Glenfarclas (pronounced: glen-FAR-klas) is one of the last properly family-owned distilleries in Scotland, something it should be truly proud of. It is a distillery that has never quite garnered the worldwide reputation that its quality certainly deserves. Instead, it is one of those distilleries that charms...

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Glenfarclas (pronounced: glen-FAR-klas) is one of the last properly family-owned distilleries in Scotland, something it should be truly proud of. It is a distillery that has never quite garnered the worldwide reputation that its quality certainly deserves. Instead, it is one of those distilleries that charms people with its beautiful malts and never loses them. It is a distillery that attracts cult, praise, and critical acclaim very easily and justly so. A true Speysider at heart, it is one of the few distilleries to still invest serious money in quality sherry casks and this tradition shines out in its wonderful and varied range.

Founded: 1836
Stills: 3 Wash. 3 Spirit
Water Source: Ben Rinnes Mountain
Capacity: 3 Million Litres
Owned by: J&G Grant

1900s-1976: Old School Sherry Casks and The Glory Days.

Glenfarclas has been bottling its whisky as a single malt for many years. There are expressions of it to be found from most of the decades in the latter half of the twentieth century, although the further back you go the more moolah you’ll have to spend. Glenfarclas has always produced its whisky in a fairly old school fashion but up until the early 1960s it was truly old style with long ferments, worm tubs, direct-fired stills, and also floor malted, peated barley. Glenfarclas distilled before 1960 has a distinctly rooty, earthy peat quality that can be seen in many of the old bottlings and even in some of the long-aged releases that are still bottled today. Bottlings like the millennium 40yo and many of the family cask series from the 50s show this long-aged earthy phenol quality. Sherry casks have also always been of huge importance to Glenfarclas’ character. One of the few distilleries still to insist on them even to this day, they have rendered Glenfarclas a rich, dark, and fruit-laden malt in drinker's minds. Up until the early seventies, producers were still able to obtain stunning quality casks that were still shipped from Spain full of sherry. The problem with modern sherry casks is that this practice of sending the casks full of their original contents is no longer done, the result is that it has become almost impossible to recapture that freshness of a recently disgorged sherry cask. Old Glenfarclas bottlings are some of the best olfactory evidence for this decline in cask quality. Many of the casks, both official and independent, that can be found from the 1960s and before offering a stunningly clean and vibrant sherry character. Most old Glenfarclas is top-notch whisky, it can be very hard to find a bad one. Younger examples bottled many years ago display coal-like, oily, fruit laced qualities with full-bodied richness, complexity, and old-style farmy aspects. Aged examples bottled in recent years are numerous including both independent and official examples, most are excellent while the best are stunningly luxurious with rancio, pipe tobacco, stewed fruits, spices, and clean, mineraled, earthy sherry qualities.

1976-Modern Day: Fruity, Meaty and Rich.

Glenfarclas doubled the number of stills from two to four in 1960, converting to condensers from worm tubs in the process. Further expansion to six stills took place in 1976. Although this affected the distillate to an extent to this day it is one of only a handful of distilleries to direct fire its stills. Although the coal firing was converted to gas firing in 1972 this practice has helped them retain a distinctly old school oiliness to their spirit that is still apparent even to this day. While in recent decades the quality of sherry casks is not as vibrant as it used to be, Glenfarclas still invests a great deal of effort and time in top-quality wood and it shines out in the range it offers. The current range has evolved over the last twenty years and is now a comprehensive set of ongoing bottlings from a 10yo to a 40yo by way of the classic 105 proof, 15, 21, 25, and 30yo. All these bottlings are of consistently high quality and fairly priced by comparison to many other distilleries, just look at the price of other companies 40yo bottlings.

Modern Glenfarclas is often a little meatier but still retains much of its oily fruity class, notes of liquorice, tea, wood spice, and chocolate orange are not uncommon. The best examples are usually official ones as there seem to be less independent bottlings of Glenfarclas at younger ages. There is also the question of non-sherried Glenfarclas. For many years they have filled refill bourbon and refill sherry casks, although at the distillery they are referred to simply as 'plain’ casks. Glenfarclas out of refill wood can be stunning and, like many classic Speysiders, can, with age, reveal a stunningly soft, green fruit quality with wonderful notes of menthol, herbs, cereals and elegant complexity. The best examples are usually independent versions as Glenfarclas rarely bottle these kinds of casks themselves, although there have been a few exceptions in the family cask series, like the first release 1978 which was exceptional. It is well worth seeking out some 'naked’ examples of Glenfarclas as it offers a fascinating alternative to the common sherry matured style and gives a much clearer perspective on Glenfarclas’ wonderful distillate.

Glenfarclas remains one of Scotland’s most charming distilleries, a family-owned company that produces one of the most charming and elegant malts in Speyside. Fascinating and delicious in both sherry and refill wood it is a distillery that offers one of the highest levels of consistency in its product. Let's hope that things continue unchanged at Glenfarclas for a long time to come.

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