Day 23 of the 2019 KWM Whisky Advent Calendar – Glenfarclas 21 Year Old

by Evan

Here were are, it is finally Christmas Eve… Eve! The end is nigh! Only two more doors to open before we get to that special 100ml bottle! Oh, and Christmas Day. I guess. My kids seem to believe that the day itself is more important than that SMWS bottle, so I suppose I should humour them. They aren’t old enough to know any better, not by decades.

I am rambling here already, looking to fill this void with words and witticisms without getting to the heart of the matter: day twenty-three’s whisky. Why, you ask? Because what more can be said about Glenfarclas Distillery? I am at a loss, so let’s leave it at a quick run-down, or Cliff Notes version, for this part:

  • Officially founded in 1836, though there were certainly illicit stills in operation around the property prior to this.
  • John and George Grant bought the distillery in 1865, for a sum of £511.19s.0d.
  • The Grant line continues to own the distillery to this day, with a now six-generation succession of John’s and George’s at the head of the company, aptly named J & G Grant.
  • Both the family and the distillery seem to have a thing, and a knack for, ageing their Single Malt Scotch Whisky in ex-Sherry casks. It is what Glenfarclas is known for.
  • But that is just part of a greater whole for what makes Glenfarclas a distillery deserving of our love and devotion is that they are a buoy in a turbulent ocean of whisky. Other distilleries change their labels, change their house style, and muck around with going from age statement to colour coding in a fickle manner, seemingly blown about by every change in wind direction and economic current. Yet Glenfarclas stays in place, maintaining its level even in the rising tide of new distilleries and new gimmicks, acting as a beacon to those of us that tire of all the change, and at the end of the day don’t want to weather every single storm in a teacup. We just want a good Single Malt, dammit. Glenfarclas is a relative bulwark of consistency in a vast ocean Single Malt Entropy.

That last bit is what makes Glenfarclas so difficult to write about. If you enjoy whisky and talk about it as much as I do, you have already said plenty about the distillery, to the point where saying or writing anything about them can make one feel like a broken record. Glenfarclas makes great Single Malt Scotch. Glenfarclas makes some of the best-sherried whisky out there.

The Man Himself - George Grant

Many of you have been to a Glenfarclas Tasting, possibly even one hosted by the great George Grant. If not, I highly recommend you do so in the future. Many people run a good whisky tasting – I like to fool myself by thinking even I do, every once in a while. Few are as fun and full of humour as George Grant though. The man knows his whisky, He knows how to tell a tale as well.

As I mentioned with the Glenfarclas 15 Year we tasted back on day number two, Kensington Wine Market has a good relationship with George Grant and Glenfarclas. We are currently on our third special bottling of a cask strength batch from them in the past three years, with a fourth already planned for 2020. Our current special Glenfarclas release is also a 21-year-old, but bottled at a batch strength of 53.5% ABV. It is affectionately titled “Ferg in the Spey”, and despite having a caricature of Andrew on the front it is still nearly sold out.

Andrew has threatened to make this the first in in a lineup what he calls 'The Ego Series'. Watch closely - I bet his head gets successively larger on the label of each new bottle...

Enough of George Grant though, let’s talk a little bit about this bottle we have in our hands, and the whisky being poured into our glass.

For me, the Glenfarclas 21 Year Old shows whisky in the process of evolving. You could probably argue this is the case for any whisky put in a bottle, ever, but hear me out. I feel Glenfarclas whisky undergoes some tremendous changes in its 20s, kind of like many of us did. The spirited fruit and exuberance of its youth, as showcased in the 12 and 15-Year-Old, is now becoming more refined and complex. What showed as sweetness and power is now becoming elegance and complexity. The cask influence is becoming more pronounced. It is not as full of oak, spice, earthy leather and tobacco as the 25 year becomes, but the signs that it is maturing in that direction are all there.

I see the 21-year-old Glenfarclas as a developed whisky that shows as a serious whisky full of depth while still remaining fun, exciting and smooth.

Are my thoughts off the mark? Have I become completely unhinged? Hopefully not, because there are still two more bottles left to talk about! At any rate, let’s end this blather and taste the whisky!

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old

Established in 1836, this family-owned distillery has remained independent for over 160 yrs. Benefitting from the cold, clear springs of the Ben Rinnes river, this distinctly traditional Speyside malt is well known for its mellow flavour, and is made in batches rather than continuously to ensure high-quality standards. Considered by connoisseurs to be among the best Speysiders available. Bottled at 43% ABV.

Evan’s Tasting Note

Nose: Rich, yet soft and refined in style. Toffee and honey, dates, golden raisins and dried apricots, a touch of leather and pipe tobacco, light waxy notes, buttery shortbread, pralines, and toast with marmalade.

Palate: Smooth and balanced on the palate with a dash of warming spices. Figs, Clementines, apricot jam, apple cider, Jammie Dodgers, almonds and roasted walnuts, milk chocolate, and fruit leather.

Finish: Silky smooth on the lengthy finish and just very slightly drying. The dried fruit, soft honey and nut notes stick around for a while.

Comment: As always, this a dangerously easy drinker. The tinge of spice and dryness on the finish just leaves you wanting more. This is a perennially well-put-together whisky and belongs in every cupboard.

After tasting this again for the umpteenth time, I stand by my earlier remarks. The Glenfarclas 21 year is a lithe and sexy dram. Tomorrow’s door is certain to reveal a real contrast to this guy, because how can it not? See you then!

Cheers,
Evan
evan@kensingtonwinemarket.com
Twitter and Instagram: @sagelikefool

*The Kensington Wine Market Whisky Advent Calendar is produced under license from Secret Spirits, Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar™
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