Glenfiddich demonstrates its mastery of cask finishing with the release of the limited-edition Grand Yozakura.

Glenfiddich might be better known as one of the gateway whiskies for the budding enthusiasts but what they don’t get credit often for is their finesse in cask finishes. 

Awamori is Japan’s oldest distilled spirit and has a very imposing character. The idea of simply finishing a 29-year-old whisky in casks that were once used to age Awamori is nothing short of nerve-wracking. 

Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman, who’s always looking to experiment with new finishes, was intrigued when he had the opportunity to acquire these rare casks. And no, as much as it would have made a better story, they didn’t go full ‘Leroy Jenkins’ with old whisky stock; Brian clarified that they experimented with younger whiskies in a small number of casks first. Even so, you can’t deny that the project isn’t devoid of uncertainty. It just wasn’t enough to deter Brian. “We always learn something new when we lead with innovation, so taking a risk is worth it,” he said.

The result of this fascinating experiment is the Glenfiddich Grand Yozakura, a 29-year-old whisky that was finished in undisclosed ex-Awamori casks for six months. 

The Glenfiddich Grand Series represents the best of what the distillery can achieve through cask finishes.

Given that this is entirely unexplored territory, the Grand Yozakura is no doubt the most ground-breaking expression in the lineup. At the same time, it might well be the rarest edition in the series, given the relative difficulty of sourcing these casks. And more significantly for those of you trivia folk, it’s the first time that someone has done this with single malt Scotch whisky.

The Grand Yozakura celebrates Hanami (flower viewing), referencing the popular cherry blossom festival in Japan. And in some way, the whisky does evoke the feel of the ephemeral sakura blossoms; its unique character evokes one’s perceptions of Japanese whisky.

A few years back, we had the opportunity to try out whisky that was made by Awamori distillers using koji and to our surprise, there was an unexpected cotton candy sweetness that was remarkably distinct. The Grand Yozakura shares that distinctive note amalgamated within a complex layer of flavour; even Brian himself describes the finished product as quite unlike anything he has ever tasted before.

The ripe fruits and rich oak that would associate with a well-aged Glenfiddich are now accentuated with a herbaceous character on the nose; toffee and cotton candy are wrapped in a cloak of earthiness and gentle oak, with familiar citrus notes to remind you of the roots of this spectacle.

A one-of-a-kind package for a one-off whisky. (Image credit: Glenfiddich)

Even the packaging is appropriately whimsical; Japanese artist June celebrates the fleeting beauty of this momentous marriage of rarities with an elegant depiction of yozakura. To top it off, the bottle is accompanied by a bespoke stopper with a traditional poem printed onto a specially designed cloth capsule.

Glenfiddich did not disclose how many bottles will be available in Singapore but suffice it to say that these bottlings will be extremely limited in quantity. They are now available at duty-free stores at Changi Airport as well as domestic retailers at a recommended retail price of S$2,430.

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