Glenfarclas Tasting with George Grant & Joe Howell
Federal Wine & Spirits, Boston, MA, Nov. 13, 5 pm:
The tasting, which was held in a tiny cramped Wine Cellar underneath the store, was one we'd been anticipating for weeks. Glenfarclas is a name that stands for something both in the scotch industry and on the shelves of stores and scotch lovers all over the world. As a long-time family owned and operated distillery, which eschews industry fads, and holds awards for producing great, no nonsense, traditional scotch whisky, it's one that people feel proud to associate themselves with. Packed into one and a half foot aisles between four foot racks of fifty dollar wine, we we're all tasted on the full Glenfarclas range--with the exception of the 15 year old--plus a dram of the slightly harder to find 1974 vintage cask strength bottling. Not bad at all.
George Grant, the Glenfarclas Brand Ambassador, talked about the distillery, cracked jokes, and chatted with people. I asked him a few questions and he signed a 21 year old that I bought. One thing that I found out was that Glenfarclas was peated up until 1971. Who would have guessed... It makes me more interested in the 1968 vintage, which unfortunately, I haven't seen around anywhere.
At any rate, here are some informal notes from my memory. Enjoy.
A lot of green fruit. Very citrusy. A little flowery. Some soap on the finish, but it's not overpowering. Tastes a touch immature in a pleasant sort of way. Almost like a young lowlander. Very different from the rest of the range.
Subtle raisin-like fruit, a little bit of oak herbs, a good bit of malt and body, some nuts, some grass. A nice relaxed drink. Straightforward without being simple.
Very refined is the first impression before the tastes even sink in. Smooth. Somewhat heathery. All of the flavors from the twelve (less nut) but here they integrate more naturally and effortlessly. A supple body. Leads you on as if it always had a little more to offer. The beginnings of depth. Feels good to drink. One of my two favourites.
This has good depth. And a firm malty foundation too. The fruit is disappearing and giving way to a well harmonized oak influence. The finish is great. Very long and soothing. An enjoyable grit from the oak right at the beginning of the finish. The presence of the sherry here is slightly more pronounced, but like the oak influence it blends in beautifully and its aromatic fruity-chocolatiness arises from and passes back into the other flavors in a very sublte interplay. I notice that I haven't commented on sherry at all in my notes for the 10, 12, and 17, but it is present in all of them (except maybe the 10). I think that the reason I didn't note it was that, like many young scotch drinkers, I'm accustomed to sherry having a more dominant and unabashed influence. This is the era of monster flavors. More often than not, being a hardcore Islay fan means considering Ardbeg to be the best whisky of them all. Of course Ardbeg is the most heavily peated whisky that's easily available to most. And appreciating sherry in scotch means debating over, which batch of Aberlour (one of the most heavily sherried whiskies) is the best put together. Truth be told Glenfarclas has plenty of sherry, but with the possible exception of the 105 I feel like it's better integrated and less in your face than most of the other scotch that gets hyped for its sherry. But back to the review-- Glenfarclas 21 is really great very powerful whisky, and I would recommend it or the 17 to any serious appreciator of scotch.
I feel like the oak is dominating a little here. Sipped simply and not slowly it comes across as sweet, resinous, thick, and satisfying. It also has a fascinatingly deep texture, which is worthy of savoring, but unfortunately, if you let it move around in your mouth for more than a second, most of the flavors fold out to the oak. It's not that the whisky tastes unpleasantly woody--it's just not as brilliantly balanced as the 21.
This one is different. It's a cask strength and the sherry flavor in it dominates to a degree. The flavors are gratifying. Drunken straight, It's almost syrupy in its texture. A few drops of water tone it down, though, and what you're left with is a the sherried whisky equivalent of an excellent workhorse. Good stuff--especially if you enjoy up-front sherry. It's also an excellent value.
Glenfarclas 1974 Cask Strength
This is similar to the 105 not just because it's cask strength, but also because of the dominance of the sherry. That said it's much better balanced and more complicated than the 105. It's soothing and drinks well straight even at 54.7%. If you like the 105 and you have some money, then you'll probably like this even better.