When this week’s series of reviews kicked off on Monday I said that it would fulfill three themes: all Hepburn’s Choice whiskies, all K&L exclusive casks, and all Speyside distilleries. I forgot a fourth category they all fulfill: they’re all teaspooned malts (i.e have had a small amount of malt of at least the same age but made at another distillery added to the cask so as to prevent it from being sold as a single malt from the distillery the cask originated in). So was Monday’s Mortlach 13, so was Wednesday’s Craigellachie 14, and so is today’s Glenfarclas which is one year older than the other two put together. Unlike the other two—and most/all of the other teaspooned malts in this round of K&L casks—the variant name used here, “Perhaps Speyside’s Finest” is not a one-off, though it represents a bit of scaling back of the claim. What I mean is that over the years the various Laing outfits have released a number of Glenfarclas casks under the label “Probably Speyside’s Finest”. I’ve reviewed a 22 yo that bore that label. I was not a huge fan of that one but I’ll try not to read too much into the greater uncertainty in this one’s name or in the fact that it’s from a refill barrel and not a sherry cask—I’ve not generally had a lot of good luck with other older Glenfarclas from bourbon casks (see here). Anyway, let’s get into it and see what’s what. Continue reading
Glenfarclas week started out with a 15 yo on Monday, which I thought was good but nothing very special. In the middle on Wednesday was a 21 yo that I thought was excellent. Let’s close the week out now with a 42 yo. This was distilled in 1970 and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider buying it when it was released by K&L back in 2012. 1970 is when I was distilled as well and I was on the lookout then for 1970 vintage whiskies to buy and stash for my 50th birthday. But the price was quite high—$500+, I think (and it got quite a bit higher later)—and given my general allergy to K&L’s marketing blather, I decided not to take the chance; especially, as I’d purchased this Tomatin 40, 1970 for quite a bit less for the same purpose a year prior. I then forgot about it until it showed up unexpectedly last month in a box of samples from Sku—also the source of Monday’s 15 yo. I’m very interested to find out now if I should have grit my teeth back then and paid the high tariff. Let’s see. Continue reading
Today’s Glenfarclas is a bit older than Monday’s in terms of age and a bit more still in terms of vintage. This was distilled in 1980 and bottled from a single cask for Filliers, who—as best as I can make out—are a Belgian concern. The cask is described as a “dark sherry cask”, which I assume means it had previously held oloroso sherry. Monday’s 15 yo also featured a big sherry profile but there the bigness seemed a little “engineered” to me—driven by active oak and tannins that covered up a lot of the fruit. This seems to me to happen a lot with heavily sherried whiskies these days. I have had similar complaints about a number of other sherry casks in recent years. Glenfarclas from the 1970s, however, has reliably been a lot fruitier (such, for example, is the excellent Glenfarclas 31, 1974, which I have not reviewed yet) and I am hoping that this one too will display a lot of fruit as part of the “dark” profile. Let’s see. Continue reading
It’s been a few weeks since I posted a whisky review. Last week’s booze reviews were all of rums (Caroni, Caroni, Worthy Park); and the week before focused on brandies (Lous Pibous, Dartigalongue, Copper & Kings). It’ll be whisky from now till the end of the month but I’m going to keep this week themed as well: it’ll be all releases of sherried whisky, and all from Glenfarclas. I’ll begin with this 15 yo and then go up in age with each review.
This particular release was bottled for the Whisky Exchange. I’m not sure if it was from a single cask and nor am I sure why no vintage is noted. I suppose it’s possible that it’s a vatting of at least 15 yo casks from a couple of different years, but that seems like a lot of trouble to go to and not mention or mine for marketing reasons. More likely, I’d guess, is that this is just TWE being idiosyncratic. They’ve released other whiskies too that bore no cask or vintage information (such was this Laphroaig 16). I’ve had my eye on this Glenfarclas for a while—almost pulling the trigger a couple of times when friends were coming over from London. The thought of a cask strength version of the excellent 15 yo that is not available in the US was enticing; but there’s no guarantee, of course, that a cask strength version of the 15 yo is what this amounts to. Will I regret that uncharacteristic restraint? Let’s see. Continue reading
Glenfarclas has always had a very strong relationship with the whisky geek community. A very big part of this is explained by the fact that they put out good whisky in a range of ages and price points. Through the decade of NAS whisky from which we are now emerging Glenfarclas has continued to release age-stated whisky from 10 to 40 years of age. And while prices have risen towards the top of the range it is hard to feel resentful about this when you consider how fairly priced their 25 yo continues to be; it can still be found in the neighbourhood of $150. Compare with whisky of similar age from any other name distillery. Another part of their appeal to the whisky geek community has been that they are an independent family-owned distillery. This latter fact is doubtless connected to the first: they have no shareholders to please by squeezing out maximum profit from the youngest possible whisky, no expensive, gimmicky branding and so on. This is not to say that Glenfarclas does not put out any high-end whisky. Their Family Cask series, an early release from which I am reviewing today, comes in wooden boxes and costs a pretty penny. But, again, when you compare these releases to the excesses being perpetrated by many other distilleries it’s clear how different their ethos is. I believe the Family Cask series was launched in the late 2000s. In fact, it’s possible that this cask from 2007 was from one of the earliest releases, if not the first. If you know more about this, please write in below. For now let’s get to the review. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Having just written up a Speyside distillery that I did tour (Aberlour), let me hit you with one last distillery visit that did not involve a tour. This was my second stop at Glenfarclas in as many days. You may recall that my friend Daniel and I went to Glenfarclas on the Sunday afternoon of our Speyside jaunt only to discover that they are closed on Sundays (and also on Saturdays—at least in June). We then went to Cragganmore instead. The next day, after we’d toured Aberlour and lunched at the Mash Tun, Daniel and his family drove back to Edinburgh. We drove to Dornoch but decided to go a bit south rather than north to meet the A9. This resulted in the only sustained bit of very narrow road driving on this trip, as our sat nav took us through a slightly more picturesque route than we were looking for to get to the A9. It also meant that we were going to be driving past Glenfarclas rather than Benromach on the way, and so we paused for about 15 minutes for me to walk around the distillery grounds and in the visitor centre. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
With this post I complete, as far as I know, a series of reviews of Glenfarclas’ entire basic age-stated range. And it’s a large range. Here are the others, in order of age, if not in order of review: 8 yo, 10 yo, 12 yo, 15 yo, 17 yo, 18 yo, 25 yo, 30 yo and 40 yo. I don’t know if there’s any other distillery that has ever offered such a large range of stops up their maturation ladder—yes, I know the 8 yo and 18 yo weren’t really part of the core range. The 21 yo and 25 yo continue to be available at very reasonable prices relative to the competition—the 21 yo a bit above $100 in many US market and the 25 yo at about $150. Alas, the same can no longer be said about the 30 yo (which never came to the US) and the 40 yo but it’s hard to complain about Glenfarclas in this respect. They’re one of the few Scottish distilleries whose prices seem to have the middle-class whisky enthusiast in mind. The less charitable may note that very few of the releases in their core range ever seem to get very many people excited but not all whisky needs to set off fireworks. Continue reading
Let’s get back into age-stated Glenfarclas. For those who came in late: I’ve recently reviewed the 8 yo, the 10 yo, the 12 yo and the 15 yo. I’ve also previously reviewed the 17 yo, the 25 yo, the 30 yo and the 40 yo. This 18 yo and the 21 yo are all that remain (I think) in rounding out the full range of age-stated Glenfarclas from their core range (there are also the far more expensive Family Casks, but I’m not going to be running through them all any time soon). Well, I suppose this 18 yo isn’t part of their core range either—I think it’s actually a Travel Retail bottle, though I’m not sure if it’s available in all markets. And though I don’t know how much this one costs, Travel Retail these days is unfortunately usually a shorter way of saying “expensive but not very good”. But there are always exceptions to every rule. Will this Glenfarclas be one of them? It’s certainly different from most Travel Retail releases in that it has an age statement and doesn’t have a silly name. Continue reading
I’ve recently reviewed the Glenfarclas 8, the Glenfarclas 10 and the Glenfarclas 12; here now is my review of the Glenfarclas 15. Like the 8 yo, it is not available in the US. Its status, however, is not as murky as that of the 8 yo: it is a staple of Glenfarclas’ lineup in the UK and Europe. It differs from the other releases in Glenfarclas’ regular age-stated lineup in that it is bottled at 46% abv rather than 40% or 43%. This is apparently because that’s the strength at which George Grant’s grandfather always preferred it. The 15 yo is very popular among whisky geeks, partly because it’s more sherried than its younger siblings, partly because it’s at 46%, and also because it’s dependably good and reasonably priced. Back in the US I tend to hoard my bottles a little jealously as they’re not easy to replace: as the cost of international shipping makes it less of a value, I tend to get my Glenfarclas 15 via friends visiting the UK. Here in London though it’s readily at hand and I’ve been going through this bottle at a rapid rate. So even though I’ve almost drunk the bottle down I’ve not recorded separate notes for different points in its life—as it’s been open just over two weeks. Anyway, let’s get to it. Continue reading
Back to Glenfarclas. I’ve previously recently reviewed the 8 yo and the 10 yo—I found the first to be passable (78 points) and the second a bit better (80 points). Will the 12 yo, with its bump up to 43% abv, continue the incremental improvement/rise in my ratings? Let’s see. This one, like the 10 yo, can be found easily all over the US.
Glenfarclas 12 (43%; from a bottle split)
Nose: As with the 8 yo and the 10 yo, there’s obvious citrus here (orange again) but this is maltier from the get-go and there’s a milk chocolate/cocoa powder note. Less citrus and more malt at first with a few drops of water but then the fruit comes back strong.
Last week I reviewed the Glenfarclas 8—the malt that may or may not be the youngest age-stated malt in their lineup. The confusion stems from the fact that Winesearcher shows it on sale in many places in the EU (it was never available in the US) but Glenfarclas themselves don’t seem to list it on their website. The status of the 10 yo, however, is far clearer. Glenfarclas do not deny its existence on their website and it’s widely available everywhere, including the US. It may then be more accurate to say that this is effectively the entry-level malt in the Glenfarclas portfolio. In Minnesota it can be found in the low $30s but its average price nationally is $46. By the way, if you haven’t done so, you should check out the latest in Michael Kravitz’s annual parsing of production and price trends of Scotch whisky; the final entry in this year’s series lists, among other things, the rate of increase of price of most popular single malts—the Glenfarclas 10’s price has gone up almost 22% in the last 10 years. But what is it like? Continue reading
Here’s one for those who complain that I don’t review enough entry-level whisky. That said, I don’t think the Glenfarclas 8 is available in the US. I can’t remember seeing it, at any rate. Then again I haven’t looked for younger Glenfarclas for some time now. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t show up for the US market on Winesearcher either and nor does it seem to be available in the UK. It does seem to be widely available all over Europe and not for very much money. So it’s got that going for it. I’m mostly interested to see the progression from it to the 10 and 12 yo and from there to the 15 yo and 18 yo (this one’s Europe-only too, I think) and the 21 yo. I acquired most of these together in a bottle split some time ago (the 15 yo I’ve had many times before but I’ll probably buy another bottle for regular drinking in London). But let’s start with the 8 yo and see how it goes. I assume that, as with most Glenfarclas, this is from sherry casks of one kind or the other—but I could well be wrong. Continue reading
The Glenfarclas 40 was first released in 2010. It got very good reviews, not least for its very fair price. In the US the retail price was less than $500 and in practice it could be found relatively easily for the next year or two for quite a bit less than that. This was very Glenfarclas. While most official releases of this age were and are released in fancy decanters with ludicrous packaging at prices far above $1000, Glenfarclas just popped their 40 year old in the same bottle and tube in which they sell their 10 yo and put the price in reach of regular punters. This used to be the case with their 30 yo too: not long ago it could easily be found in the UK for just above £100—and their 21 and 25 yo malts have always been very fairly priced vis a vis most of the rest of the market as well. For this reason, perhaps, no one has ever begrudged Glenfarclas for the higher prices on some of their Family Casks releases: they’ve always done right by regular drinkers. That said, the price of the 30 yo has gone up of late and I’m not sure what the status of the 40 yo is—the price being asked for it now in the US is quite a bit higher than $500, and I’m not sure if that’s for what’s left of the original release or if there have been more releases since. If you can shed light on any of this please write in below. Continue reading
This is one of two older Glenfarclas exclusives that were released in the US in the early-mid 2000s. The other was a 1974-2005 that I purchased south of $200 from Binny’s about five years ago. At the time this older 1968 vintage release (I’m not sure if it was bottled in 2003 or 2004) was still around but cost $50-100 more, depending on where you looked. Back then I was not in the practice of buying a lot of expensive whisky and so I passed; I think I also figured that since it had hung around for the better part of a decade already it wouldn’t be disappearing any time soon. Of course, this was a silly thing to do. By the time I wised up it was all gone—as was pretty much every other glut-era old malt that had hung around for a decade at stores like Binny’s. Anyway, I got to taste it again last month at another of my friend Rich’s Twin Cities malt gatherings—this one dedicated to sherried whiskies—and our friend Nick, who’d brought this bottle, was kind enough to share some more of it so I could at least review it. Here is that review. Continue reading
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 don’t want to jinx it but after almost two weeks my sense of smell and taste are back to normal. I took a couple of days to be sure, tasted some whiskies I’m very familiar with to calibrate my palate, and here I am now with a review of the Glenfarclas 30.
There have been a number of releases of the Glenfarclas 30. I purchased this in 2014 from the Whisky Exchange and based on squinting at the etched bottle code I’m pretty sure this is from the 2014 release. As with the 15 yo this is not available in the US (that I know of). Unlike the 15 yo, it is bottled at the 43% abv of most of the regular range. This is not my first time drinking it: I opened it for a gathering at my friend Rich’s place late last year (where it was overshadowed by some far more expressive malts). It sat with a big squirt of inert gas till a week ago, when I took it to my local group’s May tasting. Everyone there liked it, but with my nose out of action I wasn’t drinking. I did save a couple of two ounce samples for myself from when the bottle was at the 2/3 full mark and it’s from one of those that I am reviewing now. A really fascinating history, I know. Anyway, I’m intrigued to see if I’ll like it more now. Continue reading