Sunday, February 8, 2009

Have just tried ... Glenfarclas 105

glenfarclas 105Glenfarclas is one of the last distilleries in Scotland to still be owned by the family of the original founder. It was established in 1836, close to the town of Ballindalloch in the heart of the Speyside region. The current company directors are George and John Grant, who are the great grandson and great great grandson respectively of the founder John S. Grant (whose name also appears on all the labels). Glenfarclas translates as 'valley of the green grass' in Gaelic and produces three million litres of whisky per year. The majority of this is released as single malt and although it is popular in the UK, its main markets are in southern Europe, America and the Far East. The core range consists of a 10, 15, 21, 25 and 30 years old plus this 105, which is released at cask strength (60% ABV). Independent bottlings are available but cannot carry the Glenfarclas name by law, as J & G Grants do not allow it. They will be found named as 'Speyside's Finest', 'Secret Stills - Speyside' or something similar.

Glenfarclas use sherry casks to mature their whisky and this is evident everywhere, starting with the colour which is dark amber/gold. The nose is full of dried fruit (imagine raisins and sultanas), candied peel (especially orange), rich butterscotch and something sweet (it sounds strange but it reminded me of candy floss). There is also some warm spice present (think of nutmeg). The palate is rich and creamy, feeling thick in your mouth. The dried fruit is prominent again and mixes with the butterscotch note. Also, there is a slight herbal and woody note that comes through and something a bitter (reminding me of dark chocolate or black coffee). With water, the fruitiness opens out and this is joined by some maltiness from the barley. The finish is long, creamy and warm. A very good example of a cask strength whisky that despite being very easy drinking at 60% ABV, gets even better with a dash of water. A bottle should cost £35-40.

glenfarclas 105 40 years oldWhilst tasting the 105 above, I was offered the chance to try the newly released Glenfarclas 105 40 years old. This is again bottled at 60% ABV but has been in a sherry cask for 40 years and costs considerably more at over £500 a bottle! I was not going to turn it down! This is dark brown, almost black with a tinge of maroon. The nose is full of dried fruit (raisins and candied peel) but there is a rich dark chocolate character that is the difference with the regular 105. This gives a warming and slightly burnt quality to the nose, that was reminiscent of a mix of dark bitter chocolate and a strong espresso coffee. In your mouth this is rich, creamy and full bodied with the fruitiness taking a back seat to the chocolate and coffee notes. There is just a hint of woody bitterness, but certainly not as much as I was expecting considering how long it has been in the cask. The finish just went on and on and the addition of water brought even more complexity through (especially some dried berries like cranberry or currants). A truly gorgeous whisky.


Markus said...

How can there still be 60% ABV in a 40 year old whisky?

Matt C said...

Dear Markus
Thanks for your comment - that is a very good question. I will try to find out from Glenfarclas as to how it can still be 60% ABV. My guess is that it may have been filled to the cask at a higher strength than it would be today. This would be approx 65% ABV today but may have been 75-80% back then, which was not uncommon. It may also have been maturing in a location where less than average evaporation occured, or it could be a combination of the two things.