By Richard Thomas
Glenfarclas is arguably the example of a single malt that is known and loved inside whisky circles, while remaining largely unknown outside of them. I know very few Scotch enthusiasts who do not think well of the distillery and its products, and at the same time I have encountered very few casual drinkers, the sort who only dabble with Scotch, who have heard of them.
The name translates from Gaelic as “valley of green grass,” and the distillery erected in that verdant glen was founded in the 1830s. In 1865, John Grant bought it, and the distillery continues to be owned by his descendants to this day. Part of Glenfarclas’s charm, and what makes it such a fan favorite, is it’s long history as an independent operation. “Independent” does not mean “small,” however: the six stills at Glenfarclas are the biggest in Speyside.
Glenfarclas 10 year old is an entry-level expression, bottled at 40% abv, and often recommended as an affordable aperitif single malt.
A sniff reveals what could be described as the classic single malt nose: malty and grassy, with a touch of honey and toffee, and a trace of sherry. On the palate, however, it’s an entirely different and untypical creature. The toffee is still there, but it rests in the middle of a thickly spiced, big and bold fruitcake, one seasoned with a whiff of smoke coming off the wood-burning oven it was baked in. The dried fruits in the fruitcake bring the sherry side forward strongly, but without smothering the cereals. There is also a certain burnt sugar aspect that gives the whisky a bitter tinge towards the end. One thing Glenfarclas 10 is not doing is following a standard, serialized script, that is for sure.
The finish leaves a light, but still oily and tingly aftercoat. Lingering on the tongue is a peppery, oaky, and murky-sweet flavor, with light and lingering warmth.
In the UK, Glenfarclas 10 is listed between £28 and £32. In th U.S., expect a corresponding price tag in the $40 to $45 range.