About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


There's no denying it - Glenfarclas is one of my favourite distilleries and has been for over 10 years. Why? It's family owned (not really a reason - but I'm kind of a romantic, buhu!)...

No, let's be serious - I find Glenfarclas to deliver an incredibly consistent whisky and bottlings at every age, from the young and brute'ish 105 NAS to expressions as old as 60 years (out of most people's price range, of course). Add to that their incredible Family Cask series - so far the ones I've tried have all been excellent.

So what do I think makes Glenfarclas so good? Is it the barley? who knows... its about spirit yield these days and whatever strain of barley gives the best yield is often used and the barley for Glenfarclas comes from both the UK and mainland Europe - so no 'terroir' is really traceable there. The malting process is straight forward - done by commercial maltsters, so not guessing there's something special here either...

So how about water? its taken off of Benrinnes behind the distillery and is soft natural spring water, much like that many others producers use - so nothing special there either... in fact, some people say that the water doesn't have an effect on the final taste of the whisky...

Fermentation then? well, its done in stainless steel washbacks using a distillers yeast and goes on for at least 48 hours and usually longer over weekends. This creates the flavour compounds in the wash and without a degree in chemistry, its hard to pinpoint if some of the reason is hidden here...

So what do I think really matters - or at least stand out? 

First of all, the distillation process. This is certainly on my shortlist for what I think makes Glenfarclas one of my favourites... But isn't it done just at other distilleries? well, yes - but one main difference though. At Glenfarclas they direct fire their still using gas flames enclosed underneath their stills. This gives a more uneven heating of the stills, creating a fluctuation in the vapours making it across the swan neck before it condenses back into spirit.

I was told a story about how Glenfarclas from back when most distilleries were switching to steam heating (late 80s, I think it was).Glenfarclas also did some tests with this, but lab tests came back revealing a whole other composition of the Glenfarclas spirit - so they decided to stick with direct firing of their stills, although they did make adjustments to hide the naked flame to comply with new health & safety rules. As to a style change in other distilleries, I will not make any conclusions and have not heard any - although you often come across people mentioning the quality of whisky from when most distilleries still operated direct fired stills.

Also, one of the most important as well, is the casks used at Glenfarclas.
Mainly Oloroso sherry casks are used for maturation, but also Fino sherry casks are seen from time to time along with Port pipes. Bourbon casks are also used, but these are mainly sold off to the blending industry. The quality of the casks at Glenfarclas is kept high by a long time relationship with the Jose and Miguel Martin sherry bodega in Spain and the distillery is always involved whenever casks are picked to ensure a consistent high quality sherry casks... 

Finally, add to that the advantage of being a family owned distillery and being able to do what you want at all levels! Oh, and let's not forget the very passionate people working at Glenfarclas - both in production and Visitor's Center! :-)

Now, on to the review:

The Glenfarclas stillroom, May 5th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Glenfarclas 15yo 58,6% (103 proof), Distillery bottling for The Whisky Exchange

Colour is gold

Quite approachable... creamy, even if its 58,6%...
Notes of alcohol marinated fruit - peeled plums, peaches and some apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon, some nuttiness, vanilla custard, nutmeg and clove and some damp earthy notes

A lighter style of 15yo Glenfarclas, this one...
Spicy orange and plums, quite a load of malt, hints of sweet licorice, mid- to end palate spicy citrus fruit confit gets more prominent and the whole thing is carried there in perfect measures by the never overpowering alcohol. Finishes on cooked and apple and a little nuttiness

The standard version bottled at 46% is one of the best standard bottlings out there and still available decent price for a 15yo whisky these days.

But this is not your average 15yo Glenfarclas, for sure... as mentioned above it carries a slightly lighter style which really allows this whisky to shine. You can add a little water to reduce the alcohol if you like, without harming it...

A great pick by the folks at The Whisky Exchange!

Thanks to MBO for cracking this one open at a recent private tasting!


Still available @ The Whisky Exchange for £79.95

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