Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
The story of Glenfarclas is the story of a series of Johns and Georges. The distillery is located on Rechlerich farm at Ballindalloch and has been owned by the cattle farming Grant family since 1865. To this day it has remained in private family ownership (one of only a few distilleries) and produces some of the best value malt whisky out there.
With a few exceptions, all scotch whiskies are matured in casks or barrels that used to hold something else, commonly ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. Yeah, if you are reading this than you probably already know this, but bear with me for the benefit of new whisky nerds.
Glenfarclas uses a mix of sherry casks and 'plain casks'. They use no first fill bourbon barrels. Plain casks are bourbon casks that have already been used once for (Scottish) whisky OR sherry casks that have already been used four times to mature whisky. They are 'plain' because they can no longer be said to impart the flavours of their previous occupants and are thus 'plain', yielding just the flavours of oak. Sherry casks are 10 times more expensive than bourbon casks and this is where to good value of 'Farclas comes in.
It is not that sherry casks are 'better' than bourbon ones, it is just a supply and demand issue that dictates the price. There is a shortage of sherry casks available to the Scottish whisky industry and an abundance of bourbon casks as in America oak barrels can be used only once to mature whiskey thanks to the logging lobby in years gone by. They are also bigger and generally do not need to be re-coopered into different sizes.
Glenfarclas has a wide range of standard releases and have recently introduced the Family Cask line which are a series of vintages from 1952 to 1994. In the words of George Grant, "We hopefully have a whisky to suit everybody's palate, and obviously, also a whisky to suit everybody's wallet." Good attitude. This week we are lucky enough to try a few bottlings from their core range. We have already tried Glenfarclas 105 and the Glenfarclas 25yo which I chose as one of the top 3 drams tasted in the first 100 Malt Missions.
Light but rich and alluring. Red plums, treacle, raw ginger. Sherry, apples, malty sweetness and spices.
Soft and creamy. Wood. Tobacco, malt, and a touch of smoke. Vanilla and other spices taper the short-ish finish.
I am certain than some Glenfarclas we will have later in the week will be full-on dessert drams, well this is a real appetiser. Stimulating, light but rich. Great natural colour. In the mouth one could guess this was a much older whisky. Good package of flavour with the dry oakiness verging on flatness but saved by great balance against sherry and barley sweetness. Great budget malt, especially for a sherry fan.
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