The array of glass bottles sparkle seductively behind the bar in my neighbourhood lounge. One stands out in its perfection, the triangular bottle of Glenfiddich, created by 20th century designer Hans Shleger, which he based on three natural elements: water, air and malted barley.
I order Glenfiddich, neat, with a side of water and earn immediate respect from the bartender. I hold the drink up to the light and admire the golden red hue. Then, the nose. I sense an intriguingly complex aroma of sweet heather honey and vanilla fudge combined with rich dark fruits. After this “appreciation,” I slowly savour the smooth, revealing layers of sherry oak, marzipan, cinnamon and ginger. It is a moment worth repeating. And so, after dinner, I ask for Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera, dark chocolate and coffee with cream.
I have tasted centuries of history, encapsulated in this glass of single malt Scotch whisky.
“There is a fondness in society for the family business,” said William Grant. With his family of nine–seven sons and two daughters–Grant might have built a soccer team to play Scotland’s national sport. But he had nurtured a different dream—to make “the best dram in the valley.”
And so, in the summer of 1886, the family began building a distillery, stone by stone. Glenfiddich (Gaelic for Valley of the Deer) opened a year later and at Christmas, the first drops of single malt Scotch whisky fell from the copper stills.
Fast forward to the volatile 1920s. Prohibition and the U.S. Federal Agents headed by Elliot Ness grabbed newspaper headlines. But in Scotland, William’s grandson, visionary Grant Gordon, foresaw the future and surprised the industry by increasing production. The family prospered.
It was not until the 1960s and the radically changing times that Sandy Grant Gordon became a global tastemaker. The great grandson of William Grant promoted Glenfiddich abroad, and introduced the world to the Scottish secret, single malt.
In every generation, the Grant family values have gone from strength to strength. As a gesture of recognition to Grant’s granddaughter, 11 bottles of the Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve 55 Year Old Scotch were produced. In October 2012, bottle #11 of 11 produced, sold at auction for charity for $52,000 and set a new record for Canada.
With this generous donation, Glenfiddich made a commitment to another family, Wounded Warriors Canada, the country’s number one independent military charity. Its primary focus is on mental health, and offers Canada’s first-ever Veteran’s Transition Program. The fundraising is ongoing. Two dollars for every bottle of the Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera sold across Canada is donated to Wounded Warriors Canada. A total of $131,616 was presented to the Program in November 2013, and this commitment continues into 2014 and beyond.
And there is more: With the help of Glenfiddich’s substantial donations, Wounded Warriors Canada has become the leader in funding Animal Assisted Therapy Programs for PTSD through Can Praxis Equine and Courageous Companions. PTSD Service Dogs. Particularly, with the Equine program, they use walk-along exercises, with horses, to provide pratical experiences of inter-personal communication, problem solving and team-building.
These activities provide the framework through which participants assess and address their own needs, and begin the journey of rehabilitation. To this day, Glenfiddich remains the world’s most awarded and best selling single malt scotch, and remains, all in the family.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.