Collection 64 Year significant in the wider context of the Glenfiddich range?
The oldest ever release from Glenfiddich, incredibly limited, I’ve personally only ever seen a handful “out in the wild”. The liquid in this bottle is testament to an era of whisky making which will never be seen again, the malt would have been dried on a kiln, which is now our malt barn restaurant, the spirit would have run from coal fired stills in Still house One which no longer exists. Truly a standout bottle, and one of only a handful that still exist today.
What is the aim of the Rare Collection? How are casks selected for the range?
Rare collection are standout casks hand selected by our Malt Master that show particularly great Glenfiddich characteristics. These have been bottled under the Vintage Reserve or Rare Collection since the 1990s and within that range are some perfect examples of what single cask Glenfiddich, at cask strength can offer.
Is there a cask to rival the 1937 still secreted away in the Glenfiddich warehouses?
Yes there are one or two! But we’re not telling you where!!
The 40 Year Old is also part of the Rare Collection range – could you tell us more about this bottling and how it fits into the Rare Collection range?
This for me is a stand out bottling and certainly one for those looking to consume. The liquid here is remnant vatted all the way back to 1925. Remnant vatting meaning each release of 40 years old has a DNA that stretched back almost 100 years. One of the richest, and most complex drams I’ve ever had the pleasure to enjoy.
RARE VINTAGE EXAMPLES FROM GLENFIDDICH
The 1936 Peter J. Russell and Pure Malt bottlings are wonderful examples of single malt released at a time when blends dominated the whisky market. Are you able to provide an insight into the position of Glenfiddich within the wider marketplace in the middle of the twentieth century?
Really interesting time for us as a distillery. Blends dominated the market, and indeed the WGS business with Standfast being the flagship offering from the family around the world. These early Glenfiddich Pure Malts represent our first forays into bottling and marketing Single Malt whisky, under the curation of Sandy and Charlie Grant Gordon. Young mavericks of their day and arguably the godfathers of the modern Single Malt category.
Vintage single malt whisky is a highly collectible area of the secondary whisky market. Has the production of single malt always been the focus for Glenfiddich?
When the distillery is first built every single drop went to blending houses. After the Patterson crash William Grant sought out more liquid independence with the creation of Stand Fast and the building of Balvenie. Since the 1960s Glenfiddich switched from being a malt to blend to being singularly focused on Single Malt, especially so in the last decade.
Are these bottles typical of Glenfiddich releases at that time?
It’s very rare to see a release for one particular wholesaler or distributor as is the case with the Peter J Russell.
ICONIC GLENFIDDICH RELEASES
Could you tell us about another Glenfiddich of a great age, the 50 Year Old (1991 bottling)? In addition to its age, what make such a sought after and special bottle?
The first ever 50yr old released by Glenfiddich. Only 500 bottles were ever released. The casks themselves are pieces of liquid history: 9 casks from the 1930s. Nine casks in honour of each of William and Elizabeth Grant’s nine children.
Are there any stories surrounding the Vintage Reserve bottles that are in The Perfect Collection: Part Two?
I don’t have much story telling on these unfortunately. I suppose anything pre 1973 is really interesting as before then we didn’t really standardize our still shape. It wasn’t until the building of still house 2 that we actually work with the size/shape that you see today. Our longest serving craftsmen - Dennis McBain, coppersmith for over 50years, started in 1959 so maybe he’ll buy that one! And in 1963 maybe a young David Stewart witnessed the rolling of that cask in his first year!
What do the various series, such as the Rare Colleciton and Vintage Reserves, offer a collector?
They are all “one and done” releases from a distillery that doesn’t do that very often, almost never in fact. They show whisky making at Glenfiddich that is very much a product of a bygone era – for example coal fired stills and peated malt from the Glenfiddich kiln.