What awaits us behind door number two in the 2019 KWM Whisky Advent Calendar? It is the Glenfarclas 15 Year Old!
Going legal in 1836 and run by the Grant Family since 1870, Glenfarclas as a brand has been a model of consistency for quite a long time. This consistency is refreshing compared to the vast and often confusing changes other Scotch Whisky labels have gone through over the past decade or more. One popular brand has shifted from age statements to colour codes and now back again, but not the same as it once was. It can be difficult to be a fan of a brand that can’t even maintain a core range well.
What was Glenfarclas selling for their core range ten, fifteen, twenty years ago? The same bottles as they have today. Glenfarclas’ core range consists of the 105 Cask Strength, 12 year, 15 year, 17 year, 21 year, 25 year, and 30 year old. Sure, the 40-year-old has been changed from a 46% ABV to 43% and not always been available during that time, but that is about it. This doesn’t even take into account the impressive slew of Family Cask single vintage releases that at one point included each consecutive year between 1954 and 2002! Style-wise, they are still sherry cask focused for the entire range. No playing around with cask finishes or experimenting with peat here.
Many of us are very familiar with Glenfarclas as a distillery and the story of the Grant family behind it. The distillery has been owned by the Grants for six Generations now. All six patriarchs of the family have been named John or George. The current face of the distillery is George. His dad is still around as well and his name is John. The family has owned the distillery for more than 150 years. The Glenfarclas 105 was introduced more than 50 years ago in 1968. It was the first small batch, cask strength Single Malt Whisky released by a distillery.
Beyond the 105 being bottled at 60% ABV. The rest of the lineup – from the 12 Year through to the 40-Year-Old are bottled at 43% ABV – except for the 15 Year Old that we will be tasting. The 15 Year is bottled at the slightly higher 46% ABV because that was a choice made by the current George’s grandfather. He preferred the 15 at the higher ABV, so the family has kept it the same since then.
You get it. These last paragraphs are all talking about consistency. The Grants see themselves as curators for future generations. They want to make sure that what has been built remains, so they don’t make big decisions solely based on the boom and bust ecosystem of the whisky industry. Change is great, change is fun, but it is refreshing to find a family and a distillery that doesn’t change everything based on the whims of trends and shareholders.
Glenfarclas as a brand has been important to me for quite a while. It was my first introduction to selling whisky. Years ago I would pour Glenfarclas at festivals, sometimes alongside George Grant himself. I had the chance to visit Scotland and the distillery for the first time in October, and it made me fall in love with the whisky all over again.
It has been a while since I have had the Glenfarclas 15-Year-Old specifically, so I am ready to dive in!
Glenfarclas 15 Year Old – 46% ABV
Evan’s Tasting Note
Nose: Sticky toffee pudding, raisins and dates, fresh out of the oven apple pie, fruit leather, Christmas cake, along with floral and spicy tobacco notes. A potpourri of what sherry cask influenced malt can give you.
Palate: Rich and spicy but also balanced. Full of flavour: dried cranberries and cherries, raisins, nutmeg, candied apple, a touch of Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and some Christmas cake again.
Finish: Nice, lengthy sherried finish. Warms you up as it goes down. The spices fade to the background but the toffee and dried fruit flavours linger.
Comment: For all of my love for Glenfarclas, the 15 is typically not one of my favourites in the line as I tend to go for the 17-year-old more style-wise. That being said, I definitely enjoyed it this time around. It is rich and sherried with great spice upfront, yet still manages to be elegant and not over-the-top.
See you tomorrow for Day 3!
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