Glenfiddich 21yo “Havana Reserve” (40%, OB, Circa 2003)

And here we have an old, and somewhat controversial, Glenfiddich that was totally matured in boxes that once held cigars. Oops, I mean, casks that once held Cuban Rum. Cuban Rums is a light Spanish style Rum which doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot of aroma. Rum casks weren’t used much for finishing Whisky, and even today distillers and bottlers tend to prefer the obvious Bourbon and Sherry casks. Especially today, other casks are used as well, from fortified wines like Port and Madeira and red and white, sweet and dry Wines. So a Rum cask you say? Yes, we have had more of those on these pages. A fairly recent Benriach comes to mind, to name but one. Controversial? Yes. Problems arose when Whisky like this was sent to the US of A. They still had an Cuban Embargo, so more cigars for us, as can be read on these pages as well, oops I slipped up again. There still was an Cuban Embargo back then, so no Whisky with the word “Havana” on the label was allowed into the country.

Glenfiddich and The Balvenie have the same owners, William Grant & Sons. Yup, those from Hendrick’s Gin as well. Bad boys down there! Bad boys since they also decided to sue our beloved New Zealand Whisky Company for blatantly stealing the “Double Wood” words and misguiding the poor public, who now must believe that Balvenie Double Wood is the same as the NZWC’s Doublewood, and New Zealand is somewhere in the Speyside region…

William Grant was looking for the perfect Rum casks for their Glenfiddich and considered casks that once held Rums from Venezuela (Spanish style), Guyana (Demerara Rum a heavy English style Rum) and some others. Finally Rum from Sancti Spiritus was chosen to fill up the casks for two years, After two years the Rum was replaced with Whisky for a six month finish.

If I’m not mistaken, the first release was called Havana Reserve and the second was called Gran Reserva. Rumour has it, that for this second release the same casks were re-used, thus explaining reports of the Gran Reserva being lighter than the initial release. A third version was released. Just to be absolutely sure, this Whisky was not finished in Cuban Rum casks, but in casks that once held Dominican Rum. The label now mentions Carribean Rum finish in stead of Cuban Rum finish. Later, subsequent batches simply were called Rum cask finish, so absolutely nothing could be misunderstood and when changing Rums the label can stay the same.

Glenfiddich 21yo Havana ReserveColor: Full gold.

Nose: Very aromatic. Creamy, toffee, nutty, thick and chewy. Next a floral layer which at times is quite perfumy, with great earthy undertones (given by the Rum cask). Vanilla and restrained wood. Half dried grass is noticeable, but covered under a thick semi-sweet layer of aromatics. Fruity, baked banana and dried sweet apricot. In the distance there is even a hint of licorice. But the Rum, is the Rum noticeable? Yes If you know the style of Rum the Cubans make, and you know this Whisky is finished in Cuban Rum cask, than yes, its noticeable, otherwise you must have some experience in tasting to smell and taste it. The Rum upped the aromatics and the chewyness a bit, as well as the sweetness. Great nose.

Taste: Sweet with lots of toffee. Earthy and “green”. Broken off branch and fresh tree sap. The baked banana returns. It’s a big Malt. It is overwhelming in fruit and floral notes. Has some bitter wood and slightly burned edges to it. Wood obviously. Oak, fresh oak and even some pencil. The body of the Whisky already shows it will not be as complex as the nose. However the biggest problem, relatively speaking of course, is the partial disintegration towards the finish. It’s like a band just before breaking up. Some aroma’s don’t want to work with each other anymore, and get separated from each other. Still in the fold though, but more apart. Underneath the woody bitter note and on top some acidity. Short finish, which surprised me since it’s a bigger Glenfiddich than usual, and this has aged for a whopping 21 years, you know. Not a lot happening in the aftertaste. So on entry I was quite happy with the performance of the 40% ABV. but the finish needed some more.

This is a beauty. Excellent smelling Glenfiddich. Tastewise, well, not at the same level of greatness as the nose, then again, it was (since it was bottled some time ago, and since has been discontinued) a mass-produced Whisky aiming at the public already gained by the rest of the Glenfiddich bottlings, without scaring them away. With this in mind, they did what they could, to keep this public and at the same time be a bit more adventurous.

Points: 84

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