1257 Kensington Road NW
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We were given the opportunity to sample a few Glenfarclas 1992 casks last year, to select one for bottling as a special Kensington Wine Market 30th Anniversary release. We had the privilege to bottle a 1997 Family Cask in 2011. As demand and prices for Family Casks rose over the last decade, I never thought we'd ever bottle another.
Last summer we were shown some samples of Glenfarclas distilled in 1992, and offered the opportunity to select one to help us mark our 30th Anniversary. 1992 is after all the year we first opened our doors, and whisky from the early 1990s is getting increasingly scarce and expensive. I never doubted for a moment that we would find a cask we liked, but rather worried about the total cost of committing to a full cask of whisky from 1992...
After reviewing the samples, one of the casks clearly stood out, it was stunning. I knew at that moment that we couldn't possibly pass on the opportunity to bottle another legacy bottling like this, and I think that gamble has more than paid off.
This is our 8th KWM exclusive bottling of Glenfarclas, and our second Glenfarclas Family Cask. The whisky was bottled on the 20th of January, 2022, at 29 years of age, as a special 30th Anniversary bottling. 52.6%
While not inexpensive, it is relatively speaking, a very good deal: $100 less than the Summer 2021 Family Cask release of 1992; and $240 less than the current pricing for Glenfarclas 30 Year... With the right perspective, this whisky is in fact a steal!
We'd like to thank our friends at Glenfarclas, and their importer Pacific Wine & Spirits, for being such big supporters of our humble business over the last couple of decades. And also for giving us the opportunity to bottle whiskies like this which set us apart from our competition!
Andrew's Tasting Note
Nose: big, rich, and nutty with loads of candied fruit, chocolate, licorice, and treacle; this is old school sherry, and very tropical... Five Alive, mangos, papaya, and nectarines; fancy Italian leather; cold tea dregs and Demerara sugars; a touch of menthol and eucalyptus.
Palate: damn... this is every bit as glorious as the nose implied it would be; soooohhhh old school; loads of chocolate, smooth leather, and fruity tobacco; sticky toffee pudding with warm treacle sauce; dried and candied fruits, cracked nuts and a side of Manzanilla sherry; still tropical, more mango, papaya, and guava, but also some stone fruits too, plums and nectarines; decadent spices, licorice, anise, and candied fennel.
Finish: long, elegant, and rich; more candied fruit, Christmas cake, treacle, and Aussie licorice; chocolate, leather and spices to boot, this is the full package!
Comment: I never thought we'd ever have an opportunity to buy another single cask of Glenfarclas; but a little more than a year ago we were offered some samples of 1992 Glenfarclas, for consideration as a 30th Anniversary bottling, and one of them was stunning, we simply couldn't turn the opportunity down; and best of all, the bottled product is as good or better than the sample we tasted in 2021; this is old-school, tropical, sherried whisky; it is the kind of whisky we don't often see anymore... and it is glorious; best of all, in the time it took to get here, the whisky is looking like even better value than it did a year ago; you'll never see another whisky like this, at anything approaching this price ever again!
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.