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
I thought this was going to be a return to my untimely reviewing ways but in checking out the details on this whisky after tasting it I was surprised to discover that K&L (whose distillery exclusive this is) seem to still have a large amount of it left. I guess there’s only so many whiskies even David Driscoll can convince every breathless whisky geek in the US to shell out for. Or maybe it’s because this isn’t a single cask and we tend to get—for no good reason—more excited about single casks. It’s also possible that people got spooked by K&L’s description of the acquisition of the casks, which suggests that they were casks the distillery was unwilling to release as (more expensive) singles. As per Sku, the source of this sample, this was a vatting of two casks. K&L’s own copy suggests more than two casks: they refer to it as a “multi-cask” vatting “from a sequential lot of first fill Oloroso sherry butts”. But I’m sure Sku’s information is from the horse’s mouth (or whichever wind-spewing orifice you think is more appropriate in this case). Continue reading
The Glenfarclas 105 is the distillery’s young
NAS* whisky—it seems like every distillery has one now—and is more specifically a challenger to the well-loved Aberlour A’bunadh in the “heavily sherried young whisky at a very high abv” category. Perhaps because Glenfarclas have not thought to release the 105 with batch numbers it’s never quite received the cult acclaim of the A’bunadh series. Or perhaps that’s because it’s just a little too young, raw and hot. At least, that was my impression on the very few occasions on which I’ve tried it in the past. Recently, however, some friends and I split some bottles and this was among them. I’m interested to see what I make of it when I’m paying a lot of attention to it.
By the way, as you probably know, the fact that the 105 is always at 60% doesn’t mean it’s ever diluted to reach that unlikely round number. Apparently, Glenfarclas vat casks at higher and lower strengths till they get to 60% (and I assume 105 refers to the proof—57% is abv in the imperial system which probably means 60% = 105%; it may say this on the bottle but I didn’t keep it after the split). So it’s always genuinely cask strength whisky. At least until we find out, Glendronach-style, that this is yet another term that means something very different to the industry from what we think it does. Continue reading
If ever there were a competition to select the “People’s Distillery” Glenfarclas would surely be in the running. Independently owned and almost entirely bullshit free (can you remember the last silly Glenfarclas release?) the distillery puts out a lot of whisky, most of it within reach of regular punters. I am thinking of course of their regular range. It is true that in their “Family Casks” series they release a lot of fairly expensive single casks—not always very old—but it’s hard to begrudge them this when they regularly release a 10, 12, 15, 17, 21 and 25 yo, none of whose prices have risen dramatically in the last half-decade, and all of which are priced more reasonably than the malts in the range of pretty much any other distillery in Scotland (Tomatin may be the sole exception). Their 21 yo can be found for less than $125, and this 25 yo can easily be found for $150 or less. And even their 40 yo was priced far, far below whisky of similar age from their competitors (less than $500 in most US markets)—though it doesn’t seem to be around any more. Their success doing what they do seems to be one of the strongest rebuttals of the arguments made to rationalize increasing prices and the rush to NAS—keep in mind that most of Glenfarclas’s spirit is matured in ex-sherry casks (which you would expect would be another driver of cost).
Can it be that I’ve not yet reviewed a Glenfarclas? Well, let’s set that right. This Speyside distillery, owned by the Grant family (not to be confused with the other Grant family, William Grant & Sons, who own Glenfiddich, Balvenie etc.) has a rather extensive lineup of whiskies. Their regular range includes 10 yo, 12 yo, 15 yo, 17 yo, 21 yo, 25 yo, 30 yo and 40 yo whiskies. And since the late-2000s they’ve been releasing single casks in their “Family Casks” series that goes all the way back to casks put down in 1952.
I’ve not had any of the more ancient vintages, but do appreciate that the distillery gives us such a range of their malt and that they keep their prices for the regular range within the budget of regular drinkers.