The first time I tried the Glenfarclas 10 Year Scotch Whisky was during a trip to Innsbruck, Austria in the dead of winter. I don’t ski, though, so to pass the time I picked up a bottle of this whisky in one of the local shops, and I absolutely could not put it down. Back in the States with nothing but time on my hands (thanks COVID-19), I had an opportunity to do a deep dive into this whisky and find out what it was that really resonated with my taste buds.
Scotch whisky used to be a family business, but these days the majority of distilleries are owned and operated by a handful of large corporations. There are still some small family owned businesses proving the exception to the rule, and the Glenfarclas distillery is one example.
The distillery itself (which is a Scottish phrase meaning “valley of the green grass”) was reportedly founded sometime before 1791. When Great Britain started licensing whisky distilleries, the documents show that a man named Robert Hay sought and obtained a license to operate the facility in 1836.
John Grant seems to have stumbled into the distillery business sideways. As a cattle breeder, he was looking for a place to stage his cattle closer to the Elgin cattle market than his Glenlivet ranch so he purchased the Glenfarclas farm (distillery included) in 1865 for the princely sum of 511 pounds (64,626 pounds in today’s money). The distillery wasn’t his primary concern, and so he allowed a distant cousin, John Smith, to operate the facility.
When John Smith left to found the Cragganmore distiller,y the Grant family stepped back in and John Grant’s son George took over. Unfortunately, both John Grant and his son died shortly thereafter, and in 1890 George’s sons John and George (yep, a lot of creativity in the names of this family here) inherited the entire operation. They tried to form a partnership with other distillery companies but that wouldn’t last, and in 1905 they finally founded the J&G Grant company that remains to this day and is the sole owner and operator of the Glenfarclas distillery.
As is typical with Scottish distilleries, the majority of the production from the Glenfarclas distillery went to blenders who mixed the Glenfarclas whisky the product from other distilleries to create a house branded blend. When the whisky market started to soften in the 1960s, though, the Grant family decided to invest heavily in their own brand, producing and laying down a great stock of whisky to age with the intention of selling it under their own brand in the future. Their bet paid off, and is the reason why a dizzying number of aged Glenfarclas single malt scotch whisky products are available worldwide today.
The Glenfarclas distillery remains wholly owned and operated by J&G Grant, which is still owned solely by the 6th generation of the Grant family. They also own a number of other brands including Lismore.
It seems like this is one of those instances where a distillery simply followed the standard formula and miraculously got a unique result.
Scotch whisky, by definition, is produced from 100% malted barley, produced entirely within the borders of Scotland, and matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years. In this case, a couple of the particulars have been changed — 10 years instead of 3, and using former sherry casks for the maturation process — but in general, its the same tried and true process.
In general, this packaging hits all of my usual pet peeves… but at least its done in a tasteful way.
The bottle is a pretty typical shape — perhaps a bit shorter and stouter than a typical whiskey bottle, but sporting the same gently curving shoulder and medium length neck. The glass is what is different here — instead of being clear and letting the whiskey shine through, the glass is almost opaque with a deep brown coloring.
The whole thing is topped off with a wood and cork stopper, which is wrapped with an easy to remove foil wrapping.
The label on the front of the bottle is unnecessarily large. There is a ton of empty unused space around the Glenfarclas logo and, other than the required branding, the only artwork is a red border and a line drawing of what I assume to be the distillery. It seems like something that could have been accomplished without taking up so much real estate… but given that the bottle is too dark to see the whisky inside anyway, I suppose nothing of value is lost.
As is typical for a scotch whisky, the bottle comes in a cardboard protective sleeve.
This whiskey smells like a good summer brunch. There’s a strong impression of some floral aromas, mixed in with a little cantaloupe, honey, and black tea. As it sits, there’s a bit of nutmeg and other baking spices that start to appear as well.
Taking a sip, the more fruity flavors are what come through the most for me. The very first thing I get is something like a poached pear, sweet and delicious but without the crisp bite. There’s a little sweetness that follows, almost like a slice of bread with honey on it (hello, malted barley content!), and then the experience finishes with an apricot aftertaste.
While overall the experience is very fruit-forward, there is more than enough power and weight to make it interesting. This isn’t like a Glenmorangie, in which the whiskey is supple and delicate — there’s some spice and some heavy saturation backing up the delicate flavors.
Unfortunately, things don’t fare well with the ice. Typically, whisky that takes the lighter and fruitier path tends to have most of those light flavors massacred by the added water and ice… and this spirit is no different.
The only thing I get now is a bit of cantaloupe drizzled in honey. Which, to be quite frank, is not terrible. It might actually be pretty good. But this is like listening to a single player in an orchestra while the rest of the ensemble sits on stage silently.
This is a really good whisky at a decent price. It hits all the notes you’d expect, and then goes above and beyond to deliver an outstanding experience. There’s a depth and a richness here that you don’t always see, and I can’t wait to try the other vintages and see what a little more time in the barrel does to those flavors.
|Glenfarclas 10 Year Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky|
Produced By: GlenfarclasOwned By: J&G Grant
Production Location: Speyside, Scotland
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: 10 Years
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $45.99 / 750 ml
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Overall Rating: 4/5
It took six generations of a single family to make this bottle, and that time has definitely not been wasted.