Ok, I think we’ve had enough rye and bourbon whiskies for awhile….so, it’s time to get back to Scotch Single Malts! And not just any single malt will do; let’s do something special! How about tasting the Glenfarclas 40 year-old Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Yes, you read that right, the Glenfarclas 40 year-old, and believe me, you’re in for a real treat!
Released in April 2010, the Glenfarclas 40 year-old contains whiskies distilled back into the 1960’s. With a sizeable stock of casks from this era, some of which were reportedly beginning to lose strength, Glenfarclas put together this whisky AND they released it at a price point considered extremely reasonable for a 40 year-old whisky, especially when, at the time, other very-aged whiskies were fetching sometimes astronomical prices. Consider that at the same time, the Highland Park 40 sold for approximately $1,260, the Glenglassaugh 40yo and The Dalmore 40yo cost around $2,200, and the Glengoyne 40 was running over $5,500! Yet, when it was first released in 2010, the Glenfarclas 40 year-old had a retail list price of $469*. Yes, that is still a lot of money, but all things considered, it is truly a relative bargain!
The Glenfarclas 40 year-old whisky was released worldwide, with a quarter of production shipped to North America, and I am so happy that I managed to grab a bottle before they disappeared from the shelves. I can tell you now, I wish I’d bought more – even at this price!
*As is so often the case, all good things must come to an end. Rumors are that with the next release of the Glenfarclas 40 year-old, the price point is going to be set much higher. I’ve heard that the new price will likely be north of $800. While that is just a rumor, in early 2014, the price of the 2010 release had already risen to $600, the current average price in the US is $675 per wine-searcher.com, and Master of Malt lists the price for the same 2010 at $760, so it doesn’t take much imagination, given the price escalation we’ve seen recently, that this one will continue to go up.
The Glenfarclas Distillery
Glenfarclas distillery is a Speyside whisky distillery in Ballindalloch, Scotland. The Glenfarclas distillery was first granted a license in 1836 when it was run by Robert Hay. Purchased by John Grant in 1865, it has been owned and managed since 1865 by the same family, the Grants of Glenfarclas. Today, John L.S. Grant, who joined Glenfarclas in 1973, is the current Chairman, and his son, George S. Grant, the 6th generation of the Grant family to work for the distillery, is Brand Ambassador. Glenfarclas is one of the last fully independent, family owned distilleries in Scotland.
Glenfarclas operates with three pairs of stills, which are some of the largest in Scotland. Also, Glenfarclas is the last distillery in Scotland still to use direct heating of all its stills, so the wash stills are equipped with “rummagers,” which are simply a mechanism that rotates a copper chain around the inside, effectively scraping the bottom of the still to prevent solids from sticking to the still. The distillery has an annual production capacity of approximately 3.4 million liters per year and has approximately 50,000 casks maturing on site, in traditional dunnage warehouses, with stock from every year from 1952 to the current year. Glenfarclas produces a traditional Highland malt with a heavy sherry influence.
Review: Glenfarclas 40 year-old
Glenfarclas produces generally wonderful whiskies – most of the sherried persuasion – and across their lineup, they are well-crafted, flavorful, and richly bodied. Like many whiskies aged predominantly in sherry casks, Glenfarclas whiskies have a proven track record for aging very well – the larger size of the sherry butts allows for slower spirit-to-wood contact and more gradual oxidation. As mentioned above, Glenfarclas launched this release in 2010 and I picked up mine from Total Wine for $410! The bottle stamp is L 25 03 10 3 11:51 BB.
Color: A beautiful deep, dark chocolate-brown mahogany with burgundy red tints.(the color of this whisky is the reason so many whiskies contain e150a caramel coloring….the whisky in the glass just oozes decadence, visually enticing you to pick it up!)
Nose: The color of the whisky doesn’t lie. This is a well-aged, mature whisky with such a beautiful, decadent nose. The sherry influence is profound. Smelling this whisky is pure enjoyment; a blending of dried fruits, ripe fruits, spices, wood and leather. Overripe plums, figs, herbal notes of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon that slowly shift to a drool-inducing big, rich orange marmalade smothered in dark chocolate dusted with allspice and cinnamon. Then it shifts again, bringing out old leather-bound books, purple grapes, fresh figs. A touch of black pepper and some oaky resins, new leather gloves fresh from the box, a hint of cigar tobacco. It just keeps going! With a couple drops of water, and allowing several minutes, the herbal spice notes pick up along with a subtle mustiness – think old books in a box in the attic (without the dust!). It becomes earthier, too, with a touch of mushrooms and something slightly vegetal. The oak also picks up, showing more white pepper. Slowly, the rich sherried-fruits come back and the cloves, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon get bigger. There is, again, that beautiful note of dark chocolate-covered candied orange, and new leather. Truly a nose to be savored for a long time!
Taste: Mmmmm! Dense, rich, oily and creamy arrival. The body of this whisky as it coats your tongue is just elegant. The flavors are almost explosive, yet subtle – if that makes sense! The palate closely follows the nose: big notes of baking spices – cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; and with dates, figs and dried cranberries. As with the nose, there is this beautiful dark chocolate-orange marmalade thing going on. It shows more fruits with plums, grapes, red apples, berries, cherries, all drenched in dark chocolate!. The oak starts to exert itself a little more with a softly bitter, drying aspect in the mid-palate. With water, the palate remains very similar. Fresh, vibrant and rich flavors, the body stays dense and wonderfully rich. Again, full of baking spices, dark chocolate and orange marmalade, old leather, pipe tobacco, black tea, white pepper, plus a soft hint of vanilla cream and Kirschwasser. The oak resins just add a softly bitter bite that leads into the finish.
Finish: Elegant spices and figs, big touches of the dark chocolate, old leather and a good cigar, clove-infused orange marmalade and the oak tannins which lend a drying, softly bitter bite. A gloriously long finish.
Overall: Even after 40 years, this whisky has remained vibrant, lively, and oh so good. Definitely not tired casks!!! Over time I’ve tasted a few simply superb sherried-whiskies, including The General from Compass Box, which I still consider one of my top 10 whiskies, and I have to say that this Glenfarclas 40 year-old is right there with the best of them. This whisky is richly bodied, complex, continuously evolving, vibrantly flavored yet refined and subtle. This whisky invites you to come in and spend some time with it….and if you do, you will be rewarded with an exceptional whisky experience. The only very minor detraction that kept it from an even higher rating is the growing oaky tannic note in the finish which is just a hair too much….but I’m really nitpicking!
I’m sorry. The industry can talk all it wants about NAS whiskies being good (and, unquestionably some are), but if the industry continues to rely on young whiskies to make up a significant portion of the NAS components, they will get youngish whisky influences that cannot completely be hidden. In some cases, youth is to be celebrated and those whiskies can be exuberant and exciting. But, with the Glenfarclas 40 year-old we have a whisky that shows perfectly that AGE MATTERS. This is a thoroughly matured, graceful and elegant whisky that is the result of the slow maturation process so touted by the scotch whisky producers before they began to run short of stocks and resorted to marketing hype to better peddle their youthful whiskies. This is a definite MUST TRY if you get the opportunity!
Type: Single Malt
Age: 40 years
Price: $410, Total Wine, June 2014 (Current avg price $675 in US, per Wine Searcher)
Availability: Secondary market or isolated retail stores
Sample Source: My own bottle
Malt Whisky Yearbook 2014, Ingvar Ronde, MagDig Media, Ltd.