Glenfarclas don’t usually allow independent bottlers to release casks of their whisky with the distillery’s name on it. As to whether they also require that said bottlers kiss their asses by using names like “Probably Speyside’s Finest” or whether it drives them insane with rage that they don’t go with “Absolutely And Indubitably Speyside’s Finest, You’d Have To Be An Idiot To Not See It”, I don’t know. (As always, there are exceptions: see this Cadenhead bottling of a 33 yo.) Some say this is because most indie Glenfarclas is bourbon cask and the distillery doesn’t want their sherry maturation branding disturbed by this. Of course, there have been official ex-bourbon releases as well; for example, this one in the “Family Casks” series, which I was not very enthused by. This particular cask was bottled as an exclusive for Binny’s by whichever part of the Laing family it is that now owns the Old Malt Cask label. There was a time when Binny’s picks were very reliable and this cask dates from that time. Let’s see if my faith is rewarded.
“Probably Speyside’s Finest” 22, 1991 (52.4%; Old Malt Cask; refill hogshead #10008; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Toasted oak, honey, butterscotch, lemon peel. The oak is a little pricklier on the second sniff. Not much change with time. With a couple of drops of water there’s some vanilla and also a plasticky, slightly rubbery note.
Palate: Leads with the prickly oak but all the other stuff is close behind. The fruit expands as I swallow. More acidic here too; the bite masks a slightly thin texture. The oak is stronger still on the second sip and then keeps getting stronger. The other stuff is still here—especially the lemon—but is increasingly overpowered by the oak. Okay, let’s see if water fixes this. Water does odd things to it. It gets simultaneously sweeter and bitter in a vegetal way.
Finish: Long. The prickly oak continues for a while. Saltier at the end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: On first nosing this I was mentally composing sentences to the effect that Glenfarclas should really bottle more bourbon casks. But after a couple of sips I was less enthused. In case you couldn’t tell from the above, the oak is just too strong here on the palate and finish. The nose is very good though. A cask that should have been bottled 4 or 5 years earlier, probably. Still, it’s drinkable enough and I would not turn down another pour. I wouldn’t add water the next time though.
Rating: 82 points.
Thanks to Michael K. for the sample (see his review here).