Glenfarclas 1989-2013, The Family Casks (for Astor Wines)

Glenfarclas’ “Family Casks” series of single cask releases has a very strong reputation among whisky geeks. Here in the US, we see very few of them and so when I saw that Astor Wine in New York City had one as an exclusive bottling, I picked up a bottle. Distilled in 1989 and bottle in 2013 this is either 23 or 24 years old. It cost a fair bit more than the standard 25 yo but I rationalized the purchase given the higher abv and the general reputation of the Family Cask line. Of course, that reputation is largely based on the sherry casks that form of the majority of the series, and this one—though it doesn’t say so on the label—is from a bourbon cask. Still, I was looking forward to opening it, which I did about a year ago for one of my local group’s tastings. While some in the group really liked it, a few of us were unconvinced: the nose was very nice but it seemed over-oaked on the palate. I’d hoped that time and air would fix a lot of that. Let’s see if that’s happened a year later with lots of air and time. 

Glenfarclas Family Cask (57.4%; The Family Casks; cask 7299 for Astor Wines; from my own bottle)

Nose: Honey, orange peel, oak, a hint of woodsmoke. After a minute or so the oak is just a little too pronounced, and a bit too raw, and stays that way as it sits even as a bit more fruit shows up (apricot mostly). Water pushes the oak back and pulls out some apricot and some shortbread.

Palate: Starts out sweet and then the oaky bite hits. The raw note from the nose is not here and it’s more spicy than tannic, but there’s still too much oak. The sweetness intensifies with time but it’s a bit simple. Drinkable at full strength but needs water. More fruit here too with water but the oak is still present.

Finish: Medium-long. The spicy oak is what makes the biggest impression here—a few sips and my tongue feels furry. A touch of cocoa at the very end. The oak expands here too and is joined by some cinnamon and clove. Less oaky here with water.

Comments: Those with a greater tolerance for oak will like this more than I did. While it doesn’t overpower the good stuff on the nose, on the palate I found the oak too overbearing and I also didn’t find much beyond it to compensate for it. The sweetness on the palate is one-dimensional and in general there isn’t much complexity to speak of. Not a bad whisky by any means, however—it’s just not what you hope for from a Glenfarclas Family Cask and I don’t think it’s worth the price. guess there’s a reason this hung around as long as it did. I preferred it with water. Indeed, the right ratio with water may be key but I’m almost at the end of my bottle and if there’s an optimal ratio I’m yet to find it,

Rating: 84 points.

One thought on “Glenfarclas 1989-2013, The Family Casks (for Astor Wines)

  1. Finally finished this bottle tonight. I can report that while the oak never stopped being the top note by some distance on the palate, it did mellow out a bit with a lot of air/time in the bottle. Still not a bottle I’d buy again, even at a steep discount. I do have two samples saved for some fellow whisky geeks, two of whom are bourbon mavens and the other is more bourbon-friendly than me; I’ll be interested to see what they make of it.


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