Whisky Advocate

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Scotch Whisky Single Malt of the Year”: Glenfarclas 40 year old

February 22nd, 2011

Now in its 175th year of whisky-making, Glenfarclas is one of the few distilleries that IS still family owned and operated. Family ownership has its advantages. They can do as they please, without having a corporate board to answer to. To our benefit, this means they can put out as many different expressions as they want, And indeed they have. From the Glenfarclas 10 year old, through to their newest (and oldest) 40 year old, there’s sure to be a whisky to satisfy your palate and budget.

However, one of the disadvantages of being family owned is that there usually isn’t a massive marketing budget to make the whisky known to all the people who might enjoy it. In many respects, the Grant family (who owns the distillery) relies on the whisky itself to do the talking. (When you ask a relatively new whisky enthusiast what brand they like, they usually mention one of the more famous whisky brands with a similar flavor profile. Ask them, “But have you tried Glenfarclas?” We don’t recall anyone ever being disappointed.)

In addition to the lack of massive marketing spending, the Grant family also eschews fancy packaging, once again letting the whisky itself do the talking. The minimal spending in marketing and packaging means that the savings can be passed down to you, the consumer.

This brings us to our award winner, Glenfarclas 40 year old. In an era where 30 year old whiskies with fancy packaging are going for $1,000 and higher, a 40 year old whisky for $460 seems like a steal! (But don’t tell the Grant family we said so. We’ll let this be our little secret.) It makes an “ultra-luxury” whisky affordable to a much larger audience. That’s what whisky was meant for: drinking, not collecting!

Of course, none of this would matter if it didn’t taste good. Indeed, it tastes very good. It’s complex and well-rounded, with great depth and no excessive oak. Lush, candied citrus (especially orange), old pot still rum, maple syrup, fig, roasted nuts, and polished leather, with hints of mocha, candied ginger, and tobacco. A bit oily in texture (which we find soothing) with good tannic grip on the finish. A classic, well-matured Glenfarclas.

Check back tomorrow. The “World Whisky of the Year” award winner will be announced.

33 Responses to “Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Scotch Whisky Single Malt of the Year”: Glenfarclas 40 year old”

  1. B.J. Reed says:

    If I was a distillery, I would want to grow up to be Glenfarclas

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    Your observations about offering new whisky drinkers Glenfarclas are very true. The Glenfarclas 12 beats the hell out of the over-sherried Macallan 12 every time. Whenever people have a 100$ to spend on a gift for a whisky drinker whose tastes are unknown Gflenfarclas 17 is always my first recommendation.

  3. Philip Storry says:


    This was supposed to be kept secret, old chap.

    Now, I know that over the years the distance between our peoples has caused our definitions of words to drift apart a little too, but really! This isn’t like accidentally calling a tap a faucet, this has serious repercussions! Although it may explain why all your government’s documents marked “SECRET” have been appearing in the press recently…

    However, if I overlook your spotty grasp of secrecy, I find myself unable to quibble with your choice.

    What I like best about it is that the Glenfarclas 40 is simply the pinnacle of a nice, logical progression of drams. Much of what you said about the 40 could be said about the 30, and then to a lesser extent the 25, and so on.

    Basically, if you feel that you’ve gone wrong with Glenfarclas, you’re probably right. And you can check that by asking anybody else – they’re much more likely to believe you went wrong than Glenfarclas did…

  4. Mr Claw says:

    Side-by-side I tried the Glenfarclas 40, Glenfarclas 40 Millennium & the Glendronach Grandeur 31.

    The Glenfarclas 40 was the best (I thought the Millennium was a bit woody). Excellent sherried malt – and I’m a sucker for a good sherried malt.

    That said, it was a tough call between that and the Glendronach (which is also excellent – and similarly priced in the UK; although I note more expensive in the US).

  5. Cary says:

    Hi John: I’m very surprised that you didn’t include the following: “thick powerful sherry notes”, a variant of which is included by every other reviewer of this expression. As one who is not partial to sherry flavored whisky, I think this is a significant oversight.

    • sam k says:

      I can only assume that John would have included that descriptor if he’d felt it was part of his experience with this particular whisky. In fact, I’d be shocked if he excluded such a strong influence during his analysis. Again, I will repeat my mantra: taste is truly subjective.

      Have you experienced these notes yourself, or are you relying on others’ perceptions alone?

  6. Jazz Lover says:

    Just picked up a case( for drinking!) All I can say about this one is
    let it breathe, or you will miss out on the full experience..

  7. Ryan says:

    Fabulous choice. This, and some of the older Glenfarclas retail cask selections, have just been remarkable. Now excuse me while I nail a horseshoe to my liquor cabinet, sew a rabbit’s foot to my wallet, throw coins in a fountian, hang a dreamcatcher in my car, search for four leaf clovers in my yard, put an acorn in my pocket, throw salt over my shoulder, knock-on-wood, cross my fingers, and hold my breath that Glenfarclas 40 remains a stellar value… one I can actually locate and buy.

  8. Michael says:

    Great choice, if I may.

  9. MrTH says:

    John, you actually have me thinking about spending twice as much on a single bottle as I have ever spent before. Who’d have thought $460 would sound like great value….

    • John Hansell says:

      Where else are you going to get a really good 40 year old owner-bottled whisky at this price these days?

      • Andre Girard says:

        You’re right. That’s the point….
        We bougth a bottle of Strathisla 1967 (Gordon McPhails) and paid about 300$ for it. Getting rare to pay a single malt so cheap… About 450$ for an official distillery bottling, that’s a deal. HP 40yo is 2000$

      • mongo says:

        tomatin? the 30 is not difficult to find in the low $200s and the 40 is not so much more expensive than the glenfarclas 40. (of the three i only have the tomatin 30, but i haven’t opened it yet.)

      • Texas says:

        Yeah, I may quibble a bit about the pricing of the Kilchoman, but not this. I think for a 40 year-old OB $460 is a very fair price.

  10. Andre Girard says:

    Good choice and great price indeed. We tasted it with George Grant on a whisky-tasting with our whisky club last november and this is truly a great single malt. I particularly loved the sherry wood-raisins-bee wax mariage and the balance and generosity of it. I still really like the 15yo expression who is also tremendous for the price. Great great stuff indeed and thank you to Glenfarclas to offer such a good whisky as such a low price

  11. Rich Howard says:

    good call, John, and a great dram from a favorite distillery of mine.

    several years ago, i went to a local whisky merchant. they were selling The Macallan 18yo for $144, and the Glenfarclas 21yo for $85. it was not a difficult decision to make…

  12. Joe Howell says:

    I guess this is why Federal Wine & Spirits in Boston is doing a Masterclass/ Dinner on March 14th. with the Forty Y.O. also The sold out 1968 which was also Whisky of The Year a few years back, and a1953 -54 Y.O. Glenfarclas – 1974 -31 Y.O it will end up with 235 years of Glenfarclas Single Malts and a little dinner, with George Grant . Family owned Scotch distilleries are so few that support should be given just for that.
    Glenfarclas has not swayed for six Generations and the quality of the scotch produced is simply brilliant and they stick to making great sherried malt and fair pricing which is a reason that I love to put in customers hands. The customers love the product and with fair pricing this is a brand that should be in all bars and restaurants. The 40 Y.O. is AMAZING and I hope that others look at letting the consumer taste try & BUY at fair pricing. FOREVER – FARCLAS and let it pour!!!!!!
    Joe Howell
    Federal Wine & Spirits

  13. H.Diaz says:

    What are the other few family owned distilleries? Like Joe Howell, I will support them just for that. Thanks.

    • whiskymonique says:

      Some other examples of great family-owned distilleries are Springbank (Longrow, Hazelburn) and Mitchell’s Glengyle (Kilkerran). There are alot of other independents as well….
      John – Fantastic choice, and I love the note on the “no frills” packaging. I’d always rather pay $200 less for a whisky without a wooden box, crystal decanter, or white gloves to handle it with. This stuff was made for drinking and at this price, it’s one of the only 40 year old that most of us can look forward to tasting.

      • Ryan says:

        Agreed whiskeymonique. Excellent point John. And thank you Glenfarclas for just bottling your magic elixir and foregoing the extravagant, aspirational packaging. The world we live in is already so saturated with overdesigned products in ornamental packaging, and neither do anything to improve functionality. I just want whisky to taste lovely, not remind me of Louis XIV.

  14. lawschooldrunk says:

    Glenfarclas 12 is amazing. And at $32, is one of the best QPRs of which I know. So delicious, I can imagine what the rest of the line taste like.

    Maybe one day I’ll spend $87 on the 17yo.

    • two-bit cowboy says:

      Naw, I bet you won’t.

      • Texas says:

        I realize I was one of the few that agreed with him about the pricing of Kilchoman, but don’t you think that’s a bit mean-spirited? Just by some of the posts I would assume that many here are wealthy, and price is no object, at least to some extent. However for many of us, one has to decide what is worth it as what is not due to a more limited income. For me, I am simply not going to spend $70 on a 3 or 4 year old Kilchoman, when I can spend $87 on a 17 year old Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas expended a lot more to age that whisky for 17+ years.

  15. Ryan says:

    It makes me chuckle that Glenfarclas is partnered with The Sazerac Company for making this stuff available in the U.S. Not a bad partner. As with the Grant family’s products, the quality and bang-for-the-buck of Sazerac’s portfolio also borders on ridiculous. Between Sazerac importing Glenfarclas to the U.S., and their entire Buffalo Trace Antique Collection winning 2011 American Whiskey of the Year, the folks in New Orleans are on fire. But there is always room for improvement, so maybe next year we’ll see a cask-strength version of their single barrel Caribou Crossing:)

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