The glen of the river Fiddich gives its name to the biggest-selling single malt whisky in the world. The Glenfiddich distillery is on the small river whose name it bears, in Dufftown. Nearby the Fiddich and river Dullan meet before joining the Spey The name Fiddich indicates that the river runs in the valley of the deer and indeed a stag is the company's emblem. The distillery takes its own water from the Robbie Dubh spring.
Glenfiddich spent some time waiting to be discovered. The distillery was founded in 1886/7 by William Grant from second-hand equipment bought at a bargain price from Cardhu and produced its first whisky on Christmas Day 1887. It is still in the original family, as a limited company. Nonetheless it made an early start in the business of bottled single malts.
As a small family company it began to face intense competition from bigger names during the economic boom after the Second World War. In 1963 it decided to market its whisky seriously as a single malt and to do so outside Scotland. For many years afterwards companies in the industry continued to regard this as foolishness. The received wisdom of the whisky business was that single malts were too intense in palate for the English and other foreigners.
The vision and persistence of the company was in more than one sense single-minded. It was an example and precedent without which few of its rivals would have been emboldened to offer themselves as bottled single malts. Devotees of the genre owe a debt of gratitude to Glenfiddich.
The early start laid the foundations for the success of Glenfiddich. The fact that it is among malts one of the less challenging to the palate undoubtedly also helped a great deal.
The company also owns the long-established Balvenie and
new Kininvie malt distilleries. The principal malt may be close to the
mainstream but the distillery is full of character. Much of the original
structure in honey-and-grey stone remains, beautifully maintained, and the
style has been followed in considerable new construction. Although the
distillery no longer produces its own malt, pagodas have been added to some of
the newer buildings in a salute - however coy - to tradition. A truly
traditional element is the use of coal-fired stills. The stills are small, and
the whisky is principally aged in plain oak, though about 10% goes into
sherry casks. Whisky aged in different woods is married in plain oak.
Glenfiddich likes jokingly to describe its malt as "Chateau-bottled". The
distillery is unusual in that it has its own bottling line on the premises.
The only other malt distillery with bottling facilities is
Springbank, where a
very small line is also used for the Cadenhead range.
William Grant no longer sells whisky for blending under the Glenfiddich name,
the intention being to ensure that the company can guarantee the origin of any
whisky bearing this name. Like several other distillers, the company also feels
its label should be used only on whisky aged according to its own practices.
Cadenhead however has marketed some older ages of single malt under the name
Dufftown, Keith, Banffshire, AB55 4DH
Hear "Glenfiddich" pronounced in AU or WAV format
Visit the distillery's Web site
Search Dr. Do'g's index for the history of Glenfiddich
There just might be some news about Glenfiddich in The "Scotsman" newspaper