Thursday, February 19, 2009

Have just tried ... Glenfarclas Family Casks 1959 and 1979

glenfarclas family cask 1959 Glenfarclas is one of a few distilleries in Scotland that is owned by the family of the original founder, John S. Grant. The current company directors, George and John Grant, are Grant's great grandson and great great grandson respectively. It was established in 1836, close to the town of Ballindalloch in the heart of the Speyside region. Their core range is extensive and was joined in 2007 by the release of the 'Family Cask' series. With this, Glenfarclas have taken just one cask from 43 consecutive years (1952-1994) and bottled the contents at the cask strength. The result is a collection of rare whiskies with some of the older casks from the 1950s producing very few bottles (the lowest is 110 bottles only). The prices reflect this with a 1952 bottle costing around £1250 and the entire set costing in the region of £15,000. It is very rare to get the chance to taste any of them (without buying one!), so when the opportunity came along it had to be taken!

Family Cask 1979 - The 1979 bottling is one of only three in the entire series that is not matured in a sherry cask (the 1952 and 1984 being the others). This is unusual for Glenfarclas as they are famous for their sherry cask matured whisky. This was matured in a bourbon cask and the colour is golden. The nose is lovely and delicate with toffee and vanilla prominent, with a fruity element coming through (think of oranges). On the palate, the whisky is surprisingly light with some gorgeous vanilla, something nutty (imagine coconuts), a hint of a warm spice (think of ginger and nutmeg) and that citrus fruit (reminding me of orange peel or marmalade). Even more vanilla came with a drop of water. The finish is long and creamy with the toffee in particular coming through. A very good and balanced whisky that offers a chance to try a lighter, bourbon matured Glenfarclas. This will cost approx. £200 for one of the 225 bottles.

Family Cask 1959 - One of the oldest bottlings in the collection, this will cost you around £650 for one of the 194 bottles. This has the more traditional Glenfarclas sherry cask maturation and after almost 50 years in the cask the colour is a very dark brown. On the nose, this blows you away with its richness. There is lots of the dried fruits (imagine raisins and cranberries) that you associate with sherry cask maturation, but there is also something spicy (a bit like cloves, I think). The overall feeling is that of an intense, rich Christmas cake! The palate is even richer with all of the elements from the nose being joined by something darker and slightly bitter (think of an espresso coffee and dark chocolate), some creamy vanilla and burnt sugar. This is very complex and feels thick in your mouth. With water, it demonstrates the creaminess more and takes the edge off the bitter qualities. The finish goes on for ever as everything combines for one last hit. An exceptional (but pricy!) dram that is not for the faint hearted or those who don't like too much sherry cask influence.

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