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Glenfarclas 21 Year KWM Cask Strength #2

Glenfarclas 21 Year KWM Cask Strength #2

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The 4th and possibly final bottling in the "Andrew's Ego Collection" series is a Glenfarclas 21 Year, bottled at 51.9%, bottled exclusively for Kensington Wine Market. This bottling celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the night in 2011 our own Andrew Ferguson, and Glenfarclas' George Grant, were inducted into the Keepers of the Quaich; hence the nickname: "10 Years Keeping Quaich-y with it!" We had originally hoped this bottling would arrive in 2021... but you know the story... logistics! Once more this is not a single cask, but a batch of Glenfarclas 21 Year, bottled at cask strength!

If you are unfamiliar with the story behind the Andrew's Ego Collection, it all started with a cask strength Glenfarclas 21 Year we called Ferg in the Spey! Long story short, it is a play on a bottling Glenfarclas did for an American called "Ferd (Ford) in the Spey," which was bottled to commemorate a visit to Glenfarclas that ended with a Ford rental car in the Spey River. It was intended to be a one-off, but was so popular that it was followed with a cask strength Glenfarclas 15 Year, which we called Ferg in Front of the Store. Now we were starting to have some fun with it...

So a third bottling was commissioned, a 25 Year bottled at 50%, the Ferg in Homage to George Grant. Andrew wanted the third bottling to be even more whimsical or if you prefer, ridiculous, than the first two. It takes its inspiration from an advertisement for Glenfarclas circa 15 years ago featuring a reclining George Grant in a kilt with a selection of whisky in front of him. Our versions features Andrew in homage, with the 5 prior KWM exclusive Glenfarclas bottlings laid out in front of him. Some of our customers referred to it as "Reclining Ferg" and "Homage to Burt Reynolds."

While Andrew's ego would continue to inflate with a 5th release, the 4th bottling may very well be the last in the series. It almost never happened... Demand is finally catching up with Glenfarclas, and all of the whiskies over 21 years of age are going to be tightly allocated in the years ahead.

750ml ml
Region:Scotland > Speyside

Andrew's Tasting Note

Nose: creamy, honeyed, and decadent with toasted oak and crisp spices; toffee chews, Scottish tablet, and dulce de leche; candied orange, maraschino cherries, and figs in honey; melons, kiwis, and guava.

Palate: big, fruity, and creamy with more spice and toasted oak; buttery with more toffee, tablet and dulce de leche; this has some of that warm blueberry pie character with which I have long associated the standard release of Glenfarclas 21; still fruity with more candied orange, guava, figs, melons, and kiwis, on top of a firm backbone of leather and decadent spices. 

Finish: warming, fruity, coating, and long; a lovely mix of cream, fruits and spice. 

Comment: as with the standard release of Glenfarclas 21, our exclusive cask strength bottling is on the lighter, likely refill, side of sherry; but it is complex, layered, and elegant, as you'd expect; probably as good a point as any to put a lid on my ego... I could have kept going for quite a while!

The following was written by Andrew Ferguson for Celtic Life in 2018:

Like most of the Scottish distilleries to open in the 18th and 19th centuries, Glenfarclas was a farm before becoming a distillery. Whisky-making requires both barley and a good supply of clean water, so it is not surprising that most of Scotland’s distilleries are found in rolling barley fields at the foot of the country’s wild mountains.

The connection between whisky and agriculture is vital; barley was an important feed stock for cattle, but it is very hard for them to digest it in its raw form. However, when it is malted, milled and mashed (to remove the sugars for fermentation into beer), what results is a slightly sweet, protein-rich cattle food. What farmers discovered over time, though, was that whisky making was far more profitable than farming or cattle rearing.

Although owner Robert Hay took out a license to distill at Glenfarclas in 1836, no one knows exactly when his farm started producing whisky. As with many distilleries at that time, the founding date does not always indicate when the facilities first started producing whisky, but rather when they were caught distilling illicitly and forced to apply for a license. One clue to the distillery’s origins is a watercolour painting from 1791, which still hangs in the location today. In the painting, the farm has a smokestack, vessels that look a lot like wormtubs (for condensation), and barrels strewn all over the yard. It also sits clearly at the foot of Ben Rinnes, the tallest mountain in the area. Most tellingly the words “Glenfarclass Disty” are scrawled in the bottom right hand corner.

The story of Glenfarclas starts to get interesting in 1865, when the distillery was acquired by the Grant family following the death of Robert Hay, for the sum of £511.90. For the next 152 years, six generations of the Grant family have run and managed the distillery. Curiously, since the purchase, all five of the chairmen have been named either John or George. The current chairman is John L.S. Grant, and his son - and successor - is named George. This unbroken chain of Johns and Georges may have run its course though, as George has two daughters, and to the best of my knowledge neither is named John or George. Glenfarclas is a stubbornly independent firm, and not without reason.

They were early partners with Pattison Elder & Co., a firm run by a pair of “reckless” and flashy brothers from Leith. Pattison Elder & Co. was the whisky industry’s ‘Enron’ of their day, building an empire on promises, lies, cheap credit, and IOUs. When they spectacularly collapsed in 1898 they took most of the industry with them, including - very nearly - the Glenfarclas Distillery. The Grants barely held on to their distillery, and it would take 15 years of hard work to recover their position. Thus, a “Spirit of Independence” was born.

The second half of the 20th century saw the distillery transition from producing whisky for blends to focusing on single malts. Glenfarclas pioneered the concept of Cask Strength whisky in 1968, with the release of their 105˚ Cask Strength which is bottled at 60 per cent (105˚ British proof). The whisky is still available today, and is created by marrying casks until they hit the magic number of 60 per cent abv. Most distilleries lose 1 to 2.5 per cent of their maturing whisky to evaporation each year - what we call “the angels' share.” Glenfarclas loses less, only 0.5 per cent, owing to both a local microclimate and a focus on the use of larger Sherry Butts for maturation. The distillery also fills its barrels at a higher proof than their peers, as it is not reliant on trading casks for blends at a standardized strength. As the fourth Grant to own Glenfarclas, the late George S. Grant was allegedly fond of saying, “we are not in the business of maturing water.”

Glenfarclas has a depth of maturing whisky stocks which is the envy of the entire Scotch whisky industry. They have released single casks under their “Family Cask” range for every year up to, and including, 1952. The company’s business plan has always been to lay down as much whisky as they can, even when times are tight. Business will eventually pick up again, and if there is no stock then there won’t be anything to sell.

Glenfarclas has survived 22 recessions, the Great Depression, and the Pattison Whisky Crash. They will also likely survive the day when someone other than a John or George takes the helm as chairman.

The distillery is located just off the A95, about 5 minutes’ drive from the town of Aberlour, in Scotland’s stunning Speyside region. The facility offers tours daily, including a ‘Five Decades’ tour for £100, which includes the tasting of a whisky from every decade between 1960 and the 2000s. If you can’t make it to Glenfarclas you should be able to find their whisky. The 105˚ Cask Strength is excellent value at $84. Try it neat before you add any water to it, as it is rich, fruity and spicy, though not rough. The 15 Year, $90, is their benchmark sherried whisky and flagship single malt. If you really want to treat yourself, find a bottle of the 40 Year - at $1,100 it might seem dear, but it is lovely, layered, very fruity, and great value for its vintage.

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