"I don’t want to say it’s effervescent,” says Mitch Bechard. “But it does have a nice dryness that you would enjoy with Champagne.” The dashing Scotsman, a brand ambassador for Glenfiddich, doesn’t want to refer specifically to Champagne, either, but it’s hard not to mention. He’s tasting the brand’s newest, Glenfiddich Grand Cru, a 23-year old whisky that ages most of its life in ex-bourbon barrels, but is finished for up to six months in oak casks sourced from a broker who handles used material from Champagne houses (with a promise not to reveal their identities).
The result remains distinctly Glenfiddich, a Speyside style single-malt label. “What I love about this is it very much has that distillery characteristic,” Bechard says, sneaking a sip. “With the 12, 15 and 18, and even here at 23 years, it’s not overcooked. You get fresh fruits coming through—apple, a little bit of pear. For me what the casks give here also is a baked bread note.”
The storied single malt maker uses no peat and has been an innovator in cask influence for decades. And except for a few efforts that employed American wine barrels (notably, the 19-year-old Age of Discovery bottling), Bechard says, Glenfiddich Grand Cru “is one of the few times we’ve messed about with wine casks. And it lets the whisky shine. With American wood and French casks, it pops—it’s bright and vibrant.” Scotch and Champagne, he rightly observes, are the drinks of celebrations. With this beauty, simply opening one up makes for a special occasion. $300, glenfiddich.com