By Kurt Maitland
Glenfarclas, “valley of the green grass,” is a Speyside whisky distillery in Ballindalloch, the same Ballindalloch that hosts one of the newest distilleries in Scotland. In contrast to the new outfit on the Ballindalloch estate, the Glenfarclas distillery was first granted a license in 1836. What is more, and in contrast to Scottish distilleries in general, since 1865 Glenfarclas has been owned and managed by just one family, the Grants of Glenfarclas. To this day, Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland to remain family-owned and -managed.
Glenfarclas produces a traditional Highland malt with a heavy sherry influence (i.e. it’s a sherry bomb) that some compare favorably to fan favorites like The Macallan. The distillery has approximately 50,000 casks maturing on site, with stock from every year from 1952 to the present. In my mind, the Grant family’s careful cultivation of the distillery and its whisky stock is part of why they have been able to stay independent for so long, because that cultivation has led to some excellent whisky.
Color: Dull copper
Nose: At 43% ABV, this whisky’s aroma carries chocolate, banana, and raisins.
Taste: Creamy dark chocolate, raisins, and old caramel. The core taste doesn’t last long, as this whisky comes at you with more of a quick, tasty beginning, a short middle, and a long finish. The mouthfeel is slightly dry and a little astringent.
The addition of water seems to add a little mint to the proceedings, while increasing the astringency and pumping up the spiciness, something I did not expect. It also evens out the soft middle, so that the taste is more consistent throughout.
Finish: Long with a muted and slightly astringent sweetness made of raisins, a slight nuttiness and hints of pipe tobacco.
If you love sherry bomb whiskies, you need to get to know Glenfarclas. Their offerings are better priced that The Macallan, but with just as much sherry. The younger iterations can be a little thin compared to their older siblings, but Glenfarclas is well priced for what it offers, especially as you go up in age.
The 12 Year Old runs for $50 to $55 where I live in New York City, but I’ve seen it priced elsewhere in the U.S. for as low as $40.