Review: Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix

It’s one of the most-requested products that I review here at Drinkhacker, and I was finally able to cajole Glenfiddich brand ambassador Mitch Bechard into bringing a bottle of Glenfiddich’s prized Snow Phoenix single malt over for sampling.

The story behind Snow Phoenix could fill a book: In January 7, 2010, after a wild winter in Scotland, five of the roofs of Glenfiddich’s warehouses collapsed under the weight of five feet of snow and ice. 250,000 casks were buried under the weight of the frost — and the tin roofs above them — and by summer it was time to rebuild the damaged buildings. Shockingly, only three casks were destroyed.

From the casks exposed to the elements, Glenfiddich hand-selected a sampling of barrels to use for an honorary, one-time bottling called Snow Phoenix. (Look at the photo — an undoctored shot of the carnage — on the metal case and you’ll understand the reference.) 12,000 bottles were produced from casks aged 13 to 30 years old, representing 50% first-fill bourbon barrels, 30% second-fill bourbon barrels, and 20% sherry barrels. Bottled at cask strength, Snow Phoenix is 95.2 proof.

The pale gold whisky is unique and gorgeous. The nose offers pear, vanilla, sherry, and quite a bit of heat. That hotness is absent on the tongue. There a bounty of flavors erupt — sugar and spice, citrus notes, and a finish that heads toward brown sugar and burnt caramel character, with a touch of wood notes. It’s all in near-perfect balance, complicated but part of a delicious whole.

Snow Phoenix is every bit as delightful and intriguing as the story behind it.

A / $95/ glenfiddich.com


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14 Responses

  1. Damocles May 8, 2011 / 6:06 pm

    I really need to find a bottle of this.

  2. Edoc May 8, 2011 / 6:09 pm

    Yes, sounds positively enchanting.

  3. RN May 10, 2011 / 11:10 am

    Unless the product packaging is incorrect (“with the strength brought to 47.6% by the addition of our distillery’s unique Robbie Dhu spring water.”) Snow Phoenix isn’t cask strength.

  4. Christopher Null May 10, 2011 / 5:34 pm

    RN: I checked with Glenfiddich and here is what they said (edited for clarity): “We always use the Robbie Dhu springs as our water source. This is used all the way through the process. Obviously not added to the Snow Phoenix as it was bottled at cask. No idea where your reader got his info from.”

    So in a nutshell, yes Snow Phoenix is at cask strength, though it is on the light side, alcohol-wise.

  5. RN May 10, 2011 / 6:44 pm

    Your reader got his info from Glenfiddich’s own Malt Master’s comments which are printed on the back of their Snow Phoenix’s tin box, and again within their Snow Phoenix fold-out pamphlet inside said Snow Phoenix tin box. For their convenience he includes a direct quotes of each below.

    Tin: “Aside from choosing and marrying the casks this Glenfiddich is as we found it – a unique marriage of Glenfiddich’s single malt Scotch whiskies of different ages and finishes – with the strength brought to 47.6% by the addition of our distillery’s unique Robbie Dhu spring water. It has not been chill filtered.”

    Pamphlet: “Aside from choosing and marrying these casks, this Glenfiddich is as we found it: a marriage of Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whiskies of different ages and finishes with the strength brought to 47.6% abv by the addition of the distillery’s Robbie Dhu spring water. It has not been chill filtered.”
    .”

  6. Damocles May 11, 2011 / 11:38 pm

    Is this really such a big deal?

  7. RN May 12, 2011 / 4:49 am

    What? My skepticism or their lack of integrity?

  8. Ash May 12, 2011 / 6:55 am

    Well… yes it is kind of a big deal. Granted, either way it appears to be a decent whisky, but if someone makes a claim that it’s cask strength then that’s quite a selling point – hence, you expect it to be bottled without it being cut with any water.

    No idea what the truth is myself, though.

  9. RN May 12, 2011 / 7:58 am

    Thanks Ash. I’d say it’s better than decent. I liked it more than I expected to, and Christopher is dead-on with his brown sugar and caramel tasting notes. So if you don’t mind sweetness, then this one is very pleasant. However, my frustration is exactly as you state it; if Glenfiddich brand managers/ambassadors are deceptively or erroneously claiming the product was ‘bottled as found’, not just ‘chosen and married (vatted)’ as found as their Malt Master’s own narrative vaguely admits to with the phrase, “with the strength (of the vetting) brought to 47.6%,” then that deception or error should be remedied. But their paradoxical response to Christopher leads me to believe that they couldn’t care less about trustworthiness. Which is dumb because the product speaks for itself and doesn’t need their B.S.

  10. Vince May 17, 2011 / 6:35 pm

    My soon to be father-in-law called me today as he found me a bottle and purchased one for me. Now, the question is do I, open it or not. Being that Glenfiddich is one of my favorite… this is going to be a difficult choice of what to do.

  11. Christopher Null May 17, 2011 / 8:00 pm

    Vince: You are insulting your father-in-law-to-be if you DON’T drink it.

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