Booze Review

Whisky Review – Glenfarclas 12


“My great-great grandfather, John Grant, born in 1805, purchased Glenfarclas Distillery for £511.19s.0d on the 8th of June 1865. To this day, Glenfarclas Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky is distilled and matured at our family owned and run distillery, which thanks to the foresight of my forefathers remains independent. Creating a great malt whisky is a time-honoured process. Here in the heart of Speyside, my family has cherished the skills and traditions of fine malt whisky making, handing them down through six generations. We are proud to share our secrets with you”.

– John L. S. Grant, Chairman, Glenfarclas Distillery

I’m a wee bit puzzled by the Glenfarclas Distillery (or as I like to call it, Glen-“Go-F%#$-Yourself!”).  Though they call it a “Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky”, the distillery is located in Speyside. Is this a Highland Whisky or is this a Speyside Whisky? Can a Single Malt Scotch be both at the same time? When I look at the map, it clearly shows that the Glenfarclas Distillery is in Speyside. At the end of the day, I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters most is the quality of the whisky.

I purchased this bottle of the Glenfarclas 12 during my recent weekend in Manhattan. I became curious about Glenfarclas whiskies after reading some very positive reviews (here is a review of this expression and one of their 25 year old expression), and also after finding out that they are one of the last independent distilleries in Scotland. Visions of William Wallace came to mind and I just had to have a bottle!

Let’s see if it’s any good…

  • Appearance: Rich, golden honey. Clings to the glass when given a swirl, leaving long, slow moving streaks as it flows back to the bottom.
  • Aroma: Banana bread. Light brown sugar. Hints of Sherry (funny thing about being aged in Sherry casks!).
  • Taste: Thin and watery mouthfeel. I can’t detect any smokiness. Starts off soft and slightly sweet but begins to intensify at mid-palate. Spicy, tingly finish that lingers for quite awhile.
  • ABV: 43%

The Glenfarclas 12 is a very enjoyable whisky. I particularly like how the aromas mess with your expectations. The sweetness in the nose didn’t prepare me for how it would taste. It starts off slow, but quickly builds to a spicy and flavorful finish. I suspect that this whisky won’t be in the liquor cabinet for very long.

15 replies »

  1. After wondering about the speyside/highland thing a few times myself, I finally ran into the answer in one of Michael Jackson’s books.

    He split Scotland into Whisky Regions of Lowlands – Highlands – Cambeltown and Islands, then sub split them into districts with Highlands covering Eastern highlands, Speyside, Northern Highlands and Western Highlands.

    So it seems what I tend to think of Highlands covers the three directions Highlands, but Speyside can be technically both Highland (region) and Speyside (District) whisky.

    Strange huh

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  2. Hey G-LO, I thought I might be able to contribute to this discussion. The Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009 stipulate 5 specific regions: Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islay and Campbeltown. Whisky claiming provenance from one of these regions must be wholly distilled in that region, to prevent misuse of these terms (although it can be matured elsewhere). The various whisky writers have defined regions according to their inclinations using terms such as “Islands”, including Speyside as part of the Highlands, and classifying sub-regions, but these have no official basis. I would imagine that Glenfarclas will shortly be required to change its labels to comply with the new regulations.

    Ciao
    Patrick

    PS: I’ll be tasting an independently bottled (Douglas Laing) 1967 vintage Glenfarclas. It’s a 42yo single cask, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength.

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    • Hey there Patrick!

      Welcome aboard!

      I was going to say that it all gets a bit too complicated, but when you think about the actual product and its inherent complexity, then I suppose it’s a fair regulation. I was also going to say that each of the five regions have their own distinctive style, but given all of the experimentation that is going on in the whisky industry, i.e. using different woods for maturation, releasing younger spirits, etc., you never know what you’re going to get when you pick up a bottle these days. That’s not a complaint by the way. Bruichladdich is just one example of a distiller that is messing with our expectations on all fronts. Their releases can go from intensely smokey (PC6 + PC7) to light and floral (their 12 year old) and everywhere in between. Don’t you just love it when they keep you guessing? It’s what keeps us on this fabulous journey!

      Thanks for the insightful comment!

      Cheers!
      G-LO

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      • No worries. And I’m with you all the way. I think that the regional classification – official or otherwise – is largely a quaint relic of the past (if indeed it was ever relevant), interesting predominantly because of the momentum it’s built rather than practical applicability. There is so much variety within individual regions, that some whiskies may and do have more in common with those in other regions. Even relatively homogenous regions such as Islay have startling exceptions – you already mentioned some Bruichladdichs, Bunnahabhain as a range even more so. At best it’s a loose guideline for flavour. But to endorse your view further these idiosyncrasies are indeed part of what makes the journey so wonderful.

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  3. Let me try that again – I’ll be tasting an independently bottled (Douglas Laing) 1967 vintage Glenfarclas later this month. It’s a 42yo single cask, non-chill filtered and bottled at cask strength…so should be really interesting.

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      • As of this writing, I have yet to meet a stingy beer or whisky lover. We are a kind and generous lot!

        I think there are at least two reasons for such generosity…

        #1 – It’s always more fun to drink with friends.

        #2 – Bragging rights! It’s like the tree falling in the woods analogy… if I have a 42 year old bottle of Single Malt Whisky and no one to share it with, then who is ever gonna know that I actually had it in my possession?

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