Tuesday, 11 February 2014

TWE Glenfarclas Masterclass with George S. Grant

photo 1 - CopyAnother fantastic evening at The Whisky Exchange, led by George Grant of Glenfarclas. Whenever I listen to men like George speaking I’m always reminded how fabulous a job some people have – tasting whisky, inventing bottlings, touring the world and telling people about them. George has a remarkable repertoire of stories. And I would too if this was my job!

This was a great tasting and what a fabulous range of whiskies; Glenfarclas is a very consistent, solid distillery with a continuous stock of vintages stretching back 61 years in warehouse. Next year they’ll release a 60 year old; Six decades, 6 sided bottle, 360 bottles, 60 bottles for each market. £10,000 each bottle. Eek!

We had whisky with a collective age of 185 years this evening, older than Glenfarclas itself and older than the arches in which the Whisky Exchange currently lives. I didn’t know I liked Glenfarclas so much. The 40 I’ve had with the advent calendar (presumably batch 3) and loved it. The 15 I had at TWE whisky of the year tasting (and voted it first place, and still impressed tonight). All of these I loved in one way or another. There’s a load of sweet, dark sherry in here, but it all works beautifully due to the balance with old wood or leather – not a foot wrong in the whole set really.

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Glenfarclas new make

Nose – Smells like distilled wort – literally distilled mash. Pretty nice actually.

Body – at 68%, its pretty spirity. A fresh burn, fruity, perfumed.

Finish – Actually quite long and oily, a quality spirit

Glenfarclas 15 year old, 46% A+

Everything up to the 40 year old contains 60% 1st and 2nd fill Oloroso casks, 40% 3rd and 4th fill. The 40 contains 95% first fill, 5% refill, and that’s where the magic starts happening. All Glenfarclas whiskies are matured in a single cask – no finishing in another cask.

glenfarclas-15-year-oldNose – Lovely dark sherry, nuts, creamy oak and whisky soaked raisins. A little tropical bliss, lovely balance.

Body – Light peat, some strong cereal, less sweet than you’d imagine given the nose, great structure. Lovely.

Finish – Medium, balanced, washes down to not much though


What’s not good about it
– Not as rich as advertised, finish is a bit short

What’s good about it – Lovely dark nose, flawless sherry. Good structure actually – still a lovely, balanced whisky.

Glenfarclas 21 year old, 43% A+

gf21Nose – Deeper, more darkly tropical, more fruity. Smoother and richer and very sexy on the nose. But still loads of character. Some raisin soaked whisky on wood again. A lovely progression of the 15yo.

Body – Still some malt (they all have a lovely, dry/sour malt character in the delivery which is part of the appeal – not just sweetness but a totally “Scotch” character to them – swims well in the sherry). Also now a floral, perfumed sweetness. Lovely balanced structure and sweetly spiced.

Finish – Oily, medium/long finish with lots of oily wood. A little soft perhaps.

What’s not good about it – A little meek perhaps?

What’s good about it – Lovely, balanced, fruity nose. Again, lovely malt.

Glenfarclas 40 year old (2nd release), 46% A⊕+

Glenfarclas40_thumb[1]Glenfarclas make 1000 cases in a batch of the 40 year old and will release batch 4 in 5 days’ time (batch 1 was in 2008). Each batch is knowingly different. I’m assuming what I had in the advent calendar was batch 3. This is batch 2.

Nose – Beautiful leather, candy, wooded caramel, some cigar, some warm spices, cinnamon stick, toffee apple – stunning. Loads of chocolate later.

Body – Dark, caramel, chilli spice (not heat), warm leathered malt, beautiful youth in amongst it.

Finish – More sweetness, dark, fresh balanced wood and candy. Very long with a lovely, oily mouthfeel.

What’s not good about it – Not much – a bit soft? No, not really.

What’s good about it – Stunning nose, beautiful structure, fabulous whisky.

Glenfarclas 25 year old Quarter Cask 42.4% A⊕+

downloadThis whisky is a vatting of a 15 years’ worth of quarter casks bought once a year by a customer who decided (having got to 70 and not collected the casks) that he was never going to get a chance to drink them all, and sold them back to the distillery. The oldest is from 1976, the youngest from 1988.

Nose – Ripe fruit, glue, sweet honeyed fruit, and sauternes soaked cedar wood. Yet very fresh and brightly sweet. Lovely.

Body – Ripe, sweet, beautiful oak and for the first time, a lovely drying sulphur edge. Really stunning oak and wood structure.

What’s not good about it – a little sour edge perhaps? That might just be in comparison to everything else though.

What’s good about it – Stunning. While the nose of the 40 is better, this is more complex in the delivery.

Glenfarclas 31 year old Port Cask, 42.8% A⊕+

glenfarclas-31-year-old-port-cask-whiskyNose – Brighter, candied nose. More raisins and some stewed cranberries. Not the same opulence I’ve become used to by now but still lovely. Herbal, rosemary edge, a bit more grassy, great structure. With some digging the cakey sweetness begins to assert itself again.

Body- Lovely, rich and ripe melon, but with a savoury edge. The port influence works very well – the structure and balance is great. Fabulous delivery with pepper and spice.

Finish – Spicy, very long sandal wood, medium long with very sweet structure. Interestingly it gets sweeter the further you go on. Fabulous ending.

What’s not good about it – Nose a bit austere for a Glenfarclas.

What’s good about it – Long, long finish, stunning delivery. Beautiful.

Glenfarclas 1979 Family Cask Release X, 52.2% A⊕⊕

gf fcThis is the second A⊕⊕ I’ve given in as many months so I’m a bit wary of over using it. It is a bit marginal to be honest, but such a wonderful whisky I have to recognise it somehow. This manages to blow away the other expressions despite their excellence.

Nose – Stunning chocolate, darkly sweet candy, burnt caramel edge. Darkly beautiful, sweet nose, but totally balanced. Incredible cake and wood.

Body – Richly, darkly sweet, dark leathered wood. This is massively sweet but totally balanced somehow, with a really lovely dry wooded sulphur backing. Amazing.

Finish – Long, dry, beautiful. Oily wood and lacquer. No faults.

What’s not good about it – nothing.

What’s good about it – Stunning nose, balance, complexity, what a whisky.

Glenfarclas 105 20 year old A⊕+

gf105_20By this point I’m afraid all thoughts are just on the Family Cask and the 105, while lovely, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Make no mistake though, this is a very good whisky.

Nose – Bright, Asian airs, backed by now totally familiar faultless raisin sweetness. Definitely a bit closed without water.

Body – Darker rum, great sweetness, good sulphur, some wood, oily mouthfeel.

Finish – Very, very long, fresh and dark, fabulous wood and balance.

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