George Grant’s Great Glenfarclas
George Grant’s Great Glenfarclas Tasting – October 2013
We were honoured indeed to welcome Mr George Grant whose family have been distilling at Glenfarclas since 1865. John Grant, George’s Great, Great, Great, Great Grandfather was a farmer who purchased a neighbouring farm in order to have room to fatten calves before market. It just happened to have a Distillery within it. John paid £511 19s for the farm and Distillery. The Grant family are one of the few families who still own and manage their own distillery, although they no longer run the farm, George’s father John Grant is the current Chairman, George is the Director of Sales.
George started by telling us about the very traditional methods they use at Glenfarclas, the stills are externally heated which is a more expensive way of heating, the alternative of using internal coils, a bit like an electric kettle, makes a very different spirit. They know this as it was tried in the 1980’s. They exclusively use ex-sherry casks 60% are 1st and 2nd fill, 40% are 3rd and 4th fill they are very strict at probing the casks throwing out any that are not up to scratch, they are normally used 4 times or for 50 years. They have around 55,000 casks maturing at the distillery, all in traditional low level Dunnage warehouses, with casks laying on their sides only three high, again more expensive but better maturation. Glenfarclas whisky is natural colour, no caramel colouring is used, which is a surprise to some as the colours are always dark, well that’s what happens when you use exclusively sherry casks. So onto the whiskies
Glenfarclas 15 years old – 46%
This is Georges favourite whisky. All the best people like 15 year old whisky. A lot more whisky is bottled at 46% these days, at this strength Chillfiltering is not required so the natural oils are retained, however this 15 year old has always been bottled at this strength. When it was first released 60 years ago George’s Grandfather who was in charge at the time preferred the whisky at 46% so it has always been that strength. George’s Grandfather was also called George as was his Great, Great Great, and Great Great Great Grandfathers. As a small boy George was a little disturbed that in the local Churchyard there were 3 gravestones with his name on. However this was made easier to deal with as in the distilleries warehouse’s there were 55,000 casks of whisky also with his name on. Sorry I digress. The 15’s nose is sweet and succulent sherry, malty, honey light dried fruit and a bit of smokiness if you really want it. The palate is delicate, surprising given its vibrant golden colour. Sweet rich sherry and all that the nose promised, but it’s the finish which makes it great, long smooth and spicy, with that little faint smokiness. (could be just me really wanting it to be a bit smoky).
Glenfarclas 21 years old – 43%
This whisky is perilously smooth, it is extremely well balanced. According to George it’s very expensive, that’s because once you open a bottle, particularly with friends, it’s very difficult to stop drinking until the bottle is empty, there are just no edges. A few years ago before distilleries had proper visitor centres people dropping into Laphroig Distillery who didn’t like whisky would be treated to a Wee Dram of 21 y/o Glenfarclas by the then manager, Ian Henderson. Why? Because he believed that this malt was so smooth it would convert anyone to become whisky drinker. Praise indeed from a competitor, and apparently it worked. The nose is very intense and complex, sherry, fruit, dried and tropical, and almonds. The palate has some nutty flavours and again some smoke. The finish just keeps on going.
Glenfarclas 25 years old – 43%
A quarter of a century in the making. This age outsells the 21 year old in the USA. It is a proper after dinner drink, a lot more rich dark chocolate flavours and nose. The nose has more oaky tannins in it, and a bit of marmalade. On the palate as you would expect full bodied and robust, sherry and oak, and a nutty smokiness. The finish goes on and on and on, well that’s what we are starting to expect now.
Glenfarclas 30 years old – 43%
So now we are getting serious. This whisky is the work of George’s Grandfather it has the depth and maturity of a Grandfather, testament to the selection of casks at that time. The nose has lots of complexity, fruity, nutty, sherry and oak. The flavours included brandy, cognac, and marzipan for the first time. The palate is just like a well-made Christmas cake. The finish you just don’t want it to end and it very nearly doesn’t.
Glenfarclas 40 years old – 46%
I’ve tried a lot of very old whiskies (my work can often be tough) and sometimes they can be a bit the same – big oak, sherry all tannins the wood has just taken over the whole whisky. This one is nothing like that it is fresh and vibrant but still with all the rich oak, and sherry you expect from this calibre of whisky. It is like sitting in a leather armchair with a roaring fire going eating walnuts and chocolate covered raisins. The nose, flavour and finish are all of the above vintages but a bit more so. The finish is quite dry. The 40 y/o does improve with just a drop of water – but only a drop or two. The most amazing part of this whisky is the price – very reasonable in comparison to its contemporises the older Glenfarclas range is priced to be drunk, you are not paying for expensive packaging. This is one of the benefits of having been in the same family for six generations.
Glenfarclas 105 – 60%
This is a cask strength whisky bottled at 60% alcohol by volume which in the old proof measurement is 105 hence the name. The proof measurement comes from when you could tell the liquid was whisky, or prove it was whisky, by mixing it with gunpowder and setting light to it. If it was spirit then it would explode. It’s not that easy to get the bottling at exactly 60% abv and still cask strength, if they made it too strong and watered it down to 60% then it’s not cask strength, each cask of whisky is a slightly different strength. Normally there are 130-140 casks in a bottling, to do 105 they start with 100 casks then have to add each subsequent cask one at a time and keep checking the strength. The nose of this whisky is complex, very like sticky toffee pudding, but also apples and pears. The palate is as you might expect quite assertive, rich spicy and sherried fruit. The finish very smooth for such a strong whisky, you have to be careful because it can slide down nicely without water!
The Family Casks – 1963 – 46.5%
From cask number 176 a sherry hogshead – bottled on 27th June 2012 so not quite 50 years old. The Family Cask range came out in 2007 and was a range of single cask bottlings distilled each year between 1952 and 1964. These are casks handpicked by George himself and what a great job he’s done. The colour is a reddish mahogany, the nose almost like an old port wine on the nose, lovely rich vibrant tannins. Spicy Mulligatawny soup. Light citric notes giving way to stewed apples. The flavour fresh fruit initially then almost like a fresh apricot that has been dipped into lovely dark chocolate. The finish long delicate fruit with natural sweetness. The finish was that long I could actually taste it the following morning, (I really ought to clean my teeth before bed).
What an absolutely wonderful end to a great tasting, our thanks to George Grant for giving us so much of his valuable time and of course so much of his valuable whisky.