Age: No age statement
Fire & Cane is the fourth instalment in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series. Uncharacteristically for Glenfiddich, this bottling features some peated spirit, married together with unpeated stocks from ex-bourbon barrels. To top it off, this whisky then spent three months in rum casks, sourced from a variety of Latin American countries. So the name is apt, but why is Fire & Cane experimental? After all, there’s plenty of rum finished whiskies, and there are peated whiskies beyond count. That’s true, but the combination of the two is quite unique (only Kura and the upcoming Ardbeg Drum that I can think of).
Glenfiddich does have a rum finished 21 year old, and has in the past dabbled with peat in its Caoran Reserve. But Fire & Cane is a different proposition altogether. For one, the distillery actually uses peated barley to achieve its smoky notes, rather than casks that previously held peated whisky. The result is a much sharper, spicier version of Glenfiddich, which then mingles with the toffee notes offered by the rum casks. I think Fire & Cane is best described as a dessert whisky, sweet and indulgent, perhaps even a bit too much so. It’s nice to pair this dram with dark chocolate, to allow the bitterness of the cocoa to balance out the sweetness of the whisky, but I can imagine other pairings could work equally well.
Colour: Liquid copper
Nose: Sweet and fragrant, like (over)ripe orchard fruits, or apricots sprinkled with brown sugar. There’s a hint of smoke, but it leans more towards toasted oak than a roaring peat fire. Even so, the brown sugar turns to caramel and the fruity aromas become zesty, like lemon rind or kiwi pulp.
Palate: More spicy than smoky, with a sweetness throughout. Notes of cinnamon and cloves give way to toffee and toasted vanilla. Charred oak and wood spice round off the palate, before a whiff of peat comes drifting in.
Finish: Not very memorable. There’s a hot, sharp burst of smoke, before this fizzles out into an aftertaste of salty liquorice with a trace of peat reek.
Verdict: Fire & Cane is an innovative Glenfiddich, but one that’s unfortunately a bit bland. I realise this is a strange thing to say for a smoky Speyside that received a rum finish to boot, but Fire & Cane is simply too sweet and almost too easy. There’s no smoke without fire, the proverb goes, but here there’s fire without much smoke. And that’s not necessarily a problem for your run-of-the-mill Glenfiddich, but this is the Experimental Series. A novel concept is well and good, but I feel that Glenfiddich should’ve been more audacious about Fire & Cane. Now it seems like the distillers had a bold idea, but got cold feet half way through. Then again, my expectations were high… perhaps the quality of drams like Glenfiddich IPA and Project XX is doing Fire & Cane a disservice. Having said that, I do very much look forward to finding out what Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series will bring next!