Glenfarclas distillery

Glenfarclas Scotch Whisky

Glenfarclas  (Pronounced: glenFARclas)
Speyside (Central)
57░25'36.2892 N, 3░18'56.9196 W
Benrinnes, Cragganmore, Dailuaine
Source on Ben Rinnes mountain
3 Wash stills, 3 Spirit stills
3,000,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
J. & G. Grant (since 1865)
Ballindalloch, Banffshire
+441807 500257
Sort of (from 1973) - and a beautiful tasting room...
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor

Where to find Glenfarclas
Glenfarclas location

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Trivia about Glenfarclas

1) Glenfarclas is the last distillery in Scotland still to use direct heating of all its stills instead of indirect heating.
Around the year 2010 Springbank still used direct heating for one of its stills, but others were heated indirectly.
2) The visitor centre of Glenfarclas was opened in 1973, making it one of the first distilleries with this 'feature'.
3) Glenfarclas distillery uses 12 washbacks - all made out of stainless steel.
4) There are a whopping 30 warehouses on the Glenfarclas distillery grounds, all of the 'dunnage' type.
5) The number of stills at Glenfarclas was expanded from four to six in 1976.

Glenfarclas single malt whisky

Glenfarclas 2002/2011 (58%, OB for Ermuri, first fill sherry, C#1575+1576, 630 Bts.)
Nose: Light fruits in the start; much lighter than the dark colour suggests. Then an explosion of complexity. Tea.
A solid sweet undercurrent. Evolving spices after a few more minutes. Very impressive for such a young whisky.
Taste: Sweet start, followed by a good dash of smoke. The finish starts dry but grows more succulent.
Score: 89 points - although the sherried character might be a tad too outspoken for some...

Glenfarclas 25yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2011)
Nose: A wonderfully polished sherry profile, but not very complex. Perhaps just a hint of something sulphury.
Taste: Starts off quite potent at 43% before mellowing out. Heats up again towards the hot finish.
Extremely drinkable, but it lacks just a little individuality compared to some of the other expressions.
Score: 86 points - a very good Scotch malt whisky, but not one of the 'stars' in the Glenfarclas line-up.

Glenfarclas NAS '105' (60%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010) 
Nose: Hey... Dry grain warehouse smells, followed by some nutty notes. Then the fruits gradually appear.
Then herbs and spices emerge. Mint? The various components slowly drift together over the next 30 minutes.
Taste: Sweet and hot. At cask strength it feels round and very smooth. Water amplifies the tannins
Score: 88 points - although I might have gone for 89 points based on the nose alone.

Glenfarclas 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Powerful, nutty and a little sweet with an oily undercurrent. Faint hint of rotting milk powder.
Hardly any fruits. Pine. Curled Dock Sorrel (Rumex crispus). Fresh. Opens up considerably after ten minutes.
Taste: The same sorrel freshness I found in the nose. Vaguely malty. Bitter finish. Sticky aftertaste.
Hints of pine and menthol? Feels quite hot at 40%. There are some very faint tannins - not a lot though.
Score: 76 points - but that's just because it's quite complex; I liked the fruitier profile of the past better.

Glenfarclas 40yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010)
Nose: Woody, sweet, fruity, smoky and spicy. Everything you want in an aged sherry malt. Tea? Orange zest?
A few drops of water didn't change the profile a lot. Not a lot of development - but it doesn't really need any.
Taste: Coconut. Sweet. Raisins. Wood. Chocolate. A hint of smoke. Dry. Tannins. The wood grows very dominant.
Score: 91 points - A fine example of an aged sherry malt. That being said: perhaps too woody for some people.

Glenfarclas 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Subtle, well-rounded and a little fruity. Quite expressive for a minute, but then it drops off a little.
Ah, wait, now it catches a second, spicy wind. Enjoyable, but it has its ups and downs.
Taste: Quite dry, with strong tannins in the finish. Unfortunately, it's the 'plywood' variety. A young one?
Score: 78 points - the nose is quite enjoyable if you give it time, but the palate keeps it out of the 80's.

Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Fruity and spicy. Raisins. Touches of smoke and wood too. Classic. A well-balanced profile.
Taste: Brilliant mouth feel - at least initially. Fairly weak, though - again in the beginning.
Lovely persistent fruits after a few minutes. Fruit cake with loads of different fruits. Lovely whisky!
Score: 89 points - drops from 90 to 89 despite growing complexity. Not quite 90's material, but close.

Glenfarclas 41yo 1966/2008 'Feral Clangs' (45.7%, The Nectar Daily Dram, 201 Bts.)
Nose: Light with faint fruits and something vaguely coastal. Quite different from the 'Farclas profile.
Citrussy. Sorrel? Opens up a little over time, but it's more sharpness rather than more complexity.
Taste: Fairly smooth with the faintest hint of pine and perfume. Long dry finish on the edge of bitterness.
This starts as the 'plywood' finish that I'm no fan of, but there are some brief fruity episodes too.
Score: 77 points - disappointing; the harsh finish drags it out of the 80's; I like the 10yo OB better.
And I'm guessing you can buy at least 10 bottles of that for the price of this independent bottling.
That being said: after almost a year of breathing it had mellowed out - score could have approached the 80's.

Glenfarclas 1991/2007 'Family Cask' (57.9%, OB Family Cask #5623, 613 Bts.)
Nose: Polished. Heavily sherried. Wood & spices (clove) coming forward after a few seconds. Lots of wood!
Some subtle fruits (fermenting blueberries?) hiding behind the smoky oak. Very enjoyable, but not too complex.
Taste: Strong, woody start. Strong tea. It has a few sweet seconds, but grows a little too hard for me.
Dry, smoky finish. No wait, now I get another sweet flash in the finish. Smoke remains dominant.
Score: 85 points - I loved the nose, but it lost a few points in the harsh finish. Still great whisky , mind you!

Glenfarclas 1990/2007 (58.9%, OB for 5th Anniv Ta´wan SMW Tasting Association, C#9246, 209 Bts.)
Nose: Sherried, but not terribly expressive initially. Some light, early summer fruits in the mix. Mirabelles?
Taste: Fruity with a whiff of dust. Loads of tannins that start to develop VERY early. Extremely smoky.
Score: 88 points - highly enjoyable, and it earns one or two extra points for going beyond the house style.

Glenfarclas 1986/2007 'Family Cask' (56.5%, OB Family Cask #3434, 521 Bts.)
Nose: Slightly dusty start. Wood. Some smoke. A whiff of oil perhaps? Hey, a touch of green peat as well?
After circa fifteen minutes the profile has sweetened out and more spices have emerged. Quite lovely!
Taste: Peculiar sweetness before the fruits appear after a few seconds. Beer? An enjoyable 'dirty' undertone.
Some toffee in the fairly fruity centre. Smoke in centre & finish. Touch of liquorice. The finish feels a tad dry.
Score: 87 points - an enjoyable roughness reminded me of the single malts that were bottled in the 1970's.
When interpreting my score of 87, please keep in mind that I'm a very strict scorer and rarely go into the 90's.
A mere 87 points on my scale equals at least 95 points on the scale of, say, Jim Murry - maybe more... ;-)  

Glenfarclas 1969/2007 'Family Cask' (56,2%, OB 'Familly Casks', C#3184, 148 Bts.)
Nose: Beautiful old sherry style; fruits and woods. Vague hint of rubber? Cinnamon?
Taste: First sweet and complex fruits, then more wood and some smoke. Cinnamon. Quite extreme in the finish.
Score: 95 points - too bad I tried this in the MM Awards 2007 madness, so I only made rudimentary notes.
Almost the best bottling of Glenfarclas I've ever had the pleasure of sampling. Well, until now at least...

Glenfarclas 1972/2006 'Family Cask' (51.1%, OB Family Cask #3546, 645 Bts.)
Nose: Shoe polish. Sweet with yeasty notes in the background. Cattle feed. Spices. Passion fruit.
A lovely balance between sweetness, farmy notes and organics. Like cask #3434 it reminds me of antiques.
Taste: Sweet, smooth and bold. Big, fruity centre. Very nice, although it feels a tad gritty in the woody finish.
The smoothness is really amazing. The faintest touch of perfumy towards the finish - not at all disturbing.
Score: 90 points - I loved all 'Family Casks' I've tried so far, but this one is particularly enjoyable.

Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006, new 'classic' packaging)
Nose: Sherried. Fruity. Polished. Hint of smoke? Some organics. Woody on the palate.
After time the nose grows more and more complex - although it does have just a few imperfections.
Taste: Great mouth feel. It lacks just a little sweetness and doesn't have quite enough 'staying power'.
Score: 87 points - there's a lot to love here... Possibly my favourite whisky of the year of the new releases.

Glenfarclas 12yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Strong grains & glue. Sweeter, fruitier notes after a minute. Faintest hint of peat? Nah...
The sweets and fruits seem much more prominent after some breathing. Rhubarb and sorrel.
Hint of melon. Oh boy, this is much more enjoyable during the second round! Now I'm getting spices.
Taste: Flat, watery start. Bitter, deconstructed centre. Smoother towards the short finish. 'Blendy'.
Round 2: On the palate it's still quite weak in the start, but it powers up nicely in the centre. Longer finish too.
Score: 80 points - It seems that all it needed was some time and air. What a difference!

Glenfarclas 25yo (43%, OB, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: Sweet and polished, but not very expressive at first. Opens up over time, growing more unique.
Round 2: Again sweet, but there are lots of lovely fruits now as well. You just have to work at it a little.
Taste: Hint of peat. Strong tannins. Quite bitter towards the finish. Gritty. Still, there are moments of glory.
Score: 85 points - but give it time. After a few minutes both the nose and palate open up.

Glenfarclas '105' (60%, OB, No Age Statement, Bottled 2004)
Nose: Sweet and nutty. Big and complex. We have another winner, it seems.
After a while some smoke as well, followed but more and more organics. Prune jam?
Taste: Very similar to the nose; big, sweet and a little nutty. Then more fruits.
After a while the sherry becomes much more obvious - and a tad overpowering.
Second sampling: Just as big and powerful in the nose as the first time. Lovely.
Sherry. Amazing power, although it doesn't seem quite as complex as the first time.
It has organics and spices, but it's not very 'deep'. Very pleasant on the palate.
Once I got used to the powerful profile I got lots of fruit and maybe a hint of smoke too?
Score: 88 points - this is one impressive whisky that packs quite a punch. Interesting. Could Michael Jackson have been right all along? Previous batches scored in the lower 80's, but this seems much, much better.

Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled 2004)
Nose: Fruity and sherried with a hint of smoke. Very rich. Furniture polish. Rum.
Second nosing: Apart from the sherry and fruit I got some string beans in the nose.
Taste: Woody at first, growing more sherried and fruity in the centre. Feels good.
It seems a little woody and weak on the palate first, but it powers up very quickly.
The subdued sweetness takes quite some time to emerge. Extremely long finish.
Score: 86 points - another kick-ass Glenfarclas. Have I underestimated it in the past?

Glenfarclas 30yo (43%, OB, Bottled 2004)
Nose: Wow!!! We have a winner! Rich and sweet like a luxurious fruit cake. Then smoke, wood and organics.
Sweaty socks. More 'port' than 'sherry'. Extremely entertaining, even though there's something 'artificial'.
Taste: Sherried and a little woody. Fresher and fruitier towards the centre. Some lingering fruits.
It appears just a little 'thin' compared to the 'thick' nose; that's too bad. A mightily pleasant malt.
After a few minutes I got much more smoke on the palate. Faintest hint of liquorice in the finish?
A magnificent malt, although in the end, it's perhaps just a tad too winey in the finish.
Score: 90 points - had it been as 'meaty' on the palate, it would have gone higher.
So, this scores four more points than an earlier batch sampled at the distillery in 2003.

Glenfarclas 1991/2004 (46%, OB, Cask #5619, Dist. 06/91, Btl. 07/04, 649 Bts.)
Nose: Dark fruits. Cassis. A whiff of sulphur, growing stronger. Something metallic. Vaguely perfumy?
Hmmm... The sulphury and perfumy smells become dominant over time... It started around 85 but drops fast.
Taste: Fruity. Packs a very powerful punch. Somehow, it reminded me of a smokeless Bowmore Darkest.
Score: 82 points - what a difference a cask makes! The 'sister cask' #5620 earned a score of 89 points.

Glenfarclas 1991/2004 (46%, OB for La Maison du Whisky in Paris, Oloroso Cask #5620)
Nose: Distinguished; polished oak and pipe tobacco. The faintest hint of soap perfume.
Sherry, wood and tobacco. Almost perfect; maybe even just a little too perfect.
And yes, once again some organics emerge after a while. Stinging nettle? Salmiak?
This feels like a 'luxurious' malt. Speculaas spices. Rotting leaves. Mushrooms. Brilliant.
Taste: Sweet and solid. A fabulous fruity explosion in the centre - what a knockout malt.
Wood, smoke and salmiak become more dominant over time, while it flattens out a bit.
Lots of smoke on the palate - it seems much more dominant than in other official bottlings.
Score: 89 points - in the end the palate is just a bit too woody and smoky for the 90's.
A very nice surprise indeed - and confirmation that I'm indeed an Oloroso fan.

Glenfarclas 1974/2004 (50.5%, OB for The Whisky Exchange, Refill sherry hogshead #6041, 246 bottles)
Nose: Big, sweet and polished. Spices in the background. Honey. Baklava. Then leather & organics.
Taste: Soft, fruity start with a pinch of smoke growing stronger and stronger. Menthos freshness.
Score: 89 points - another one that's right up my alley. A fine showcase of the power of sherry.
Revision: Oh yeah! Fruity and sherried, with spices and organics joining the party after a while.
Big and sweet on the palate. Great fruity centre. Yep, I stand by my 89 points. Great stuff.

Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997, L7273BB 1 15 27, 5cl)
Nose: Hey, this smells a little 'antique'. Something organical in the direction of leather. Oriental spices.
Furniture polish. A whiff of dust. Sweetens out a bit with time. Nice! After a while it takes a nuttier direction.
Never a dull moment with this Glenfarclas. Not as sweet and fruity as the Glenfarclas 15yo of today.
Very interesting nonetheless. This shows a lot of development over time. The score kept climbing up.
Taste: Ah, it's much sweeter on the palate than in the nose. Solid. Fruity. Very nice. Intriguing spicy twist.
It remains very nice for a long time, but after some 20 minutes bitter notes take over.
Score: 83 points - I'd prefer the sweeter, fruitier 15yo of today, but arguably this is more interesting.

And there's more to tell about Glenfarclas...

These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glenfarclas Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Glenfarclas page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the hundreds of Glenfarclas expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.) 

Glenfarclas whisky

Glenfarclas distillery in the new millennium

2002 - Glenfarclas chairman George S. Grant passes away and his son John L. S. Grant succeeds him.
2006 - The first Glenfarclas 'Family Casks' are released.
New bottlings in de range are released in 2007, 2008 & 2009. (Scroll down for a handful tasting notes.)
2010 - Like many other distilleries (Balvenie, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Glenfiddich and Highland Park), Glenfarclas releases a 40 years old official bottling in 2010 as well. A 40yo OB almost seems "standard" these days.

A local newspaper of the time wrote about
the Pattisons: 'Advertising was resorted to
on a scale previously undreamt of.
' In 1897
the Pattisons spent 20.000 pounds on a
world wide advertising campaign. In those
days one could still buy or build a distillery
for that amount of money. In 1898 they
even spent 60.000 pounds on advertising
for brands like 'The Doctor' and 'The Gordon'.
Banks and investers swarmed around the
brothers like flies around a dung heap. For
years the Pattisons had no problems with
attracting the necessary funding for their
various schemes. They lived the good life
and built opulent houses in Edinburgh and
the Lowlands.
Like every bubble, this one had to burst
some time. When it did, it turned out that
some business practices of the Pattisons
were illegal - so they ended up in prison...

Glenfarclas 1961

After 'The Pattison Crisis' the Grant family
took over full control of the distillery again.

In the year 1900 they decided to
change the name of the company back
to J. & G. Grant - and the operation has
continued to operate under that very
same name until the present day.

After the commotion caused by the
Pattison crisis, Glenfarclas enjoyed a
few peaceful and quiet decades. It
wasn't until 1960 that the next big
event in the history of Glenfarclas
took place; the number of stills was
doubled from two to four.
The production capacity of the
distillery was expanded again soon
afterwards; in 1976 the number of
stills was extended to six.

When I visited the Speyside area for the first time in 2003 the Glenfarclas distillery was one of the 'targets' of the tag team of certified malt maniacs that had joined our pilgrimage. I don't know if the fact that Glenfarclas is one of the last remaining 'family' distilleries has something to do with it, but the maniacs were treated like royalty in the glorious tasting room. Read my report on the first maniacal trip to Scotland in my Liquid Log for all the details...

Glenfarclas distillery, Scotland

The Glenfarclas distillery is one of the last 'family' distilleries in
Speyside. Glenfarclas was licensed in 1836 by farm tenant Robert
Hay. For a while around 1850 Glenfarclas was also known under
the name 'Glenlivet' - but we all know who won the battle for that
name... Nowadays, only Glenlivet distillery can use that name.

In 1865 Glenfarclas was obtained from Robert Hay's executors by
John Grant who then let it to John Smith until 1870. By that time,
John (the 'Smith' one) had built Cragganmore for himself, so after
1870 Glenfarclas was run by J. & G. Grant. In 1895 the Glenfarclas
-Glenlivet Distillery Co Ltd formed, half of which was owned by
Pattison, Elder & Co and the other half by the Grant family.

Glenfarclas twelve years old Scotch whisky

Glenfarclas was rebuilt in 1896, shortly before Pattison, Elder & Co were bankrupted in 1898.
This bankruptcy sent shockwaves through the Scotch whisky industry; its effects were so profound
that over a century later the story of 'The Pattison Crisis' is still being told as a cautionary tale.
Given its relevance to the history of Glenfarclas, I'll include some 'headlines' here. The brothers
Robert and Walter Pattison started out as dairy traders in Edinburgh. When demand for Scotch
whisky exploded in the 1880's and 90's, the Pattisons saw an opportunity and started a blending
and retailing company in 1887. In 1889 they collected 100.000 pounds at the stock exchange.

The flamboyant Pattison brothers were inventive pioneers in advertising.
They were not discouraged by the fact that mass media like radio
and television were not invented yet. The Pattisons
just used the 'tools' available to them at the time.
At one time these tools even included parrots...
The brothers distributed no less than 500 grey
parrots amongst grocers. And these were no
ordinary parrots; they were carefully trained to
continuously shout 'Buy Pattisons' at the top of
their little bird lungs. Surprisingly enough, many
people followed the advice of these 'bird brains'.

Thanks to stunts like these (and massive sums of borrowed money) the Pattison's whisky empire
grew rapidly and they soon owned half of Glenfarclas and large chunks of Oban and Aultmore.

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