Scotch whisky has long had a connection with the United States. During Prohibition, American drinkers developed an appreciation for scotch—conveniently purchasable in Canadian and Mexican border cities—thanks to the spirit’s superior quality compared to the moonshine and bathtub gin being produced locally. After Prohibition ended, regulations stated that American oak barrels could only be used once for the aging of bourbon, creating a surplus of cheap barrels appropriate for further use, an opportunity savvy Scotch distilleries pounced upon. Nowadays, Americans still love scotch, and Scotland still uses American barrels to make it.
Glenfiddich honours this longstanding friendship with its 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve, which is aged for 14 years in American ex-bourbon casks before being finished for a short period in new American oak casks. By introducing pricier new oak to the finishing process, Glenfiddich gives drinkers just a taste of what scotch might look like were bourbon regulations a little more lenient and scotch distillers a little worse with money.
The two stints in American barrels means Glenfiddich’s 14-year-old is imparted with plenty of bourbon qualities. The ex-bourbon barrels provide light vanilla, oatmeal, and baking spice to both the palate and the nose, while the new American oak barrels take things up a notch, layering on rich caramel, honey, and, yes, oak flavours that are part and parcel of most bourbon. Underneath it all, the Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Bourbon Barrel Reserve is still a classic scotch, using its worldliness in restraint rather than bombast, and giving back a whisky that Americans and Canadians alike already have the palate for. But this time around, no “convenient” stop in a border city is necessary.