“Unbelievable! Am I reading this right?!” That was my reaction after opening an unsolicited package from Master of Malt containing the following surprise:
Somebody over at MoM must have failed to notice my scattered blog posting frequency lately, but it’s here now, and it’s MINE! Thanks guys! This is what the full bottle presentation looks like:
The Glenfarclas team really went all out on the samples they sent. I can’t believe I got a little magnetically closing box, and the same book (minus signing and numbering) that comes with the full bottle! And now, to taste it, trying not to be swayed by the presentation and history…
Glenfarclas 1953 58 Year; 47.2%; ~$9,400.00!!!
[Single Sherry Cask (American Oak)]
In one session, I tried this sample all by itself. In another, I did a head-to-head comparison with some other reasonably mature Glenfarclas releases. Glenfarclas fascinates me with the way its 25 and 30 year old standard bottlings seem so young and fresh for their age, still maintaining some of that Speyside apple fruitiness, even after many years in sherry casks. Is there a breaking point for this spirit? 58 years in a cask seems like a pretty good test!
On initial pour, the nose seemed muted by a strong woody sawdust smell. Letting it sit for 10 minutes…
Ok, much bigger nose now! Peaches, a dalmore-like chocolate orange, raisins, and the oak has turned to butterscotch. I also get a slightly musty note that reminds me of Glenmorangie Lasanta. Overall very rich and satisfying, with the usual Glenfarclas fresh fruitiness giving way to more mature, soft fruits and oak-influenced flavors.
Toffee sweetness in the mouth. Thick. Rich feeling. Juicy. Just a wonderful feeling on the tongue, with some white pepper coming on late. Slightly nutty late on the palate, too. Excellent delivery, and hard to believe it’s 58 years old!
Heading into the finish, it slowly grips the sides of the tongue, finally showing some stronger wood influence. A dryness slowly works from the sides over the top of the tongue on the long finish. I love this kind of drying action! Peaches and butterscotch are back in the nostrils, and then that musty note again. I hesitate to call it an “off” note. Although, this note does become more noticeable when doing head-to-head comparisons with other Glenfarclas bottlings. [Less of a problem in normal drinking conditions]
This 1953 bottling is definitely a different animal from the standard 21, 25 and 30 year Glenfarclas bottlings, which all have a much fruitier flavor. So there IS a point at which the oak can tame the Glenfarclas spirit a bit. I do get the feeling that bottling this cask 10 years earlier might have provided slightly more balance between fruit and oak-influenced flavors, and perhaps left the finish a little cleaner. That’s just speculation, obviously, and probably one I’m not experienced enough to make.
The 58 Year 1953 Glenfarclas is a lovely whisky, and one of the better Speyside whiskies I’ve tried to date. This tasting opportunity has been a tremendous education to see what can become of Glenfarclas spirit after such a long time in an American Oak cask. It’s good for 90-ish points on my personal scale, with a slightly musty note in the nose/finish bringing the otherwise complex nose and heavenly arrival back down to earth. I count myself extremely lucky for having been able to try this piece of history.
Postscript – The “S” word
I hesitated to use the S word (Sulphur) in the review. I don’t know if that Lasanta-like note was due to sulphur, but that’s what I had always attributed that smell/taste to in the Glenmorangie expression. Also, the fact that it was stronger when doing head-to-head comparisons with other whiskies made me think of my Lagavulin 21 experience. Anyway, just something to ponder out loud in the interest of full disclosure. I did encounter a couple of similar observations in Twitter conversations about this expression. Though, most of the reviews I’ve seen seem to place this expression almost beyond reproach.