I’ll not beat around the bush. I love Glenfarclas. I love its flavour profile. I love that it’s been in the same family since the dawn of time. I love the dark brown glass bottles they sometimes use. I love that it’s affordable. I love that they make their whisky pretty much exactly the same way they always have done since they opened. I love that they don’t use flashy marketing to sell their whisky. And I love that they don’t flood their range with non-age statement whisky just to increase their profit margin.
Pretty much nailed my colours to the mast with that start haven’t I ?! But I do, listen, if loving Glenfarclas is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. . .
Glenfarclas distillery is based in Speyside, just west of the unofficial whisky capital Dufftown. It was first granted a license to distill in 1836 and was ran by a gentleman called Robert Hay. In 1865 it was bought by John Grant in for £511.19sd. John was more interested in the farm that came with the distillery as he was a successful cattle farmer so he leased the distillery to a man with the most exciting name of John Smith, (who went on to open Cragganmore distillery himself). John’s son George took over the distillery in 1899 bust passed away shortly afterwards, so it was passed on to his widow who gave the job of running the distillery to two of her children, John and George. It has stayed in family ever since and is ran by the 5th and 6th generation of Grant’s. It has only 6 stills, but they are the largest by volume in Scotland producing about 3 million litres of spirit a year.
Interestingly they actually label their whisky as a Highland malt, despite it being located in Speyside, this is because it has that traditional heavy sherry note that Highland whisky is famous for.
So how did I get a boat load of the stuff? Well I’ve joined a whisky club. Southport Whisky Club to be exact. They host tasting nights once a month or so with visitors from different distilleries or brands and when Glenfarclas was advertised I just had to go, and I took along fellow Why Whisky contributor Graham, a self-confessed peat head, to see what he made of them.
This was a few months ago but I recommend if you do go anywhere where you know you’ll be sampling a few drams then make a few tasting notes, I use a tasting notebook, it fits perfectly in you trouser or blazer pocket, and can help jog your memory of what you had the night before if you over indulge somewhat, here’s a link to the one I use.
Let us begin, at the beginning! The beginning of the tasting evening anyway, hosted by Peter who from what can I tell has the best job in the world!
Glenfarclas Family Cask 2000 56.9%
The Family cask is a range of whiskies that were introduced by Glenfarclas to showcase the best of their malt drawing on their considerable stocks of whisky stored in their dunnage warehouses all the way back to 1954. If you shop around online you can pick up ‘The Glenfarclas Trunk’ which holds every one of these releases; 50 bottles, for the bargain price of £115000!
So Glenfarclas Family Cask 2000 17 year old, presented at a cask strength 56.9% with no added colour and no chill filtration, this release in particular was limited to just 640 bottles that came from a 3rd fill (3rd fill is the 3rd time its been used to hold whisky) sherry butt (500 litres capacity)
Nose : Very nutty, unsalted peanuts, cashew nuts, vanilla custard tart
Palate: Quite tight with its cask strength spirit, added a few drops of water to loosen it up, see what it shows off. Ooh! Engine oil, creosote, varnished old library shelves, it clings to your mouth and coats it in that lovely sherry flavour giving your tongue a nice sweet and savoury hug.
Finish: All about that dunnage warehouse. Those damp thick walls are emanating through that prolonged finish; not too much oak on it but the warehouse vibes come through and that musty funk works well with what’s left with the sherry influence from the third fill cask.
Glenfarclas Family Cask 1996 57.6%
This was from a first fill sherry butt and limited to 580 bottles
Nose: The stodge-iest christmas pudding you’ve ever had drizzled in maple syrup infront of your very eyes, and nose.
Palate: First fill sherry casks clearly give you more fruit notes, but this one to me is quite tarte, blackcurrants, cherries; blackforest gateau almost. Sherry winning the battle over the spirit despite it rocking in at cask strength; it compliments it really well though, that classic Glenfarclas oaky mustyness is still there in the background shoop shooping to the lead singer of sherry.
Finish: Christmas pudding coming back again with some rich soaked sultanas and raisins; tarte on the palate but that deep sherry and dunnage flavour shines through on the finish.
Glenfarclas Family Cask 1966 50.6%
This was a second fill sherry butt and I didn’t catch how many bottles it was limited too with me being overly-excited about it; but I do know you can pick up bottles of this for around £5k; apparently 1966 vintage doesn’t sell well in Scotland; don’t know why (they think it’s all over, it is now!)
Nose: Lighter than the last two, Peter our host for the evening described this as the classic Glenfarclas nose, with apple notes and undiluted blackcurrant cordial mingling in with some old wood notes.
Palate: Sweet almonds, almost verging on a cherry bakewell; rolls around your mouth like it just belongs there; sits on your tastebuds and lets you enjoy its prescense, doesn’t need any water either.
Finish: Light but warming, you can tell this is a well looked after cask as the flavours stick with you right till the end, sherry and oak again embracing each other too.
Glenfarclas 16 year old Robbies Dram 53.5%
Limited to just 300 bottles this 2nd and third fill sherry cask was bottled in collaboration with Robbie’s Whisky Merchants in Ayr.
Nose: Again we’re classic Glenfarclas, stewed fruits, apple and blackcurrant and a slight nuttiness
Palate: Anyone remember Cain’s Raisin Beer? Well, that! Light and full of fruit and oak flavours again this doesn’t need water either, this is a real pop the cork and enjoy bottling, delicious
Finish: Long yet not overwhelming very much like all the bottlings so far, Leave me alone with this bottle in a darkened room for a while. . .
Glenfarclas 30 year old 43%
This is part of their core range. Yes. Core range. they have enough stock that they can bottle a 30 year old not as a special release, but just to be part of their core expressions. Insane. Its 80% fresh sherry cask and 20% second fill.
Nose: Quite light, lighter than the other expressions I’ve tried tonight, still got your fruit cake and nutty apple notes but they are more subdued, maybe its the 43% abv?
Palate: Bit of cinnamon with this one to go with the fruit cake and bit of maderia sponge cake too actually, doesn’t need any water. Older whiskies especially are more succeptable to ‘falling apart’ with the addition of water, often just a drop can make a real difference.
Finish: Not as convincing as the others, it’s there but not as pronounced, again maybe down to the lower proof, still a decent Glenfarclas.
Well there you are. A boat load of Glenfarclas. I know there was alot of sherry going on there, and I keep banging on about the quality and effort that goes into making the spirit but just to give you a bit more information about the whisky industry. A bourbon cask costs around $110 dollars to purchase; whereas a sherry butt can cost around $950. Glenfarclas could have just as easily gone down the cheaper route and started maturing in bourbon casks; but they didn’t. Because that’s not what matches with the style of spirit that they make and the family were determined to keep to tradition. Glenfarclas buy these casks for the sherry bodegas to produce the sherry, for them to then usually dump it; just because they want quality sherry casks. Sherry doesn’t sell. One of their main suppliers only sells about 5% of all the sherry it produces, the rest is poured away! Insane isn’t it!
Anyway I hope you enjoyed this Glenfarclas experience as much as I did. I’d highly recommend picking up a bottle and just another fun little fact; I asked Pete what his favourite Glenfarclas ever was. It’s the Glenfarclas 15. Even though he’s got access to all these fantastic age ranges, he says the 15 wins hands down. So if you’re tempted. . .
And also a special thank you to Graham for accompanying me to the event, and especially to Victor at Southport Whisky Club and Peter from Glenfarclas for making the evening run so well and be so enjoyable