I’ve been lucky enough to try the core range of Glenfarclas – a whisky from the Highland region of Scotland. A whisky that has been in the Grants of Glenfarcas family since 1865 when on the 8th June, John Grant acquired the tenancy of Reichlerich Farm in Ballindalloch for only £511.19S.0d. The plot also held a distillery. To this day Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland to remain family owned and managed.
John Grant sent his son George, to look after Rechlerich Farm,whilst sub-letting the Glenfarclas distillery to a distant cousin, John Smith. In 1870, John Smith left to build Cragganmore distillery and John Grant took his son into partnership until his death in 1889. From this date, George was running both the distillery and the farm until only a year later when George also passed away. He left the licence to his widow and two eldest sons John and George.
Looking to expand the distillery during the whisky boom of the 1890s, George, and John, decided to go into partnership with Leith based Pattison, Elder & Co. Together they formed the Glenfarclas-Glenlivet Distillery Company. Unfortunately, it proved to be a troublesome partnership, and eventually collapsed which left John and George at the brink of financial ruin. It took 15 years to resolve the situation, but by 1914 the future of Glenfarclas was secure in the hands of the brother’s own company; J. & G. Grant. John took early retirement due to ill-health, and in 1930 George purchased the freehold for Glenfarclas once the lease expired on the Ballindalloch Estate which held the farm and distillery.
In the early 1950’s, the 1860’s Spirit Act, which had prohibited simultaneous mashing and distilling, was repealed, effectively doubling the capacity of the distillery. By the early 1960s, due to such high demand, George rationed the sale of new make to the blenders until 1968 when some of the major filling customers announced that they would not be ordering in the following year. Taking advantage of this, George lay down more stock for the distillery’s own bottlings, rather than rely so heavily on the blenders. Thanks to his foresight, the distillery has such good stocks of old casks, and is able to offer such a wide range of bottlings as part of The Family Casks collection.
Current Chairman John L.S. Grant joined the company in 1973, and succeeded his father as Chairman in 2002. Upon joining, John focused on building sales of Glenfarclas by the bottle, rather than in bulk to blenders. George, son of John, is the sixth generation of the family and the company’s Brand Ambassador. George joined the family business in 2000.
So with a family history spanning 6 generations, how do you produce such quality?
The heather clad slopes of the 840 metre high Ben Rinnes mountain, purple in autumn and snow-clad in winter, rise up majestically behind the distillery. The melting snows of winter seep down through the peat, deep into the granite below, rising up as pure, crystal clear spring water, soft and slightly acidic, ideal for making Glenfarclas whisky. Since 1972, ‘maltsters’, companies who specialise in malting barley, produce the malt to Glenfarclas’ required specification. The barley is usually grown in Scotland, and often in the local area of Moray.
Distilling twice, the six traditional direct-fired copper pot stills, the largest on Speyside, are ‘direct fired’ stills, keeping it traditional compared to many modern stills that are internally heated by steam filled unit heaters.
Glenfarclas is matured in two types of cask. Either a plain oak cask which have been used to mature Bourbon and Scotch whisky, prior to Glenfarclas or Spanish sherry casks, which have matured Oloroso or Fino sherry in Seville, Spain. Prior to bottling the casks are emptied into vats, enabling the flavours to ‘marry’ together. By using two types of cask, plain oak, and sherry, all Glenfarclas is bottled at natural colour. Depending on the age selected and the stocks available, the ratio is usually two-thirds sherry to one-third plain.
So how does the Glenfarclas range compare? Well below I give to you my tasting notes –
Glenfarclas 10yr – 40%
Slight kick of malt on the nose which mellows quickly. A subtle spice is released near the end. Rather sharp once onto the palate with citrus and honey flavours coming through. Dried fruit and spice create a long offering.
Glenfarclas 12yr – 43%
Soft with a light malt aroma on the nose with a blend of biscuit and citrus. Again rather soft on the palate but develops a slow burst of peat and fruit. Slightly dry.
Glenfarclas 15yr – 46%
Very light on the nose with a slight honey scent mixed with a hint of toffee. Sweetens a little near the end. Sweeter on the palate and begins bold but smooths out into a slow warmth. A treacle flavour with a slight kick at the end.
Glenfarclas 21yr – 43%
Rich nose of dark malt and burnt toffee with a lively sweet aroma. Surprisingly smooth with a roasted chocolate flavour thickening over the throat. Quite short.
Glenfarclas 25yr – 43%
Honey and sherry aromas mix on the nose whilst a good hit of oak is present on the palate. Rather soft and light with no harshness at any point. Slight toffee at the end.
Glenfarclas 105 10yr – 60%
Plenty of light sherry notes on the nose, with faint pine nuts following. Rich sherry on the palate, with a high kick of coffee and nuts. Very warming, although results in a short finish.
Glenfarclas 105 20yrs – 43%
Smooth fudge aromas on the nose with raw sugar blasting through. A smooth start on the palate but it quickly develops into a bold, slightly harsh flavour of fruit and chocolate. A huge kick near the end with a very long finish of spice.
Some surprising reactions from myself, in particular the 21yr and 15yr – age statements I will look out for in any whisky den. The 105 is a grower (like Marmite), and the lower ages are great for an introductory whisky or on to finish a long shift at work on. As you can probably see, Glenfarclas has something for an occasion and everyone, a rarity in some cases but I suppose being a family owned brand, you’re not going to shy away from your core values.
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