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Archive for the ‘Glenfarclas’ Category

Introduction

“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…

Tasting Notes

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. :-)

Conclusion

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.

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Introduction

I don’t usually post press releases, and this “news” has been out there for a couple of weeks, but I’m about to review this whisky, so I thought I’d put this info up for easy reference…

Press Release

 

9 May 2012

Glenfarclas launches limited edition single malt – the oldest whisky in its history

The Glenfarclas distillery has launched a 58-year-old whisky – the oldest spirit ever to leave its walls. Only 400 numbered single cask bottles will be put on the market.

The single cask whisky launched by Glenfarclas is the oldest spirit released so far by the distillery. The privilege of exclusive access to the distillery’s rarest and oldest stock, the remaining 4 casks distilled in 1953, were given by George Grant, of Glenfarclas to a panel comprised of Serge Valentin, a whisky connoisseur and a key member of the internationally renowned Malt Maniacs, Ben Ellefsen, Sales Director for Master of Malt (Whisky Magazine’s ‘Global Online Retailer of the Year’ 2012), Michał Kowalski of Wealth Solutions and George Grant himself. The panel was unanimous in their selection, and cask #1674 was selected to be bottled.

The carefully chosen cask began its life in Spain, where it was used to mature and then transport fine sherry to Scotland. It was bought by Glenfarclas and filled with whisky on 20 November 1953. After 58 years of slow maturation in Glenfarclas’ traditional Highland Dunnage warehouses, the 1953 cask yielded only 400 full 70 cl bottles. The whisky was bottled at cask strength of 47.2% abv and, of course, is naturally coloured and non-chill filtered.

Layer upon layer of flavour. A splendid old whisky; still lively, and not displaying any woodiness. Much influenced by the American oak cask, but wholly beneficially. Best enjoyed unreduced. Cheerful and friendly at natural strength, said Charles MacLean, a writer and whisky connoisseur, summarising his appraisal of the spirit. This exceptional whisky deserves a special setting. Each bottle is accompanied by a special book written by Ian Buxton, a well-known Scotch whisky enthusiast and writer, the author of the official history of the Glenfarclas distillery entitled Glenfarclas – An Independent Distillery. The whole set is enclosed in a plain oak box.

This limited edition Glenfarclas whisky has been selected specially for customers of Wealth Solutions, a company providing products for the most demanding Polish collectors and investors. We are very excited to offer one of the oldest casks of whisky which we have in Glenfarclas to Polish whisky lovers. It’s fantastic to see so many Polish people interested in such an old and rare whisky, said George Grant, Brand Ambassador at Glenfarclas. It is a real honour for us to offer our customers the ability of purchasing that exceptional whisky. So far, our offer has met with their huge interest, said Michał Kowalski, Vice President of Wealth Solutions.

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Introduction

MoM Movember Glenfarclas

We interupt this not so regularly scheduled blog to bring you an exciting breaking development in the whisky world. Well, it’s a breaking development for me, anyway. This weekend, I received a surprise sample in the mail from the folks at Master of Malt. It was the new Movember bottling – an expression produced by a partnership between Glenfarclas and Master of Malt. According to the literature I received, this is a vatting of two Oloroso sherry hogshead casks, matured for 9 years. 10 casks were picked out by George Grant, Sales Director at Glenfarclas, with the final two casks chosen by Master of Malt. It’s bottled at 53%.

For every Movember bottling sold at £39.95, £10.00 will be donated to Movember. Sounds great, but how is the whisky?

Tasting Notes

Glenfarclas – Movember 2011; 53%; £39.95

Nose: Super clean sherry in the form of ripe red fruits. Just amazingly juicy, with a little bit of cooking spice, a hint of oak, and no sign of sulfur. Wow!
Palate: Still juicy, and also fairly sweet, with a pretty big impact at first, but dropping off to more of a medium impact by mid-palate. The alcohol is well controlled, with no need to water it down.
Finish: The red fruits continue right on through to the end, lingering for a medium duration in the back of the nostrils. It’s sweet with a little oak spice on the tongue. However, the taste drops off fairly quickly, leaving just a hint of oak to go with the fruit in the nostrils.

Comments:

I could sit with a glass of this and take in the aromas all night long! Sure, the finish could be a little bigger, but that doesn’t spoil the overall experience. The amazingly clean, juicy nose reminds me of my favorite Aberlour a’bunadh batches (#23 and #26). It’s a little more fruity and a little less oaky than those two, and the finish is bigger on the Aberlours, but oh, that clean sherry nose! It’s a refreshing change from the heavier Macallan-like nose often found in big sherry whiskies. I’m very comfortable giving this a personal rating in the 88-89 range. A solid B+.

Conclusion

If you love a big sherry, fruity nose on your whisky, you should enjoy this young Glenfarclas. If strong impact from palate through finish is all that matters to you, it’s possible you’ll be left wanting for more. For me, a sherry nose this clean is hard enough to find that I want to grab onto a bottling like the Movember Glenfarclas when I get the chance. After prying my nose away from the glass, following my first taste of this sample, I jumped on my laptop and ordered two bottles. I’m putting my money (well, credit card and ensuing interest charges) where my mouth is on this one.

Cheers,
Jeff

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Introduction

Here we go with my first review of a free Master of Malt sample. It’s a 20 year old Glenfarclas from the Family Cask series, bottled at 56.5%. There were 521 bottles produced from a single refill sherry puncheon. I’m going to compare it with the standard Glenfarclas 17 year old release.

MoM 3cl Samples and packaging

I already discussed what’s going on with these samples from MoM. I’d like to additionally editorialize that their sample program is pretty sweet. As long as you’re comfortable with the prices they charge for the samples you’re interested in, everything else is top notch. Excellent packaging with really nice looking wax-dipped bottles, and very fast shipping. The only down side is I’d rather see 40 or 50 ml samples, depending on how much extra they would charge.

Tasting notes and comparisons

Glenfarclas Family Cask 1986 (cask #3434; 56.5%; 70cl $260, 3cl $15)

Glenfarclas 1986 Family Cask

Nose: There is light sherry influence of the dried fruits variety, but it is somewhat muted. Rising above the sherry are distinct oak and vanilla notes. There is also an underlying sweetness. Adding some water brings the sherry notes out more, and makes it more balanced.
Palate: This one has a very rich feel on the palate, initially juicy on the tongue, followed by some nice spices and drying.
Finish: On the finish, it’s still kind of spicy, with the oak returning, and finally turning a little malty. It’s not a particularly long finish, but it’s nice while it lasts.

My rating: 87 points

Glenfarclas 17 Year (43%; 75cl $85)

Nose: The same kind of sherry (dried fruits) as the 1986, as well as vanilla and oak, but the fruit stands out more, and the oak stands down to create a more balanced presentation.
Palate: Malty and sweet, and lightly spiced, with noticeable drying on the tongue.
Finish: Balanced on the finish, just as on the nose. Less oaky again than the Family Cask, which I think is a good thing in this case. It’s probably just the oak/malt combination, but in the nostrils, I could swear there’s a hint of Highland Park style smoke that lingers for a while.

My rating: 88 points

Comparison

Neither one of these is a “sherry bomb.” Look to first-fill sherry cask expressions for that. The 1986 brings increased oak on the nose and finish relative to the 17 year, to the point that it might be a little much for some people. Add a little water to balance it out. And of course, there’s the higher ABV, which provides more impact. The 17 year offers increased maltiness on the nose and finish, and perhaps a hint of smoke. For me, the 17 year wins out on the nose, the 1986 has an edge on the palate, and the finish goes once again to the 17 year.

Bottom line

If you’re a fan of medium-sherried whiskies that allow the oak flavors to come through, you’ll probably like the 1986 Family Cask. However, price is certainly a consideration. I would not pay $260 for a bottle unless I really wanted something tied to the year 1986. That being said, this Family Cask bottling is a very enjoyable whisky, and thanks to Master of Malt, if you’re considering buying one to celebrate the year 1986 in some way, you can try a sample for $15 [hey, that was a pretty good plug, huh?].

The Glenfarclas 17 year isn’t as big on the palate, but otherwise offers a very similar, and in some ways more balanced profile for much less money. I’m very impressed with this expression, and purchased a backup bottle when it was on sale locally.

This is a pair of extremely enjoyable medium-sherry whiskies and both are highly recommended based on taste. For value, the 17 year obviously wins out.

Master of Malt info

Many thanks to Natalie and the gang at Master of Malt for picking out a set of samples and supplying them to me. This special, rare bottling sample was a nice surprise. Check out MoM on the web here:

Once again, here’s the link to the Glenfarclas Family Cask 1986 page, where you can purchase a full bottle or sample. For the record, this is not an affiliate link. I’m not currently participating in any such programs.

Cheers,
Jeff

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