Glenfarclas is a distillery located in the Speyside region, close to the small town of Ballindalloch. It is owned by J&G Grant and is the second oldest family owned distillery in Scotland - the Grant’s have owned it since 1865. Only Springbank in Campbeltown has been owned by the same family line (the Mitchell's) for longer. Glenfarclas translates as ‘the valley of green grass’ from Gaelic. The distillery has an annual production capacity of three million litres and boasts the largest stills in Speyside. They are also renowned for their use of quality European ex-sherry oak casks for maturation and release a comprehensive core range of single malt whisky.
Rebuilt and renamed
George Hay founded a distillery on the current Glenfarclas site in 1836, although records show that an illegal farm distillery had been operating there since 1797. He named the distillery as Rechlerich. In 1865, it was sold to neighbour John Grant and here started the second longest continuous line of family ownership in Scottish whisky history. In 1896, the distillery was completely rebuilt by John’s son, George, and with that came increased production and success, along with the name changing to Glenfarclas. The distillery continues to be owned by the Grant family to this day (currently on the 6th generation) and the core range includes a 10, 12, 15, 21, 25 and 30 years old plus other limited single cask releases.
Details of the release
This 40 years old is the eagerly awaited new addition to the range, having been launched during the recent Spirit of Speyside Festival in April 2010. The whisky was distilled in the late 1960s, has bben maturing in ex-sherry casks ever since and has been specially selected from casks by George Grant, a 6th generation descendant of John Grant and a current director of the company. It is bottled at 46% ABV and can be found for £300-350 from specialist alcohol retailers.
Our tasting notes
The colour of this whisky is a dark brown amber. The nose has a great intensity and depth, with an initial sweetness that quickly turns towards drier notes. With time, more aromas start to develop and the combination is sumptuous but challenging. Sweeter notes (think of vanilla, toffee, brown sugar and dried fruits - raisins, dates and prunes) mix with darker (especially treacle and dark chocolate) and more savoury ones (imagine beeswax furniture polish and damp oak). There is also a distinct aroma that is reminiscent of spiced orange. On the palate, this is surprisingly vibrant for a whisky of this age. There is an immediate hit of wood spices (think of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg), followed by sweetness that is led by dried fruits (the raisins and prunes again, in addition to some candied orange peel), butterscotch and brown sugar. The comes more spiciness and this gives a bittersweet feeling and dries the palate. In short, this whisky is rich, intense and full bodied. The finish is long and lingering with plenty of dried fruits, wood spices and tannins. The combination makes the finish dry and mouth watering, with interesting hints of liquorice, clove and cocoa towards the end.
What's the verdict?
This Glenfarclas 40 years old is an excellent whisky but one that will not be for everyone's taste. It is heavy and rich yet has a pleasant, surprising and unexpected spicy vibrancy that makes it dry, dark and complex, after some initial sweetness. This whisky also offers good value for money for a whisky that has a 40 years old age statement, as many are in the £500-1000 bracket.