A rich amber color and elegantly oxidized notes greet you. There are luscious old fruits—pineapple, dried peach, apricot—and puffs of coal-like smokiness. In time, sweet spices (cumin especially) emerge. Superbly balanced. The palate, while fragile, still has real sweetness alongside a lick of treacle. It can take a drop of water, allowing richer, darker fruits to emerge. The finish is powerful, long, and resonant. Superb, not over-wooded, and a fair price for such a rarity. £1,995
It has been quite a while since we’ve seen a new Glenfarclas here in the U.S. but, after tasting this whisky, it was worth the wait. Glenfarclas is a rich, stylish whisky that ages very well, and this 1968 vintage proves it. It is very deep and mature, with complex fruit (sultana, marmalade) layered by sweetness (honey, caramel, and toffee). All those years in oak contribute another dimension to the whisky, providing a dry, oaky spiciness, polished leather, and a hint of tobacco-especially on the finish. Never does the whisky taste tired or excessively woody. It expresses all that is good about an older whisky, without any of the down side. I’m told that most of the 1,400 bottles imported to the U.S. went to the Chicago area. It’s worth taking the extra time to track down a bottle.
Glenfarclas has a proven track record for aging very well. I’ve enjoyed some amazing 25 and 30 year old expressions, in addition to some older vintage offerings. Does this new 40 year old follow suit? Absolutely! 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 I find soothing) with good tannic grip on the finish. A classic, well-matured Glenfarclas — and a very good value for its age. (Editor's Choice)
This is the bomb. Savory and lightly meaty, but sweetened by plum sauce; there’s even some strawberry around the fringes. You could see how with another 30 years this would end up like the ’54. Elegant yet powerful, there’s sandalwood incense, marmalade, even a little dried mango. The distillery’s density is balanced by this fruit. Lush with supple tannins and at its best neat. From a refill butt, this is an exemplary sherried malt. £230
Dark amber in hue, this shows immediate mature elegance with great sweetness — think of spiced honey or mead. There are some light notes of pecan pie and all the while that thread of the sod. Glenfarclas can never fully escape its dark roots. There’s dried peach and fruit leather, toffee, and, with water, biscuits dunked in tea. The palate is autumnal and soft — fruit compote and peppermint. This is what you want from fully mature Glenfarclas at its peak. (U.S. exclusive).
The hits just keep on coming for Glenfarclas. Here we see it not only with enormous age but in relaxed mode in terms of oak. You can tell it’s old: the leathery waxiness and exotic fruits of whisky rancio; you can tell it’s Glenfarclas because of the ever-present earthiness, but both are intensified into a new aromatic realm: gentlemen’s barbershop, rowan berry, and images of an old bonfire next to a gingerbread house. Mysterious, subtle, and highly complex. £5,995
Quite earthy, with orris root, burlap, and dunnage warehouse notes. Distinctly meaty—Bovril (beef stock)—then cedary. This untamed edge—think Mortlach or Benrinnes—dominates the palate, but the cask (a refill butt) isn’t overstating its presence. There’s espresso on the finish. Here’s Glenfarclas taking a ramble on the wild side. If your preference is for more robust styles, then look no further. £345
First things first — congratulations to the Grants of Glenfarclas on attaining their 175th anniversary. To celebrate, they have vatted together a cask from 1952 with one each from the following five decades — and released it at an exceptionally reasonable price! The nose has a lift of struck match immediately followed by cedar, pomegranate, blackberry jam, and Seville orange. There’s a thick caramel toffee sweetness to the palate alongside the classic ’Farclas depth where dried, but sweet, fruits repose. Recommended. £80 (Dave Broom) (Value Pick)
Dark, chestnut-copper color suggests a sherry cask, and one nosing confirms it. A very multi-faceted whisky-the sherry is quite profound, but there’s a lot going on in addition to the sherry. Deep, succulent, and chewy on the palate, with fig cake, raisins, old rum, tobacco, pencil shavings, and almond fudge. Quite a mouthful!
The Coronation (distilled at Glenfarclas) 1953, 51.1%
Single Malt Scotch | $9,500
Only 60 bottles have been released from this 60 year old first-fill sherry cask. Amazingly, the nose is not dominated by wood, but is mature and concentrated with the aroma of rain-moistened tweed, tropical fruit, blonde tobacco, cedar, and chanterelle mushroom. This elegantly faded, sepia-tinted impression continues on the tongue: fine-boned, mossy, clean, and slowly drying. A classic example of oxidation, not woodiness, allowing freshness to be retained. Amazing. (The Whisky Exchange exclusive.) £6,000
Another first fill sherry butt, giving its typical reddish-brown hue. This runs more into the clove, cassia, and allspice area than just dried fruit. While maturity is obvious, and there’s even a hint of dunnage/leatheriness, it is the concentrated fruit sweetness that surprises here. The distillery has fought back against the cask, and while still crepuscular in nature, there is a rich, concentrated, and mellow glow at its heart. £345
Sherry butt once more, but this is much more relaxed in its attentions — think Montgomery Clift seducing Elizabeth Taylor rather than De Niro chatting up Liza Minelli. Sweetness is the key here, gentle and slightly caramelized, with touches of molasses-like concentration and even a whiff of the top of a crème brûlée. The palate surprises with its continued freshness; apple and the distillery’s distinctive earthy richness. Great balance.£382
The youngest of this Family Cask selection shows Glenfarclas in a surprisingly citric light, with plenty of citrus peels — tangerine, marmalade, and orange syrup, as well as sultana, suede, wax polish (surprising in a youngish dram), and chocolate — a recurring theme here. It is almost as if all the more lifted elements in each of the previous casks have here united. Mature, but highly expressive, and a great starter. £172
Just pause for a moment before tasting. 50 years. What has happened in the world during that time? How have you changed? What has it done to the whisky? Added a quiet elegance. It brings to mind elements of long-dried concentrated fruit and nut, damson, even smoke. The tannins are initially dusty, but a splash of water adds a fresh potpourri perfume. Is it expensive? For something that’s spent 50 years in a cask? No, it isn’t. (937 bottles) £1800
Although the youngest of the range, this has still spent 24 years in a refill butt. The nose is highly concentrated, with freshly-sharpened pencils and black cherry. There’s also some tobacco and then an earthy, armagnac-esque pruniness. Water brings out a resinous element, supple leather, and fruit syrups, allowing it to retain complexity. The driest of the range with the most obvious grip; for lovers of big, sherried, malts. £225
Weighty and deep. Instantly seductive: vanilla pod, rich fruits, the smell of fur coats. A femme fatale of a malt. A base of crisp malt mixes with oak to give balance and structure. Water brings out apple leaf, even a little grassiness. The palate is broad and balanced, with real sweetness and a tongue-coating quality which softens to dried fruit, earthy density, with a whiff of smoke. Redolent with the aroma of a dunnage warehouse. A class act.
The oldest whisky ever bottled by Glenfarclas. Fortunately, Glenfarclas ages very nicely. This whisky proves my point. It is very complex, with notes of burnished leather, roasted nuts, fruit cake, toffee apples, sultana, damp peat, and sappy oak. A very soothing whisky, with the depth and maturity one hopes for in a whisky this old. Only 110 bottles produced and only 18 destined for the U.S.
Amber in color and again some fresh fruitiness, this time mixed with a little cereal. The same dry grass you get on the 1981, but here there’s a nutty, biscuity edge above that meaty solidity. The palate shows slight oiliness and roasted red pepper, that changes into blackberry as it opens. Needs roughly the same amount of water to open fully, which also brings out chamois leather and then barley sugar sweets. Clean but rich — that’s Glenfarclas. (A U.S. exclusive.)
Unusually named—it refers to the price paid for the distillery—here is Glenfarclas in slightly lighter guise than usual. Fresh and clean at the start, with hints of sweet nut and soft cooked fruits; subtly sherried elements then begin to come through. The palate is balanced, with supple tannins and a dark depth to the mid-palate. Those sweet fruits in the nose continue all the way through. Refined and rather lovely. £85
Although from a refill, the mahogany color suggests a short previous use. Some nose burn, with a mature edge of leather and dark chocolate. Here’s Glenfarclas in a darker guise, with raisin and a savory aspect; think roast pheasant and walnuts, lamb and mint sauce. The palate is big, thick, and sweet with lots of extract, but also Turkish delight, sultana, and prune. While sherried, it’s not in any way overcooked; the tannins are balanced, the sweetness massive. £625
A refill sherry hoggie has given a classic walnut color, and indeed notes of that nut as well. Here’s Glenfarclas at its most dense, with savory, sun-dried tomato-like edges and sandalwood. The mouth is elegant with a little heat, the sherry giving roasted almond, sweet plump dried fruits, and dried flowers. Water brings out lightly gripping tannins (but, again, not aggressively) and good layering. Similar to the ’87. £285
This is a refill (or in 'Farclas terms, ‘plain’) hogshead, so there is less wood on show and more distillery. The nose is like a gentleman’s club at lunchtime: roasting meat, some pipe tobacco, polished wood, and the scent of a freshly-dug garden wafting through the windows. The palate shows slightly more fresh fruitiness (in line with the 1971 cask). There’s decent grip; think treacle this time. Fluxes and changes, which makes it all the more intriguing. £246
A refill hogshead this time, which when combined with its (relative) youth throws the distillery character into even greater focus. Positively light to start with, a green edge to the dry grass seen in the 1970s and more of the fruity notes hinted at in the 1982. All the time, though, it is anchored by meaty earthiness and that distinctive burnt note. The finish is a little short, but all in all a very appetizing example. £250
This comes from a refill butt and has a light, paler color. The lack of huge oak interaction has given an amazing freshness; think of freshly-applied plaster, syrup, hot green bracken, a touch of nuttiness. It takes water well, allowing pure, soft fruits to come through, and it is these which become almost syrup-like in the mouth, while never losing Glenfarclas’ central depth and roasty richness in the center. £865
A sherry butt this time, which has allowed the whisky a little more space to breathe. Although as concentrated as you'd expect here, we can see more fragrance emerging and a big-boned elegance is on show — think Margaret Dumont. I pick up some rose hip syrup, dried apple, Armagnac/prune, and a licorice note, as seen on the ’62; while on the palate, a good balance of rich chocolatey sweetness to offset the tannins. Big but balanced. £512
The color is light gold, the nose is very sweet and delicate, with a floral aspect that’s not always immediately apparent in Glenfarclas. This is from a fourth-fill hogshead, which provides creaminess, toffee, a little hint of orchid, burnt cream, and grilled peach. Sweetly delicious. The palate is akin to bread-and-butter pudding, with that creaminess continuing. All very summery and ‘up.’ Quite different, but appealing. £350
Delicate, with some jasmine, lily of the valley, and even, with time, the rich aldehydes of Chanel No.5. This heaviness gives a butterscotch-like quality when water’s added, alongside apple. The palate is thicker than the light color suggests—it’s from a fourth-fill hogshead—with overripe pear and white chocolate; with water, becomes scented with an added touch of marzipan and chestnut puree. One for a thoughtful afternoon’s contemplation. £760
Glenfarclas 27 year old 1981 Vintage (Cask #128), 53.4%
Single Malt Scotch | $200
When I toured Glenfarclas in May 2008, George Grant told me that, while it is usually not their policy to stray from aging their whisky in sherry and bourbon oak casks, they have done some experimenting. One of these experiments, aged entirely in a port cask, has finally been bottled. The nice thing about Glenfarclas is that it is a rich spirit and can stand up to a good dose of port wine (or sherry for that matter). The port notes are lush, with ripe fruit (plum, red grape skin, caramelized apricot, prune) and dates complementing the whisky’s malty, maple syrup foundation. The 27 years also impart a good dose of polished oak for balance. Not as complex as other Glenfarclas whiskies of this age, but this is certainly a solid, enjoyable change of pace for Glenfarclas. (A Park Avenue Liquor exclusive.)
Brimming with distillery character. Gentle malty notes come through initially, accompanied by apple core and classic ‘Farclas weight. The alcohol, though high, is not obtrusive. In time there’s some orange marmalade, and this bittersweet element helps to add another layer of complexity. Water brings out toffeed depth. Even neat it isn’t too hot, showing heft rather than bludgeoning power. In time there’s black cherry, chocolate, and a hint of smoke. Highly recommended.
In style, this is closest to the 1978 in its levels of sweetness. Here, though, there is added key lime pie, juicy white peaches, and whipped cream alongside that deep Glenfarclas roasted ‘polished brass’ note. The medium-weight palate is pure and sweet with light orchard fruits. The most freshly acidic of the selection, with a hint of flowers on the very end. £430
More of a reddish hue, but as equally robust as the 1961 (see below). Some baked characters alongside dried cherry and barberry, which shift toward balsamic-like concentration. Hint of black pudding (blood sausage) and bitter chocolate. The palate is tight and tannic, with a hint of smoke and cooked dried fruits. Water loosens the tannic grip, allowing licorice to show. (U.S. exclusive.)
This is coming from a first fill sherry hogshead, so there’s little surprise that the color is as dark as pitch. This is Glenfarclas at its most concentrated; less about dried fruit and more about highly-roasted espresso with a glass of ancient Marsala on the side. The palate shows firm grip moving into astringency. Too much cask for me, but if this is what rocks your boat, go for it! £840