(Thanks to the good folks at Gemini Spirits & Wine for the sample.)
Inspired by Glenfarclas‘ independent, family owned tradition (and Wisconsin public employees), I was going to start this post by spouting off on the U.S.’s pathetic tradition of codifying and protecting the über-rich and the giant, mean-spirited corporations that take all the tax breaks we give them and then ship jobs overseas anyways, but then it occurred to me that perhaps I sound bitter (I am) and perhaps a small-time whisky blog is not the forum for this kind of screed (it’s probably not). Besides, I really know absolutely nothing about this stuff other than the fact that it’s simply maddening. Sure, our government’s treatment of its citizens is starting to take on a very prison shower room feel, and a large segment of our population has been completely fooled by smirking white men in red ties, false patriotism, and hypocritical religious zealotry, but is it really that bad? After all, the Son is out, the Green Bay Packers have won the Superbowl, and there’s whisky to be drunk…is it really that bad?
Yes, it is. But…luckily, there’s whisky to be drunk.
Glenfarclas‘ first license to distill was taken out in 1836 by a tenant framer named Robert Hay, who ran the place apparently pretty well before he, shall we say, “bought the farm” in 1865. When another local farmer, John Grant (no relation to William that I know of) signed on as the new tenant, he bought the distillery as well for just a little over £500. After initially leasing the distillery for five years, Grant, with the help of his son George, took over once more in 1870 and the business has remained in the Grant’s hands ever since. The family does not own several other distilleries. They don’t own a brewery in Japan or a chain of Cincinnati HQ’d shoe stores, and they don’t sponsor several gas-guzzling race cars. They are a true rarity in the Scotch world, a long-standing, family run distillery. Their commitment to single malts is impressive. Along with a wide core range of a cask strength, and 10, 12, 15, 17, 21, 25, 30, and 40 year olds, they have an incredible collection of 43 single cask malts called the Family Collection featuring a bottling of every year from 1952 to 1994. This expression, their 17 year old, is matured in sherry casks and bottled primarily for the travel retail, U.S., and Japanese markets…lucky us.
The Nose: Lush, voluptuous nose…I know I’ve used that phrase before, but it’s apt, so sue me. Sweet, juicy tropical fruits, canned pineapple, plump grapes, maybe some kind of baked fruit dessert, let’s say a cobbler. There’s also wonderful honey notes, straight-from-the-honeycomb honey surrounding subtler toasted grain. Behind it all there are subtle notes of oak and leather to ground it a bit.
The Palate: Wonderful mouthfeel that starts with a quick hit of fruit syrup (maybe from that canned pineapple?) then the sweetness takes on more of a honeyed grain quality. Sultanas and Baked fruits are present as the maltiness is joined by hints of salted roasted nuts and ever-increasing swells of excellent oak. There’s a complex tannic spiciness to the wood here, cinnamon, clove, and a hint of fennel with just the faintest wisp of smoke at the end.
The Finish: Longish, mouth-watering, oakey, spicy and gooooooood.
Thoughts: A beautiful whisky. Warming, cozy, and complex, this was my choice for a Christmas day dram this past year and I have to say I chose pretty darn well. There’s a really elegant mix of fruit, grain and wood here, wonderfully balanced and structured, it’s very satisfying to begin with but then evolves and grows as it opens up a bit. I really enjoyed the effect of the wood on this malt, there’s both strength and restraint, complexity and clarity. A highly recommended example of a late-teens Speysider.