Thanks to Glenfiddich’s Mitch Bechard and Chris from WhiskyWall for making sure I got to taste this one.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s been a while since I’ve put something new up, but like the proverbial Phoenix of old, rising from its own ashes, I’m back. Emerging from an ever-mounting pile of newborn baby diapers, adorably soiled, tiny little onesies, and a sleep cycle that leaves a lot to be desired in terms of any sort of sleep cycle, I’ve let the wee one lie for a few extra minutes and tasted a bit of whisky. Having this new little roommate in the house definitely adds a bit of perspective. Over the last couple of weeks, I haven’t given a rat’s ass about whisky, I mean, c’mon, it’s a beverage, an extravagance, a luxury item…it’s doesn’t really compare to, say, the miracle of life. On the other hand, this little miracle of life has definitely moved me to hit the whisky cabinet on more than a few occasions.
So I thought it’d be appropriate to return to the fold with Glenfiddich’s Snow Phoenix. Released late in 2010, this special one-off bottling from a distillery that rarely does special one-off bottlings garnered a lot of buzz with it’s compelling back story. In January 2010, thanks to an especially snow-filled winter, some of Glenfiddich’s warehouse roofs reached their snow load-bearing limits and decided to collapse without considering the feelings of those sensitive spirit-filled casks within. These casks, some ex-bourbon, some ex-Oloroso, sat shivering in the snow, exposed to sub-zero temps while crews worked furiously to get all involved into a warmer setting. Malt Master Brian Kinsman decided to create a special edition commemorating the event, vatting a selection of whiskies ranging from 12 to 30 years old, bottling it non-chill filtered at a slightly higher proof, and giving it its myth-inspired name.
The Nose: Zippy, fruity nose, pears and grapes in syrup with nice raisin-y notes. Really succulent notes of honey…specifically, toasted buttered bread with honey. Cinnamon-y tannic notes probably represent the older whiskies in the bottle.
The Palate: Honeyed and fruity to start, with the Oloroso influence quietly coming through next to some hints of bittersweet chocolate. 47.6% doesn’t exactly scream high alcohol whisky, but this does begin to burn nicely on the palate. Grows really pretty spicy and numbing with the alcohol and wood building to a delicious, juicy, yet tannic fireball.
The Finish: Spicy and oaky with nice lingering acidity. Just the faintest wisp of wood smoke sneaks in towards the very end.
Thoughts: Well done, Glenfiddich. Snow Phoenix is a pretty evocative name and coupled with that back story, let’s just say my expectations were pretty high, and this stuff didn’t let me down. A great, inviting nose leads to a powerful, vibrant swell on the palate…a really expert vatting of a wide range of ages. At around $85, this is a pretty satisfying dram, all that fruit and spicey heat making it perfect for a Winter’s afternoon.
20 thoughts on “Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix – Review”
Great review. When I heard the buzz on this I thought this would be more marketing to recover from a disaster than an inspired bottling but it sounds like it’s worth a try. I will have to pick up a bottle.
As for kids and whiskey … congrats on the new addition and give it time. Your kiddo will give you plenty of reasons to drink. Some of them celebratory and some of them to save your mental health.
Who’s watching little “Quarter Cask” while your fingers are traipsing over the keys? …and drinking on the job! Poor “Sherry Butts” tries to grab a few minutes sleep and look what happens. Don’t make me come out there!
On the other hand, there may be an opportunity here. You can remake “The Casks” into “The Jars” and begin reviewing all the varieties and expressions of Gerber products. After all, most of your tasting notes for the Glenfiddich review would work just as well for certain Gerber offerings. “Zippy, fruity nose, pears and grapes in syrup with nice raisin-y notes.” What wee tot would not be tempted by such a discription. Who knows, Gerbers might begin sending you product to review, saving you a few pennies at the market. The other plus to this is that would be a father and son collaboration, and little “Quarter Cask” could take over the whole thing in a few months releasing you back to “The Casks.” I like it.
Grand da Running Elk
Had a taste of this last night when a friendly bartender at Nihon pointed out the bottle to me. A fun back-story and tasty stuff. I’m glad I got to try it since I imagine there aren’t too many bottles floating around.
I picked up a bottle of this. Please forgive me for being a complete beginner as far as drinking scotch goes. I started with a cheap bottle of glenlivet 12. Next try was snow phoenix. I liked the glenlivet fine I suppose, but it didn’t do much for me. The snow phoenix was an experience unlike anything I’d ever had from a hard alcohol. It turned me. I love it. It gets better with every sip. The sweet aroma seems to go through my nose and into my whole body. I’m not a normal whiskey fan. I don’t care for jack daniels or even jameson or anything like that. The scent was just so familiar yet so new. I was nervous buying it, as I flt I was basically skipped several steps in the scotch trying process. Not only did I not do much research into it, but I was buying a scotch that basically is unknown as far as age and ingredient. I will have to start from scratch basically, as I don’t know what will have a similar taste. Maybe I’m wrong. I probably look stupid to an aficionado. However, to a person out there who is slightly inexperienced with scotch but wants to try out a slightly expensive single malt, I’d say try this one out. I love it. I’m really looking forward to moving forward in my search for different tastes and aromas.
Cody, never make apologies as far as Scotch goes, there are some “aficionado’s” out there that will look down on anyone not drinking a 30 year old, independently bottled whisky from a now-closed distillery, but those guys are missing the point. I’m glad you picked up a bottle of this, it’s a one-off release so you’ve had the chance to enjoy something that won’t be repeated!
As for skipping steps, no worries, no such thing…unless you perhaps went from the Glenlivet to a $2000 collector’s bottle…that’d be a leap. Part of the fun of getting into Scotch (and staying into it) is trying new things all the time. Remember what you loved about the Snow Phoenix, read up on other Scotches, ask ?’s at store with a good selection, and pick up bottle. While you won’t find the exact taste of Snow Phoenix again, you might find others that are analogous to it that you like equally as much.
I’m planning on picking up a bottle of Snow Phoenix for my scotch club tomorrow and got to thinking. Should I get an extra bottle and save it as somewhat of an investment since it is a limited, special release? I’ve never really heard anyone talk about the aspects of collecting scotch like this. Cheers!
Since it is a special, one-time only release, I’m sure you’d find an eager buyer a few years down the road if you held on to a bottle. As to how much return on your investment you might get, who knows…maybe double?
Just remember though, Scotch is for drinking. I’m all for hanging on to a special bottle for a special occasion, but the idea of collecting and hording Scotch as an investment…it’s an affront to the stuff in the bottle, that’s like buying great cars and never driving them. Think about all the people that work hard to make a whisky, to create a unique taste experience…they didn’t do all that work so that the bottle could sit in the dark, waiting to increase in value. There are definitely a lot of people who do collect, either to stroke their oversize egos or in hopes of making a little cash, but they’re completely missing the point.
i first read about Snow Phoenix in WSJ and was intrigued. i read many online articles, blogs, etc. and was riveted by your descriptions and commentary. after making the purchase we sipped and read your description in detail and fully agree with every word! now i am a follower of your word! look forward to your future posts….good luck on getting more sleep and developing a responsible and respectable human being! all that takes is devotion like you already have to a specific libation 🙂
….One advantage in “Collecting” that second or third bottle that you may anticipate will increase in value, comes from not “selling” it in ten years but enjoying it at the affordable price you are paying now. I keep a chest of single malts and treasured blendeds that i feel will not be affordable in 10 years so that i may enjoy them then. Think of how impressed your friends will be when you produce a bottle selling for $500.00 that you paid $89.00 dollars for…of course you dont have to tell them what you paid! -Doug
How can I buy this?
With cash, credit card or cheque in a store or online or perhaps an auction.
I jest. Snow Phoenix is probably pretty hard to come by at this point, it wasn’t a super small bottling, but small enough that its popularity and buzz has made it scarce. A quick search of online sellers offers up this:
Availability of Snow Phoenix in Los Angeles?
Probably zero, Ken, sorry to say. Even tho’ Snow Phoenix was a relatively large limited edition bottling (12,000 bottles), Glenfiddich is an enormously poplular single malt around the world and since they don’t do no-age-statement specials like this all that often, this one got a lot of attention. You might be able to find an online retailer that has it, or a whisky auction site, but you’ll pay a lot more of course.
I’d try asking Dave at the LA K&L Wines what he thinks about getting a bottle, if anyone there can find one, he can.
I was very disappointed with the snow phoenix. It tasted like it was swept up of the floor and bottled. Definitely one for the collectors only.
I found a bottle of s p. and bought from the whiskey exchange for 120 us. And now cannot find another one. Please help me find one!!!!
Snow Phoenix had a lot of buzz around it and tho’ it was a relatively large “limited bottling” (12,000) bottles, Glenfiddich’s popularity helped it sell like hotcakes. Searching online is probably your best bet. I still occasionally see it offered from UK shops, auctions, or on Ebay but expect to pay closer to $200/bottle at this point.