GLENFARCLAS AND A TASTING WITH GEORGE GRANT
Potato / Potahto, Kidding / Kidnapping, Tomato / Tomahto…let’s not split hairs. I believe these words basically mean the same thing. Which is why on the night of January 26, 2012 we, the gang of four, planned and executed a warm welcoming abduction of Mr. George Grant in order to further our preoccupation of Single Malt Scotch whisky. Normally we would never consider such a high profile person, but based on a careless double dare by one of the gang of four the decision to move forward was an easy one. Mr. Grant came to Calgary, Alberta on January 25, 2012 to host the 7th annual Robbie Burns supper for the Kensington Wine Market. His mistake, or should I say our opportunity, came the following night. Believing that, since he was not in Edmonton, Alberta, he was safe…obviously he thought wrong. We seized the opportunity, along with Mr. Grant, and headed out of town for a tasting.
Now not to worry…we are not obsessive fanatical Star Trek fans that go around quoting characters from different episodes or lounge around and debate the merits of each of the series. We are in fact keen professional fans of the single malt, that can quote different whisky writers while we lounge around and debate the merits of each distillery. Needless to say, being under the control of professional whisky fans, Mr. Grant was indeed very safe…so long as he cooperated with us.
For the benefit of the great unwashed, the Glenfarclas distillery was founded in 1836 and is located in Banffshire, which sits in the heart of Speyside. The Gaelic translation of Glenfarclas means “Valley of the green grass”. The Glenfarclas distillery has been owned by the Grant family since 1865 (excluding 1896-1899, Pattison & Co owned 50 %).
Like any really good tasting, we require good whisky, so we arranged an exchange of sorts to achieve these goals. The cost of liberation this night would be very high indeed. The following was a list of whiskies that we liberated and tasted.
GLENFARCLAS RANGE TASTING :
#1 21 Year Old 43% ABV
#2 25 Year Old 43% ABV
#3 30 Year Old 43% ABV
#4 40 Year Old 46% ABV (Voted #4 whisky tasted)
#5 40 Year Old 43% ABV Millennium Edition (aka Treasure Island) (Voted #2 whisky tasted)
#6 175 Anniversary Edition 43% ABV
#7 175 Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve 46% ABV (Voted #1 whisky tasted)
#8 1974 / 2005 31 Year Old 57.4% ABV (sourced from the US) (Voted #3 whisky tasted)
#9 1967 / 2006 39 Year Old 58.7% ABV Family Cask # 5118 First Series
#1 21 Year Old 43 % ABV
NOSE: Minty, stewed fruits. Delicate vanilla-infused with gentle smoke.
TASTE: Mellow sherried fruits and spice. Toffee, chocolate and almonds.
FINISH: No sharp edges, very drinkable. Medium to long smooth finish.
ASSESSMENT: George stated that this was his favorite of the age range and that the vatting on this malt is 60 % 1st & 2nd fill Sherry casks along with 40% old refill Bourbon casks.
#2 25 Year Old 43 % ABV
NOSE: More intense sherry tannins and spice than the 21. Oranges and light tropical fruit. A little more smoke than the 21 but still subtle.
TASTE: Sweet and winey. Ripe dark cherries and chocolate.
FINISH: Spicy. Medium to long.
ASSESSMENT: George informed us that no peat was used to dry the barley and the light smoky notes are imparted from just the natural toasting or drying of the barley.
#3 30 Year Old 43 % ABV
NOSE: More complex than the 21 & 25 with deeper sherry spice notes, melons and apples.
TASTE: Coffee and dark chocolate. Sherry spice. Burnt brown sugar.
FINISH: Slight harshness. Medium finish.
ASSESSMENT: This was my favorite of the stated age range. Seemed so much more complex than the rest.
#4 40 Year Old 46 % ABV
NOSE: Oranges and cherries. Roasted coffee and cigar tobacco.
TASTE: Raspberry jam. Over-ripe raisins and prunes. Toffee. Chewy liqueur.
FINISH: Lots of layers of favor to enjoy. Robust and long finish.
ASSESSMENT: George told us that the 1st batch of the 40 year old consisted of 23 casks, of which 22 were 1st fill sherry and 1 refill sherry. The age of the casks were 21 casks 40 years old and two casks from 1968.
#5 40 Year Old 43 % ABV Millennium Edition (locally known as Treasure Island)
NOSE: Wow, what a nose. Tropical fruit, coconut, vanilla. So good.
TASTE: Milk chocolate. Mild spices. Sweet & creamy. Lots-o-fruit. Sublime hint of smoke.
FINISH: This is a brilliant whisky and is in my top ten of (top ten just means ‘very high’ on the list, as I have said top ten over 43 times now) whiskies enjoyed. What a finish…long, flawless and lingering.
ASSESSMENT: George admitted the perverse enjoyment he received from watching people trying to open this most difficult and unique case. We were also informed this was a cask that had been sold by Glenfarclas to Signatory and was purchased back. The number of bottles released was 600, but George informed us that it was only 590 (sounds a little like a cover up from somebody that likes this whisky a lot).
#6 175 Anniversary Edition 43 % ABV 2011 Limited Edition
NOSE: Oranges and cherries. Dark roasted coffee. Little floral.
TASTE: Pepper and winey notes. Raisins and dark chocolate.
FINISH: Medium finish. Bit bitter. Might have been better at a higher ABV. Grant said “yes, but that would have meant less bottles and a higher price.”
ASSESSMENT: George said this vatting was made up from 3 casks per decade from 6 different decades (1950 – 2000), for a total of 18 casks. Only one cask was bourbon, which was a 2nd fill from 1952, and all the other casks were sherry.
#7 175 Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve 46 % ABV 2011 limited Edition of 1296 Bottles
NOSE: Oh my, this is good. Sweet sherry. Dead ripe blackberries, oranges and almonds.
TASTE: Ever so elegant for a vatting of old sixties sherry casks. Rum cake. Milk chocolate. Prunes. Creamy caramel.
FINISH: Long and sensuous.
ASSESSMENT: Oh my my, oh hell yes…this is really good. Different good from the Millennium…more intense sherry. This is another for the top ten (44) whiskies I’ve tasted. This is a vatting of four casks from the sixties. George couldn’t remember if the oldest was 1963 or 1964 (Being a distillery owner doesn’t automatically mean you can hold your liquor like the Irish), as this was his 7th drink and his memory was now being tested.
#8 1974 / 2005 31 Year Old 57.4 % ABV (sourced from the US)
NOSE: Oranges. The most peated unpeated Glenfarclas I’ve nosed. Leather and tobacco.
TASTE: Thick chewy sherry. Raisins and prunes. Dark chocolate.
FINISH: Long and intense.
ASSESSMENT: This was a vatting of three casks: one 1st fill and one 2nd fill sherry along with an older fill bourbon.
#9 1967 / 2006 39 Year Old 58.7 % ABV Family Cask # 5118 First Series
NOSE: Raspberry jam meets marmalade. Coffee and cinnamon.
TASTE: Oranges. Rich chewy port. Dark chocolate. Little whiff of smoke.
FINISH: Rich. A bit tart and long.
ASSESSMENT: Why 1967? Because it’s the 100 year anniversary of the greatest country in the world, Canada (also the birth year of Pamela Anderson, Canada’s largest export to the world).
Much thanks to Mr. Grant for allowing us to take him away from his busy schedule (funny nobody seemed to miss him) to share a few private stories along with some great whiskies with us. Really sorry about how sticky the duct tape was, but I’m sure the hair will grow back.