Google Glenfarclageddon Part III

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

January 31, 2019





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Glenfarclageddon Part III
Time for the final push...


Glenfarclas 1995/2018 (46%, OB for Germany, oloroso sherry casks, 6000 bottles) Glenfarclas 1995/2018 (46%, OB for Germany, oloroso sherry casks, 6000 bottles)
Another wee break from the FCs. Colour: gold. Nose: sultanas, figs, caramelising brown sugar, lemon peel, various herbal teas, pot pourri, tobacco leaf. Classical, straightforward and very good! Perhaps a hint of more tertiary things like putty and soft waxes after a while. A lean and light earthiness as well. Mouth: earthy, lightly sooty and gently herbal. Caramel, molten toffee chews, millionaire shortbread, cloves, liquorice and muesli. Really lovely! Some soft stewed green fruits such as apple and pear crumble drizzled with custard and golden syrup. A few bits of milk chocolate melted in. Finish: long and full of soft earth, tobacco, sultanas, milk chocolate and stewed fruits. Comments: I really liked this one!
SGP: 661 - 89 points.


Glenfarclas 1995/2018 Family Casks (51.6%, OB, cask #6649, sherry butt, 609 bottles) Glenfarclas 1995/2018 Family Casks (51.6%, OB, cask #6649, sherry butt, 609 bottles)
Colour: orangey amber. (I know my colour descriptions are the height of lame) Nose: buttery fudge, chocolate orange, pocked-warmed toffee chews, Werther’s Originals, Dundee cake, glace cherries, buttermints, strawberry candy floss and liquorice. Basically and old fashioned confectionary. With a little time the sugar eventually boils off and you get to things like moss, ferns, sage, damp earth, jasmine and rather clear notes of verbena and wormwood. Really excellent! With water: still hugely fudgey with chocolate eclair, strawberry jam, marzipan and hessian. Mouth: big hearty sherry! Lots of chewy toffee, dark fruits, walnut wine, camphor, cough medicines, old leathery sherry notes, salted caramel and rancio. Hints of white balsamico, black truffle, old leather, toasted pecans, Nutella and some green Chartreuse. With water: more nutty - walnuts again and brazil nuts to be precise - and mint leaf, tea tree oil and lemon peel. Big, emphatic but not overpowering sherry remains throughout. Finish: long, rather sooty and leathery with bitter cocoa, clean rubber and maraschino. Comments: There’s an element of rubber in the finish that I think some people would be put off by, but I find it closer to this ‘natural dirtiness’ rather than an off note. Globally a really excellent sherry bomb I’d say.
SGP: 671 - 89 points.


Glenfarclas 1996/2018 Family Casks (46.8%, OB, cask #1499, sherry butt, 225 bottles) Glenfarclas 1996/2018 Family Casks (46.8%, OB, cask #1499, sherry butt, 225 bottles)
Colour: rosewood. Nose: the height of elegance. A wafting, leafy, chocolatey sherry profile. Lots of expensive cocoa, mint leaf, pu erh tea, herbal extracts, verbena, yellow Chartreuse, fig paste, rancio, salted almonds and wee touches of things like fennel and quince jelly. Really superbly fresh, complex and expressive. Wild strawberry, raspberry jam, cranberry juice, treacle, black tea. Lots happening. Mouth: great, old school, earthy, leathery, fruity sherry. Lots of dark fruit stewed in cognac, black pepper, game meats, aged pinot noir, old earthen wine cellars, mushroom powder, umami paste and crystallised fruits.  Toasted pine cones, precious hardwood resins, old ointments, cough medicine, natural tar extracts and in the background things like crushed digestive biscuits, chamomile and green tea. Finish: long and gently drying, lots of coal dust, bitter lemon, black olives, toasted cereals, liquorice and bitter chocolate. Comments: A superb and very old school sherry cask. Has this big, bassy earthy and chocolatey profile running throughout with these rancio touches that I just adore in sherried whiskies.
SGP: 671 - 91 points.


Glenfarclas 1998/2018 Family Casks (50.8%, OB, cask #3587, 4th fill butt, 470 bottles) Glenfarclas 1998/2018 Family Casks (50.8%, OB, cask #3587, 4th fill butt, 470 bottles)
Colour: light amber. Nose: damp leaves, soft earthiness, a curious hint of bubblegum, some chocolate bittermints and then notes of barley water, bailed hay and warm draff - we’re getting close to the raw ingredients now. Things like lime jelly, lemon curd, distant notes of vapour rub, café latte, bourbon biscuits and sweet flapjacks. With water: perhaps a tad more cohesive now. Straightforward leathery notes with trodden ferns, damp earth and other petrichor characteristics. Notes of tea, yellow flowers, wild mint and nettles. Mouth: caramelised sugar on brown bread. Garibaldi biscuits, baked bananas, lime oil, strawberry laces, red liquorice, hessian, cloves, hummus and some rolling tobacco. Very good and nicely ‘scattered’ in profile, if you see what I mean? With water: blossom, lemon peel, light hessian notes, rapeseed oil, pineapple syrup, thyme and some lighter cereal, toasty notes. Finish: good length and similarly broad in scope with bitter teas, chamomile, herbal extracts, pine cones, sourdough, salted butter, sage and soda bread. Comments: A real jester of a whisky. A tad all over the place in some senses, but that only adds to the charm in this instance and ends up as a definite asset. There’s lots going on, none of it bad.
SGP: 561 - 88 points.


Glenfarclas 1999/2017 Family Casks (54.5%, OB, cask #7458, 4th fill butt, 565 bottles) Glenfarclas 1999/2017 Family Casks (54.5%, OB, cask #7458, 4th fill butt, 565 bottles)
Colour: pale amber. Nose: slightly varnishy at first. A mix of limoncello, pencil shavings, green pepper, flambeed banana, creme caramel and graphite. Also toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, brown bread, grass, lemon curd and some vanilla custard slices. With water: some root vegetables, cooking oils, more freshly baked bread, water crackers, orange bitters and a hint of marzipan. Mouth: soft notes of runny honey, toffee, cinnamon, some mirabelle, quince and prunes in calvados. Gets breadier with time and slightly more herbal. Shoe polish, caraway, unlit cigars and lime pith. With water: corn bread, chopped herbs, butter, sultanas, muesli, brazil nuts. Very fine. Finish: good length, bready, nutty, biscuity, a shred of bitterness. Comments: All perfectly good but I feel we’re stepping down a rung now...
SGP: 451 - 84 points.


Glenfarclas 2000/2018 Family Casks (56.4%, OB, cask #4076, refill sherry butt, 607 bottles) Glenfarclas 2000/2018 Family Casks (56.4%, OB, cask #4076, refill sherry butt, 607 bottles)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: rather brandyish with these initial notes of young cognac, some hedgerow earthiness, a little greenery such as grass and nettles and getting rounder and gentler with emerging notes of sultana and cocoa. Some pithy lemon notes and eventually more typical notes of seed breads and cereals. With water: much more toasty, bready and cereal driven now. Things like popcorn, sunflower seeds and a slight but very lovely touch of lychee. Mouth: white chocolate, some runny honey, hints of damson jam, mead, buttered toast and some pollens and floral notes. Indeed, it’s these more fragrant aspects such as meadow flowers, chamomile and chopped herbs which develop more over time. With water: works well! Water brings out more of these toasty, lightly citrus and cereal tones. Some more greenery, a little lamp oil and boot polish and some berry fruits. Finish: good length, some tiny hints of rubber but otherwise clean, earthy, slightly raisiny, toasty and getting increasingly meaty. Comments: Very good. Although, I think water is obligatory here.
SGP: 561 - 85 points.


Glenfarclas 2002/2018 Family Casks (58.0%, OB, cask #3769, sherry butt, 706 bottles) Glenfarclas 2002/2018 Family Casks (58.0%, OB, cask #3769, sherry butt, 706 bottles)
Colour: deep rosewood. Nose: hot strawberry jam, black coffee, burned nuts and also, underneath, a pretty heady mix of sawdust and pencil shavings. Some black grapes, wee hints of matchbox, rosemary and some pretty hefty meaty notes of Bovril and beef stock. With water: it’s funny how, even with this turbo charged sherry and high abv, it still develops in a kind of typical way with the addition of water. That is to say towards breads, golden syrups, sultanas, cinnamon and some rather intense herbal extracts. Things like tarragon stems and something almost like gentian root and dry earth. Mouth: as the nose would suggest this is a more aggressive style. Hot sandalwood, BBQ briquettes, pencil shavings, clove oil, liquorice, mint liqueur, cherry syrup and even some irn bru sweeties. Lots of black tea, bitter chocolate, strong espresso and pomegranate molasses. Pot pourri and grapefruit pith as well. Pretty intense stuff! With water: again the development is pretty typical. All roasted nuts, seeds, fruit cake, dates, prune eau de vie and cherry kirsch. Still some rather persistent tannins and pencil shaving notes nibbling around the edges. Finish: long but slightly on the bitter side, as expected. Some pretty dark chocolate, black tea, bitter herbal extracts and soot. Comments: Pleasure and pain in various interchanging measures. Another one that will delight sherry heads, but, for this wee taster, I’m afraid it just lacks a bit of balance. Also, I really think you can feel the difference between these younger, modern seasoned ‘sherry’ casks. Not that this is a bad one, just you feel the activity of the wood quite profoundly.
SGP: 471 - 85 points.


Glenfarclas 2003/2018 Family Casks (59.3%, OB, cask #2, sherry butt, 649 bottles) Glenfarclas 2003/2018 Family Casks (59.3%, OB, cask #2, sherry butt, 649 bottles)
Colour: teak. Nose: cherry flavoured cough medicine, rye bread, cinnamon bark, dried geraniums, tar extract. Quite a departure from the previous ones. A big, emphatic sooty earthiness, soy sauce, peppered beef jerky, turmeric and even some farmy hints of bailed hay and straw. Quite impressive. In time there’s also crispy bacon and boot polish. With water: not a huge sea change. More of a gentle drift towards strawberry jam, a little mocha, plum crumble and darjeeling tea. The earthiness takes on a fibrous edge as well - almost like old rope and hessian cloth. Mouth: cherry liqueurs, spiced cassis, star anise, five spice, strong miso broth, young madeira, clotted cream with strawberries and red current puree. There’s also these big, intense herbal notes such that nod towards Jägermeister and Unicum. With water: cherry cola syrup, birch beer, lime cordial, dates, prune juice, walnut liqueur, various shades of dried herbs. The meatiness is still present but it’s more muttony now. Finish: long, deeply earthy and treading a tightrope between bitter herbal extracts, dry earth, black pepper, strong dark teas and chocolate. Rather impressively it never manages to succumb too far in any one direction but keeps its head. Comments: Impressive I have to say. It lacked the woodiness of the 02 and possessed something more complex, charming and a few more interesting shades of fruit, enough to propel it into another league in my book. An excellent sherry monster and a perfect one to finish this marathon run of Family Casks on.
SGP: 571 - 90 points.


But we aren’t quite done yet, let’s try to find a couple of suitable Glenfarclas with which to wind this silliness down...  


Glenfarclas 22 yo 105 (60%, OB, 3600 bottles, 2018) Glenfarclas 22 yo 105 (60%, OB, 3600 bottles, 2018)
Colour: deep gold. Nose: nice! Typical easy fruitiness and sweetness. Lots of toffee apples, sultanas, prunes, green banana, light pastries and wee notes of pollen, sunflower oil and orange bitters. Surprisingly accessible for 60%. Continues with nice notes of cocoa, red cola cubes, pears baked in calvados and a light waxy note such as canvas. Perhaps a wee hint of paprika. With water: goes pretty cloudy! Then there’s a little caraway, some orange juice and lemon jelly. Gets a tad simple with water which is a small pity. Mouth: again, it wears its strength very lightly, which I always love in cask strength whiskies. In place of that there’s this wonderful syrupy quality, lots of juicy fruits, some pineapple notes, quince, garden fruits glazed with honey, muesli, dates and cinnamon sugar. In time it evolves more towards earth, pollen, dried flowers, white pepper and toasted seeds. With water: you really feel this is a big, fatty, oily dram now that water is added. I prefer the palate with water than the nose certainly. More spices, jasmine, fruit teas, five spice, fruity red chilli, orange and coriander marmalade and some green chartreuse. Finish: good length but perhaps a bit staggery, if you see what I mean. A prickle of heat and pepper along with more earthy tones, dried fruits, aniseed and flowers. Comments: A curious one. Some parts are really excellent, such as the neat nose and much of the palate. But it seems to be a bit inconsistent with water. Maybe one of these ones that you need to pour two drams of? Now, having said all that, I still think it’s pretty excellent whisky and a rather fun wee dram.
SGP: 561 - 86 points.


Now, let’s see if we can find something easy and very simple to finish on that should, in theory, offer pleasure and a nice way to round off this mad session in a kind of cyclical way...  


Glenfarclas 10 yo (40%, OB, late 1980s)

Glenfarclas 10 yo (40%, OB, late 1980s)
I think this wee baby should do the trick... Colour: amber. Nose: a stodgy, leathery and leafy sherry that’s full of old cigars, walnuts, sultanas, dates and other assorted dark fruits. Wee hints of mint tea, ginger cake, hessian, nougat, dried flowers and bouquet garni simmering in stock. You could also add some fragrant citrus oils, light soy sauce and quite a bit of earthen wine cellar floor. Really quite surprisingly complex. I get the feeling it’s one of those batches that was ‘topped up’ with some older stocks. Mouth: mushrooms, leather, tobacco, raisins, a single violet, mixed dried herbs, verbena, yellow flowers, cola cubes. Quite a beautiful and elegant wee sherry profile. And surprisingly weighty for 40%. Hints of madeira cake, lemon peel and wormwood. After a while there’s coconut milk as well. Finish: not the longest but nicely peppery and earthy, a tad drying, some deeper earthy tones and a hint of sootiness and wax. Lovely richness of chocolate biscuits in the aftertaste. Comments: Better than I expected and a really perfect way to conclude this slightly overambitious delve into the Glenfarclas warehouses. It’s true that you can spot a Glenfarclas DNA between this and contemporary bottlings of the 10. But, in all honesty, I prefer this one by quite some distance. There’s a richness and a silky elegance to the sherry that is absent from most sherry cask whiskies these days.
SGP: 551 - 89 points.



So, what have we learned? Well, I feel that this session has only underscored what I surmised last time. Which is that the character of Glenfarclas really shifted quite distinctly around 1980. From that luscious and luxuriously fruity and opulent 1970s style to a more punchy, robust, biscuity, mineral and sometimes rather austere 1980s profile. I think you could say things even improved a little in the 1990s as the fatness of the distillate seemed to increase and the quality of the sherry casks was still good. But of course these are amateur observations based on what really only amounts to a handful of casks out of thousands across decades.  


I would also point out that I feel Glenfarclas is still making some excellent whiskies and still bottling some really terrific casks. The 2003 that we ended the Family Casks on was really something. It’s also probably worth noting that the scores were pretty consistent across three decades of bottlings, mostly hovering around the 88-91 range. Whether that’s due to consistency of production quality or cask selection for the Family Cask series I’m not sure. I suspect more likely the former.  


It also underscores the importance of distilleries like Glenfarclas that invest a little more in the future of their own single malt stocks, rather than just churning out blending fodder, or new starts rushing everything to bottle at 3 years old. The riches that you can reap at even just a couple of decades down the line are worth the effort I’d say.  


Look out for my next Glenfarclas session on Whiskyfun, coming sometime around January 2035.  


Heartfelt thanks to Dirk, who clearly knows the secret tunnel to the Glenfarclas warehouses!  


More tasting notesCheck the index of all Glenfarclas we've tasted so far






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