Here’s something you don’t see every day: both an older, bourbon cask Glenfarclas and an indie Glenfarclas labeled as such. This was released 10 years ago by Cadenhead’s, who seem able to break a number of these labeling rules (see their recent Small Batch releases of Speyside distilleries with the old-style Glenlivet sufffix hyphenated on). Since then I think there has been the odd official Family Casks release from a bourbon cask, and there may have been other indie releases as well from bourbon casks that didn’t have the Glenfarclas name on them (as is usual). Anyway, I’ve not had any before, old or young, and so I’m very interested to see what this is like. It goes without saying that this is long gone.
(I’d originally planned to review it alongside the official Glenfarclas 30 but tree pollen put paid to those plans.)
Glenfarclas 33, 1973-2006 (42.6%; Cadenhead’s; bourbon hogshead; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Sweet with toffee, apple crumble, pear, some raisin and also something metallic (but not offensive). On the second sniff there’s malt and some brown sugar and quite a bit of vanilla (in a baked pie-crust way) and it stays that way for a good while. A drop of water unlocks more toffee and brings out a slightly floral sweetness too.
Palate: Starts out more simply here with an indistinct metallic sweetness but as I swallow there’s a small burst of fruit not unlike in some old Longmorns from the same era—nowhere as intense though. Spicier on the second sip. Gets fruitier as it sits (mostly in the apple and pear family but with some musky overtones) but that metallic note also expands. Water knocks the metallic thing back and brings out floral notes here too and also some citrus.
Finish: Medium-long. Bittersweet chocolate, roasted malt. Fruitier here too with water.
Comments: Very nice—and very nice to drink old bourbon cask Glenfarclas. It reminded me a bit, as I noted, of Longmorns of similar age and vintage but didn’t quite have the tropical fruit explosion or intensity of flavour of the best of those. It also had some crossover, I felt, especially on the finish, with the couple of old Armagnacs I recently tasted (I see that Sku notes crossover with Cognac). Anyway, it started off strong but the nose was the best part and the palate and finish got too metallic for me as it sat (though water did improve it).
Rating: 87 points.