Category Archives: Glenfarclas

Glenfarclas 185th Anniversary Review

I knew this release was coming, but it wasn’t really one I was really anticipating. Let’s face it…this was not going to be in the same sort of league as the rather legendary 175th Anniversary release which was said to have included casks from as far back as the 1950s.

Having said that, I adore Glenfarclas. I think y’all know that by now. It’s just that this 185th Anniversary release was bound to be younger, bound to be rooted squarely in the more contemporary school of malts. In other words, I’m dancing around one of those ‘back in my day’ type of stories.

But even if that is the case, let’s just say that it’s good to be back in Ballindalloch. Even if only in a virtual and vicarious sense.

I’ve probably been a wee bit snobby and concentrated a tick more heavily on the Family Casks and older expressions from Glenfarclas in recent years than I should have, often to the unintentional neglect of the core range. Said range is ticking along just fine, I might add; it’s just that, well, those low ABVs, George. I know bumping ’em all to 46% is not in the cards (and would absolutely shitcan that cracker of a tale about your grandfather’s initiative to hold the 15year old to a higher proof), but reaching for the sub-46s can be an exercise in willful delusion sometimes. Love the flavors, hate the anemic texture. Anyway, rest easy. This suiting tribute to 185 years of Glenfarclas is a worthy addition to the larder.

Congrats to our friends at Glenfarclas. I’d normally say, ‘can’t wait to see what the future brings’, but so long as you’re chugging away being you, it sorta feels like all is right in the malt-o-sphere.

46% abv. 6,000 bottles. Not a heavyweight, by any means, but robust and oily, and perfectly comfortable on the palate.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Wow. Kinda…dare I say…old school-ish, in terms of sherry profile. Old barrel. Creme caramel and raspberry reduction. Lightly peppered white dough. MacIntosh apple. Raisin butter tarts. Musty purple grape. Caramel Macchiato. A bit mince-y.
Linseed. Antique wood.

Palate: Absolutely, infinitely, unquestionably Glenfarclas. Almost certainly the legacy of those direct-fired wash stills, which always give a lightly sharp burnt note on the palate (especially the finish). Old toothy Armagnac. Orange peel. Fennel. Slightly root-y. A hint of mulled cider. Dry cinnamon buns. Some rather bitter, dark fruit notes. Edging into those tangy, tropicals I love.

Finish: Quite herbal, actually, once the fruit notes back down. Dandelion. Burnt grain. Pleasant, if tannic. And longish.

Thoughts: Clean, flawless sherry casks and almost the Platonic form of Glenfarclas. Others seem to be finding a few more vibrant fruits than I am, but I’m okay with the more integrated melange I’m getting.


Glenfarclas 25 y.o. Review

Glenfarclas 25 y.o.182

43% abv

Score:  88/100


A late night stop in a local spirit seller last night landed me a couple bottles of the old standby, Glenfarclas 15, at the rock bottom price of $65 a piece.  If you’ve been following current whisky trends (and I’m sure you have) you’ll know that quality affordable age-stated malts are pretty close to a critically endangered species nowadays.  You can imagine my delight at finding such a score just blocks from home.

It was also cause for reflection.  While I’ve drunk ridiculous amounts of Glenfarclas over the years, I’ve not yet reviewed nearly as many as I should have.  Something to be remedied in the coming days, I think.  Let’s face it…second only to Springbank, Glenfarclas is the ‘be all, end all’ in traditional whisky making, and that is something that places this distillery in the top tiers of my own personal favorites.

So having said all of that, let’s dig into an iconic malt from this old school family owned and operated Speyside juggernaut.  Here we have Glenfarclas 25.  This is a whisky that tends to get glossed over in favour of the always available 15, the bombastic 105 or the rather exceptional 40 (largely depending on your personal tax bracket, of course).  The fact of the matter is, though, that this is a great dram at a more than fair price point.  It delivers almost exactly what I’d expect, and always feels like a bit of a homecoming.  Quite highly recommended.

Nose:  Jammy sherry notes with a hint of toasted caramel and sticky vanilla pod.  Apple, stewed stone fruit and tobacco.  Spicy wood notes.  Red ju-jubes and fresh cinnamon.  Crème brûlée and grilled orange zest.  Warm and familiar.

Palate:  Oh wow.  Great delivery.  Turns to apples and oranges first before plunging deeper into dried fruits and the warming buzz of all things sherry (spice, chocolate, raisin and all things Christmas cake-like).  There is a heft of fruit peel (slightly drying) and toasted wood.  Speaking of toasted notes, perhaps some roasted marshmallow.  A slight nuttiness; walnut, I think, with maybe some almond.

Thoughts:  Not the cleanest or most exciting of the Glenfarclas range, but a great old dram nonetheless.  Always a treat to revisit.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Advent Day 9: 1997 Glenfarclas 17 y.o. (Samaroli)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 9 – December 9th024

1997 Glenfarclas 17 y.o. (Samaroli)

Cask #1376 American Oak

45% abv

Score:  90.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Pepping toms rejoice!  Another nearly naked Glenfarclas.  Regular readers will recall we covered an SMWS release with a similar profile a couple of months back.  That one was equally well-received.  And much like that sexy beast, this one is also a single cask bottling.  This time, however, we have the team at Samaroli to thank for exposing us to it.

Ok…enough in the way of innuendo.  Moving on…

Glenfarclas is a Highland /Speyside distillery (depending on who you talk to, or what sort of exceptions you are inclined to take to what is on the label) that is almost universally renowned for its brilliant sherried malts.  This family owned and operated distillery has been in the loving and capable hands of the Grant family for half a dozen generations now, and they seem to know exactly what to do in order to keep the whisky up to standards that even the most discerning whisky snob will appreciate (irrespective of recent discussions revolving around reducing the much-lauded 10 y.o. ‘105’ to an NAS offering).  Even so, they are sort of a one trick pony.  I suppose it comes back to a line of thought similar to: ‘find something you do well and stick with it’.

I appreciate that, but it’s for this very reason that I’m stoked to dive into another Glenfarclas that falls outside that norm.  And I’m even further delighted to report that it is unquestionably a winner.

This one is kind of like the first time you get to see your beautiful girlfriend without her make-up on…and realizing she’s just as lovely – if not more so – without it.  I’d love it if the Grant family would make moves to add an unsherried malt to their range.  Doubt it will ever happen, but this proves the quality of the spirit is such that it matures beautifully no matter the wood treatment.

Nose:  Never in a million years would I peg this as a Glenfarclas.  Neat bread and fruit mix a la hot cross buns.  Apple pie with cinnamon.  Shortbread.  Some fruity gum or candy.  Poached pear.  Some honey.  Some vanilla.  Quite creamy.

Palate:  Arrives with hints of mezcal and an almost coal smoke-like darkness.  None too heavy though.  Is this related to the cask-charring, I wonder?  Barley notes follow.  Dry scones.  Ginger.  Wow…what an odd left turn from where the nose had me thinking we were going with this one.  The fruits emerge afterwards: toasted orange and apple.  Spicy bourbon-oak at the tale end.

Thoughts:  Surprisingly naked Glenfarclas.  Unquestionably one of the most unique and enjoyable ‘Farclas malts I’ve ever tasted.  Wish the abv was higher.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

SMWS 1.172 “Sophisticated, Delicate And Feminine” Review

SMWS 1.172 “Sophisticated, Delicate And Feminine”117

55.7% abv

Score:  89/100


This feels wrong.  So wrong.  Naked Glenfarclas from a refill hogshead.  Unlike pretty much all of the distillery’s output, there is no sherry influence here (unless they built this hoggy from cut down staves of a disassembled butt, but I doubt that.  Or…maybe this hoggy held sherry at one time?  Also doubt it).  Either way, seeing Glenfarclas this exposed feels sorta like walking in on someone in the shower.  Perhaps I should also add that for an anorak such as I, it gives the same perverse sort of thrill.

Whisky geeks will most likely be all over a malt like this.  It ticks all the right boxes for the purist.  Big natural cask strength, no added coloring, no chill-filtration, bottled at a suitably mature age and well labeled for clarity.  But most importantly, it’s a unique malt in that it offers up something different for all of us to natter about in our infinite geekery by breaking the distillery’s stereotype and showing us a very different iteration of a much loved theme.

To me, this is exactly the kind of release that makes whisky exciting and keeps it fresh.  It is a 19 year old bottling from an outturn that yielded just 230 bottles.  But pushing aside the inherent awesomeness of all of the meta associated with this one, let’s discuss the actual ins and outs of this particular expression.  Its 55.7% abv delivers flavour by the spadeful, and instead of those exceptional leathery, dried fruit and Christmas cake notes so typical of Glenfarclas, here we’re treated to more ripe fruits and deeper spice notes.  

I wish more folks out there, especially the really devout Glenfarclas fans, could have an opportunity to try this one, but unfortunately that’s the nature of not only the SMWS, but single cask bottlings in general.  This one just happens to be even more exclusive than most single cask releases out there, as it is only available to SMWS members (or was, as I assume it is now long gone). 

If you get an opportunity to try this one, do so.  Highly recommended.

Nose:  Earth.  Candy and floral notes.  Let’s call it Turkish Delight-ish.  Orange jelly.  Grape jelly.  Stewed peaches and apples in baking spices.  Canned pears.  Pie crust.  Very firm oak notes.  Dry cinnamon sticks.  Moist tobacco.

Palate:  Very tangy arrival of fruits and jelly candies.  Quite lush.  Clean wood, but slightly bittering around the mid to back end.  Allspice and candied ginger.  Ever eaten flower petals in a salad?  This latter note may help contribute to that bittering influence.  Some orange zest and pith.  More apple sauce. A touch of honeycomb.  Very un-Glenfarclas.

Thoughts:  Arguably the most apt name I’ve ever seen on an SMWS label.  This one definitely exemplifies all three adjectives.  Also…decent tasting notes on the bottle.  I can’t say I disagree with much of it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Master Of Malt – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Master Of Malt – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Late last year (2012), the good folk at Master of Malt launched a new line of independent bottlings.  Perhaps it was a retaliatory gesture aimed at the creative geniuses behind the Dali-esque naming conventions and abstract tasting notes of the SMWS.  Or maybe it was a shot at Edradour in the way of ‘Aha!  We too can dupe the public into spending much on wee 50cl (500ml) bottles!’  Or maybe, just maybe…it was simply because they had access to some really good whisky and wanted to provide another alternative in the ever expansive market of independent bottling.   

Either way, all three scenarios are met head on with the new brand ‘That Boutique-y Whisky Company’.  The niche here is how utterly ridiculous these bottles look nestled amidst the shelves of austere single malt Scotch whisky packaging.  Each label is adorned with comic book-esque drawings artistically reminiscent of a cross between ‘Where’s Waldo’, ‘Tintin’ and ‘Beavis And Butthead’.  The images are not random bits of artistic tomfoolery, however.  They are rather cleverly reflective of the distilleries captured within the glass, and depict some subtle secrets and whisky geekery, sure to have the whiskily-inclined salivating at unraveling all of the hidden meanings.

Now…much like the old adage ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’, it would be a big mistake to dismiss these releases as novelty items.  I mean really big mistake.  As much as the purists may prefer a more…ummm…elegant outward appearance for our snooty tipple’s daily wardrobe, the simple fact of the matter is as mentioned above:  there is some damn good whisky in these bottles.  As soon as these are naked in the glass, all doubt disappears.  We’ll come to some actual tasting notes and details in just a moment.

A little on the bottings themselves…

Each release is wax-sealed, cask strength and non chill-filtered.  Further, in a rather interesting move…they are also non age statement (NAS) whiskies.  If I understand correctly though, these are not single cask releases.  Rather they are built in small ‘parcels’ to a specific desired quality.  *(If I’m wrong here, please correct me).  Either way…the NAS approach will allow Master Of Malt much greater future flexibility in regard to batch variance.  Rest assured, friends…if any of you are naturally cynical about the whole NAS concept (and I know many of you are, especially in light of the whole 1824 deal) …these are not young whiskies.  You can tell just by nosing.

One other point to note:  While other independent bottlers seem to be struggling for some variety in their portfolios, MofM have managed releases from Port Ellen, Brora, Ardbeg, Macallan, Caperdonich, etc.  Neat stuff. 

At this point I am won over.  Can’t wait to see where they go from here.

Forgive the quality of photos (or lack thereof).  They were thrown together rather quickly in the  shop.


Secret Distillery (Batch 1)045

55.4% abv     486 bottles

Score:  89/100

Nose:  Tobacco and raisins.  Cinnamon and fresh scones.  Some floral notes.  Baking spices.  Fudge and caramel macchiato.  Honey.  Creamy caramel with fruit.  Rich, rich, rich.

Palate:  Surprisingly tart up front.  Followed by big, dark intimidating fruitcake notes.  Then some apple.  Think a’bunadh meets amaretto with a wee splash of Southern comfort.

Thoughts:  A neat one.  Both in character and out of character at the same time.  Like seeing this distillery in another dimension.

*Secret Distillery’s real name rhymes with Ben Schmarclas.


Macallan (Batch 3)048

43.4% abv     245 bottles

Score:  86.5/100

Nose:  Bread dough.  Nice spices..and lots of ’em.  Some apple pie, heavy on the cinnamon.  Some old library notes.  Buttery sauce.  A little atypical of Macallan.

Palate:  Creamy and spicy.  A fair bit of dry oak.  Over-toasted marshmallow.  Grape skins.  Bitter chocolate.  Fairly tannic.  Zippy with spice and very pleasing apple notes.

Thoughts:  Not a bad whisky, but the low, low abv makes me think this one cooked in the warehouse for a while.  If this is indeed and older dram…I’m a tad underwhelmed.


Clynelish (Batch 2)042

50.6% abv     319 bottles

Score:  92/100

Nose:  Lavender and perfume.  Some pepper.  Nougat and honey.  Lemon poppyseed muffins.  A little orange juice.

Palate:  Wow!!  Old wax and dunnage warehouse.  Just extinguished candle.  Oil lamp.  Charred oak.  Some smoke.  Sooooo old school.  Cinnamon.  Apple juice and skins at the back end.  One of the all time great palates.  Loved it.

Thoughts:  Some disconnect between nose and palate, but they are at least complimentary.  The palate though…gad!…extra points for sure.  Just wow!


Springbank (Batch 2)053

53.1% abv     450 bottles

Score:  88.5/100

Nose:  Pickle.  Dust and pine.  A bit of peat, yeah.  Flinty.  Winter wood fire.  Clove and pepper.  Pine sap.  So odd…so unique…so intriguing.

Palate:  Now there’s the smoke.  Kinda oily.  Notes that should only be found in older whisky (wonder how old this actually is).  Some great sweetness meets the machine smoke.  Some figgy notes with honey.  Smoked fruit skins.  Pear, apple and currant.

Thoughts:  Very different for a Springbank.  The pine and pickle notes really threw me off, but surprisingly…worked out just fine in this one.  I liked it.


Highland Park (Batch 1)047

44.7% abv     241 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Sweet nose with a great composition.  Tangy jam note.  Peach, orange and lemon.  Warm leather and a very inviting salty note (makes the mouth water just inhaling it).  A touch of oil.

Palate:  Smoke and earthy notes.  Hay.  A mix of green and purple grapes.  Walnut.  Old school heft and some moderately subtle sherry-like tang.  Tart marmalade.

Thoughts:  Balance, balance, balance.  Again…a little out of character, but not too far off the path.  Not bad at all.


Bowmore (Batch 2)038

49% abv     292 bottles

Score:  89.5/100

Nose:  Farmy and iodione-heavy.  Rubber, smoke and other such.  Lemon zest.  Damp soil.  Smoky fruits.  Gravel dust.  Dry ash.  Sultanas.  Develops a bit of orange and some creaminess, surprisingly…but only if you give it a bit of time.

Palate:  Oh yeah!  Oily..smoky…earthy, and rich in dark red and purple fruits.  Think Laimrig meets motor oil.  Plum and purple grape.

Thoughts:  A well-earned 89.5.  Maybe even closer to a 90.  This is a neat Bowmore.  These recent profiles that combine jammy fruit notes and industrial oiliness…win.  Just win.


Caol Ila (Batch 1)039

45.8% abv     732 bottles

Score:  88/100

Nose:  Prickly and briny.  Peat and smoke.  Sweet and citric at the same time.  Orange oil.  Olives.  Candy sweetness.  A dusting of salt and pepper.

Palate:  Very Caol Ila.  Some melon with citrus.  Toffee and smoke.  Oyster with salt, pepper and lemon.  Wet rock.  Ocean shoreline.  oil.  There are some notes that make me think of Kilchoman (if that distillery’s malt were a little more mature).

Thoughts:  Damn decent Caol Ila, but definitely not the best of the indies I’ve tried.  Particularly liked the oceanic notes and oily saltiness.


Look forward to future releases.

Thanks to our mate, Andrew Ferguson at Kensington Wine Market, for the chance to try these. 


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

Glenfarclas 21 y.o. Review

Glenfarclas 21 club 081

43% abv

Score:  84/100


I keep asking myself if I’m missing something with this whisky.  A trusted mate of mine swears by it…I love most of what comes out of Glenfarclas, arguably one of Speyside’s(*) finest distilleries…the age at which this is bottled is a sweet spot for many whiskies…the price is great.  But at the end of the day it hurts me to give this one nothing more then a passing grade.

Credit where credit is due, however, this is a much better ‘noser’ than ‘sipper’.  The nose has some of those shimmering ephemeral qualities I so adore in mature whisky, and some of the individual nuances are a ‘coat-of-many-colors’ brilliant tapestry, coming together to provide a striking whole.  Sadly, it sort of all unravels as it spreads across the tongue.  The arrival is ok, but it quickly fizzles and leaves me almost confused.  Another sip…nope…same thing.  I’m now down to the last dram of the bottle and my impression hasn’t changed in the slightest.  As you can see, I’m nothing if not persistent.  😉  All in the name of good research.

Oh well.  They can’t all be exceptional.  As I said, I love Glenfarclas.  Almost unconditionally.  I’ll simply go elsewhere in the range to get my fill.

Nose:  Milk and white chocolate mousse.  A nice dusting of cinnamon.  Scones, sugar cookies and mild ginger snaps.  A few floral (perfume-y?) notes and fruitcake, heavy in almond paste.  Just an echo of old dunnage warehouse.  Comes together nicely. 

Palate:  For the love of all that Glenfarclas does right, I can’t wrap my head around the 43% here.  Seems far too light a delivery for such an old-school heavy style malt.  Black currant and jam.  Salt toffee.  Kinda malty.  Immediately turns to barley and all the sweetness falls off.  There’s simply nothing left to sweeten up the dry grains.  Not a fan of the finish.  It’s odd (and maybe it’s just me), but much like the recent batches of the 15, it almost seems to hit a fishy note at the back end.  Like a cedar-grilled salmon or something.

(*) Yes, yes…’Highlands’ on the bottle, but  this is from the heart of Speyside.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenfarclas 105 20 y.o. Review

Glenfarclas 105 20 y.o.105 20

60% abv

Score:  91.5/100


The younger standard Glenfarclas 105, which I’m certain many of you have tried, succeeds primarily because of the youthful exuberance of its bold and unrestrained sherry.  Oftentimes though, you’ll find that younger whiskies still haven’t ironed out all their kinks.  While I certainly can’t say that that is the case with the afore-mentioned Glenfarclas 105, I can say that once you’ve tried that bold flavour profile it’s hard not to wonder what the whisky would be like with a few more years of maturation behind it.

Fortunately, the Grant family have allowed us that opportunity, in releasing the Glenfarclas 105 20 year old.  The same massive 60% abv…the same sexy dark hues, but in striking new packaging and with an entirely new market niche.  So…let’s have a look at what another 10-15 years in the cask does to this heavyweight sherried charmer.

Short answer…a lot.  This is a vastly different dram from the standard bottling.  The differences are a little deeper than simple variations on a theme too.  The younger edition is vibrant and lush, while this one bears a lot more dark, dry and monolithic heft.  Very much individual entities, both.  While immediately notably different, it took me a good while to wrap my head around this one and decide what exactly it was that worked here vs what worked on the younger 105.  Needless to say, it was an enjoyable session of nosing/tasting.

In the end…I’ll give the extra marks to this one.

Nose:  A lot of chocolate.  Much deeper and darker than its younger stable mate.  Cinnamon and old leather.  Some surprising floral notes.  More sulphur than I’m used to seeing on a Glenfarclas, though still not a lot.  The fruits (deep purples and reds…a la plum, raspberry, strawberry, prune) are buried beneath a roof of dark chocolate.  A deep inhalation is needed to really set ’em free.  After a while, when the sulphur note fades (and it does fade, if not quite disappearing), the nose is incredibly mature and sophisticated.  Distant waft of latex.  Cigar.

Palate:  Touch of sulphur again.  Very mouthcoatingly jammy; almost like a smear of mixed red berry jam and sticky toffee pudding across the roof and sides of the mouth.  This is so heavy it’s practically pulling the corners of my mouth down.  If only all malts had this texture.  Orange and raisin.  The palatal equivalent of dunnage warehouse aroma.

Took a while to score this one.  I would highly suggest a good ten minutes in the glass with the occasional swirl before giving this serious consideration.

Have I mentioned how much I love this distillery?


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Glenfarclas

Glenfarclas 105 Review

Glenfarclas 105004

60% abv

Score:  90.5/100


Glenfarclas 105 was one of the first whiskies I ever shared notes for years ago when I first starting nattering online about whisky and such.  Much like looking back at your awkward teenage years, there’s an element of ‘oh dear gawd, really?’ when I looked back at the review and notes.

Also…it was an older batch from years back, so why not revisit, right?

Though it’s not very widely trumpeted, batch variation (let’s call it that, even though these aren’t really touted as ‘batch’ releases or anything) in the Glenfarclas 105 is as much a reality as it is the industry’s other true young sherried heavyweight, Aberlour a’bunadh.  It’s simply the nature of the game, and I’m ok with it.  Let’s allow these things to evolve.  Our insistence on consistency (with the exception of an insistence on consistent quality) is the reason we ended up with chill filtration, caramel colouring and homogenous blending practices.  Malt whisky is about strength of character, not conformity and subtlety.  Forget fitting in.

Glenfarclas is a Speyside distillery that enjoys unusually high esteem amongst those in the whisky spheres.  The long line of Georges and a John who have run this family-led operation through the generations have done an exceptional job of crafting a line of whiskies that have garnered them global accolades.  And rightfully so.  Traditional, quality and independence are all values held in esteem by the Grant family.

The ‘105’ in question here is actually in reference to the old British proofing system.  Whereas now this 60%’er would be considered 120 proof, under the old Brit way it was 105 proof.  Clear as mud?

This NAS (No Age Statement) release is a startlingly beautiful whisky.  Not my favorite, but exceptionally composed and one to be mulled over with plenty of time and good company.

For a unique tasting experience, try doing a horizontal tasting with this, the Aberlour a’bunadh and the Macallan Cask Strength.  That should fill your youthful sherry quotient for the year.

Nose:  The smell of empty, but wet wine barrels or sherry butts.  Fudge and milk chocolate give an overall éclair-like aroma.  Caramel pudding.  Berry puree.  Raisin and currants.  Espresso.  Pipe tobacco.  Cinnamon and sweet barley notes.  Strawberry rhubarb pie (sweet and tart).  Hint of marmalade.  Thick moist rummy fruitcake.  Touch Bovril or Beef Oxo.

Palate:  Somewhat leathery (odd, I know…sorta meaty, really).  Pepper over mincemeat.  Rum.  Cough syrup and coffee.  Eucalyptus.  Touch of hot rubber.  Wow, is this big.  Aenesthetizing.  Love it.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Glenfarclas 40 y.o. Review

Glenfarclas 40 y.o.002

46% abv

Score:  92.5/100


Glenfarclas rocked the whisky world a few years back when they released this stunner of a 40 year old whisky for an absolutely lowball price (less than $500 a bottle).  Kinda made us all stop and question the recent antics of a couple other distilleries that keep jacking prices and marketing their wares as the next uber-whisky.  Won’t name names, but I imagine you know who they are.

Glenfarclas has always been a personal favorite whisky.  High quality output, traditional and old school presentation and great price point.  From young to old, the distillery’s whisky is quite good.  The older releases though – especially the family casks – can be quite the stunners.  Fortunately for us Glenfarclas is sitting on a brilliant stock of very mature whisky.  We should be able to see older releases from this family-run Speyside distillery for ages to come.

Generally with Glenfarclas, it’s expected you’ll get a very balanced, heavily sherried malt.  Caramel and spice-rich, with loads of chololate and raisin.  As a general profile…it’s a delight.  A great building block to build upon through years of maturation.

So the question is…what does 40 years of aging do to a whisky like this?  Will it be too much?  Over-oaked?  Bitter?  Nah…not a chance.  This is a highlight whisky.  One of the best ‘Farclas I’ve tasted to date.

Nose:  Deep and rich.  Some caramel and Glossette Raisins.  Beautiful threads of vibrant jammy notes.  Some orange and cherry.  Paint.  Wow…what a striking balance.  Nearly flawless.

Palate:  Sweet and juicy.  Again…those macerated fruit/jammy notes.  Some chocolate.  Some tobacco.  Some licorice.

This is truly a textbook example of well-aged mature sherried whisky.  Beautiful integration of all elements.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt





Potato / Potahto,  Kidding / Kidnapping,  Tomato / Tomahto…let’s not split hairs.  I believe these words basically mean the same thing.  Which is why on the night of January 26, 2012 we, the gang of four, planned and executed a warm welcoming abduction of Mr. George Grant in order to further our preoccupation of Single Malt Scotch whisky.  Normally we would never consider such a high profile person, but based on a careless double dare by one of the gang of four the decision to move forward was an easy one.  Mr. Grant came to Calgary, Alberta on January 25, 2012 to host the 7th annual Robbie Burns supper for the Kensington Wine Market.  His mistake, or should I say our opportunity, came the following night.  Believing that, since he was not in Edmonton, Alberta, he was safe…obviously he thought wrong.  We seized the opportunity, along with Mr. Grant, and headed out of town for a tasting.

Now not to worry…we are not obsessive fanatical Star Trek fans that go around quoting characters from different episodes or lounge around and debate the merits of each of the series.  We are in fact keen professional fans of the single malt, that can quote different whisky writers while we lounge around and debate the merits of each distillery.  Needless to say, being under the control of professional whisky fans, Mr. Grant was indeed very safe…so long as he cooperated with us.

For the benefit of the great unwashed, the Glenfarclas distillery was founded in 1836 and is located in Banffshire, which sits in the heart of Speyside.  The Gaelic translation of Glenfarclas means “Valley of the green grass”.  The Glenfarclas distillery has been owned by the Grant family since 1865 (excluding 1896-1899, Pattison & Co owned 50 %).

Like any really good tasting, we require good whisky, so we arranged an exchange of sorts to achieve these goals.  The cost of liberation this night would be very high indeed.  The following was a list of whiskies that we liberated and tasted.




#1                       21 Year Old  43% ABV

#2                       25 Year Old  43% ABV

#3                       30 Year Old 43% ABV

#4                       40 Year Old 46% ABV     (Voted #4 whisky tasted)

#5                       40 Year Old 43% ABV  Millennium Edition (aka Treasure Island)     (Voted #2 whisky tasted)

#6                       175 Anniversary Edition 43% ABV

#7                       175 Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve 46% ABV     (Voted #1 whisky tasted)

#8                       1974 / 2005 31 Year Old 57.4% ABV (sourced from the US)     (Voted #3 whisky tasted)

#9                       1967 / 2006 39 Year Old 58.7% ABV Family Cask # 5118 First Series



#1           21 Year Old  43 % ABV

NOSE:  Minty, stewed fruits.  Delicate vanilla-infused with gentle smoke.

TASTE:  Mellow sherried fruits and spice.  Toffee, chocolate and almonds.

FINISH:  No sharp edges, very drinkable.  Medium to long smooth finish.

ASSESSMENT:  George stated that this was his favorite of the age range and that the vatting on this malt is 60 %  1st & 2nd fill Sherry casks along with 40% old refill Bourbon casks.


#2           25 Year Old  43 % ABV

NOSE:  More intense sherry tannins and spice than the 21.  Oranges and light tropical fruit.  A little more smoke than the 21 but still subtle.

TASTE:  Sweet and winey.  Ripe dark cherries and chocolate.

FINISH:  Spicy.  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  George informed us that no peat was used to dry the barley and the light smoky notes are imparted from just the natural toasting or drying of the barley.


#3           30 Year Old 43 % ABV

NOSE:  More complex than the 21 & 25 with deeper sherry spice notes, melons and apples.

TASTE:  Coffee and dark chocolate.  Sherry spice.  Burnt brown sugar.

FINISH:  Slight harshness.  Medium finish.

ASSESSMENT:  This was my favorite of the stated age range.  Seemed so much more complex than the rest.


#4           40 Year Old 46 % ABV

NOSE:  Oranges and cherries. Roasted coffee and cigar tobacco.

TASTE:  Raspberry jam.  Over-ripe raisins and prunes.  Toffee.  Chewy liqueur.

FINISH:  Lots of layers of favor to enjoy.  Robust and long finish.

ASSESSMENT:  George told us that the 1st batch of the 40 year old consisted of 23 casks, of which 22 were 1st fill sherry and 1 refill sherry.  The age of the casks were 21 casks 40 years old and two casks from 1968.



#5           40 Year Old 43 % ABV  Millennium Edition (locally known as Treasure Island)

NOSE:  Wow, what a nose.  Tropical fruit, coconut, vanilla.  So good.

TASTE:  Milk chocolate.  Mild spices.  Sweet & creamy.  Lots-o-fruit.  Sublime hint of smoke.

FINISH:  This is a brilliant whisky and is in my top ten of (top ten just means ‘very high’ on the list, as I have said top ten over 43 times now)  whiskies enjoyed.  What a finish…long, flawless and lingering.

ASSESSMENT:  George admitted the perverse enjoyment he received from watching people trying to open this most difficult and unique case.  We were also informed this was a cask that had been sold by Glenfarclas to Signatory and was purchased back.  The number of bottles released was 600, but George informed us that it was only 590 (sounds a little like a cover up from somebody that likes this whisky a lot).



#6           175 Anniversary Edition 43 % ABV 2011 Limited Edition

NOSE:  Oranges and cherries.  Dark roasted coffee.  Little floral.

TASTE:  Pepper and winey notes.  Raisins and dark chocolate.

FINISH:  Medium finish.  Bit bitter.  Might have been better at a higher ABV.  Grant said “yes, but that would have meant less bottles and a higher price.”

ASSESSMENT:  George said this vatting was made up from 3 casks per decade from 6 different decades (1950 – 2000), for a total of 18 casks.  Only one cask was bourbon, which was a 2nd fill from 1952, and all the other casks were sherry.


#7           175 Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve 46 % ABV  2011 limited Edition of 1296 Bottles

NOSE:  Oh my, this is good.  Sweet sherry.  Dead ripe blackberries, oranges and almonds.

TASTE:  Ever so elegant for a vatting of old sixties sherry casks.  Rum cake.  Milk chocolate.  Prunes.  Creamy caramel.

FINISH:  Long and sensuous.

ASSESSMENT:  Oh my my, oh hell yes…this is really good.  Different good from the Millennium…more intense sherry.  This is another for the top ten (44) whiskies I’ve tasted.  This is a vatting of four casks from the sixties.  George couldn’t remember if the oldest was 1963 or 1964 (Being a distillery owner doesn’t automatically mean you can hold your liquor like the Irish), as this was his 7th drink and his memory was now being tested.


#8           1974 / 2005 31 Year Old 57.4 % ABV (sourced from the US)

NOSE:  Oranges.  The most peated unpeated Glenfarclas I’ve nosed.  Leather and tobacco.

TASTE:  Thick chewy sherry.  Raisins and prunes.  Dark chocolate.

FINISH:  Long and intense.

ASSESSMENT:  This was a vatting of three casks:  one 1st fill and one 2nd fill sherry along with an older fill bourbon.


#9           1967 / 2006 39 Year Old 58.7 % ABV Family Cask # 5118 First Series

NOSE:  Raspberry jam meets marmalade.  Coffee and cinnamon.

TASTE:  Oranges.  Rich chewy port.  Dark chocolate.  Little whiff of smoke.

FINISH:  Rich.  A bit tart and long.

ASSESSMENT:  Why 1967?  Because it’s the 100 year anniversary of the greatest country in the world, Canada (also the birth year of Pamela Anderson, Canada’s largest export to the world).



Much thanks to Mr. Grant for allowing us to take him away from his busy schedule (funny nobody seemed to miss him) to share a few private stories along with some great whiskies with us.  Really sorry about how sticky the duct tape was, but I’m sure the hair will grow back.


– Maltmonster