Wednesday 31 May 2017

[Scotland Stag] A Glenfar-class of it's own: Five Decades Tour

Hi everybody!

You may not know but I’m getting married uncomfortably soon, and that means that a stag do was in order. But where do you go as a lonely whisky nerd? You go to Scotland of course, and you do and load of tours, taste some epic whisky and come up with whisky puns with your best man- Tom James.
I’m going to split these posts into a few parts because I don’t want you getting too bored, so in order we did:

  • Glenfarclas Five Decades Tasting & Tour
  • The Mash Tun & Aberlour Hotel
  • Glenfiddich Tour
  • Glendronach Tour
  • Craigellachie Hotel (Night 1)
  • Aberlour Tour
  • Gordon & MacPhail Shop
  • Craigellachie Hotel (Night 2)
  • Tomatin Single Cask Experience Tour

So, first thing is first. We flew up to Inverness and drove straight to Glenfarclas for the Five Decades tasting. A legendary tour, where you get to taste a whisky from each of the last five decades!
Tom, best man, wingman and chauffeur, was driving but had optimistically bought one hundred sample bottles to be able to take samples away.

The tour started with some of the history of the distillery, including an intro to the Grant family that have owned the distillery the entire time it has been running, the only distillery to be able to boast this particular fact. Also that they’re pretty much all named George. Also the only family owners to be involved day to day with the running and operation of the distillery. Also they’ve got the biggest mash tun of any distillery in Scotland. So many interesting facts to tuck away for whisky quiz night (I wish that was a thing).

Of course, Glenfarclas being a pretty traditional whisky and a very relaxed/no marketing BS type of tour it was pretty epic. Interestingly too, they had wooden washbacks at one point, but installed one steel one to see if there was a difference in taste to the spirit. They determined there wasn’t, so replaced all the wood.
The stills are all still direct fired and it is still one of the only places to still continue doing this. Still.
I think Glenfiddich is the only other.

We were then led away to the warehouses to have a look at some of the maturing casks. The contrast in temperature was huge. The weather was so hot outside (28 degrees), but in the dunnage it was like a fridge. Glenfarclas is always matured in Sherry casks, but they have so much warehousing space there that they rent the space out to other distilleries too.

After all that we got to the tasting, in a lovely room converted from an old ship. Five whiskies awaited us.
All of them are from the Family Casks range, all at cask strength, all single casks, selected for being some of the best Glenfarclas you can get your hands on. Each year now, new casks are selected by a panel of the public (think it was 15 people, probably selected by some sort of divine power).
It was a pretty stagg-ering line up (If you think that one’s bad, wait for others!), that left me Ard-begging for Dal-more

  • 2002 Unreleased 2017 Family Cask
  • 1998 Autumn 2016 Family Cask
  • 1985 Summer 2016 Family Cask
  • 1978 Winter 2015 Family Cask
  • 1966 Spring 2015 Family Cask

Glenfarclas 2002 Unreleased 2017 Family Casks 60% Approx.
Colour: Amber
Body: Full
Nose: Ethereal and fresh, modern Sherry, fruity and malty, red apple, A’Bunadh-esque. A little sharp from the ABV.
Taste: Wah! A big and juicy beast, date, fig, very rich and fruity, some malt too. Some chocolate, soft oak, velvety tannins. Long, drawn out development, but quite ethereal.
Finish: Long length. Rich, but ethereal and balanced.
Barrelled at 67.8%, cask 3770 a 1st Fill Sherry Butt. Spicier with water, ginger and chili chocolate.

Glenfarclas 1998 Autumn 2016 Family Casks 59.2%
Colour: Light Gold
Body: Medium/Full
Nose: Completely different. Peach yogurt, apricot yogurt, white chocolate raisins, yogurt coated raisins. Really fresh and slightly floral.
Taste: Sweet and sour arrival, oak then this apricot and peach yogurt thing, lovely fresh fruit, then malty and spicy with some white chocolate coated raisins.
Finish: Long length. More peach yogurt again with white chocolate.
Label says it’s from a 1st Fill Sherry Butt but no one believed it, maybe one that had been left to dry before being used? Better without water, spicier and drier with.

Glenfarclas 1985 Summer 2016 Family Casks 44.2%
Colour: Amber
Body: Medium/Full
Nose: Quite chemical in a really interesting and wonderful way. Chlorine, swimming pool, floral, perfume, slight meaty note like glazed ham?, complex mint with peppermint and spearmint. Soapy and a bit funky but pulls it off with amazing style.
Taste: Much softer than the other two. Sherry, rich raisin, oily and mouth coating. Really long, paced development with amazing oak and juicy dried fruit. Complex mint with peppermint, slightly floral too with some good soap.
Finish: Long length. Toffee, chocolate and juicy tannins. An incredible finish that just keeps giving.
From a refill Sherry Hogshead. Some really unique notes here and it really unfurls. This triggers something in me, something emotional. Beautiful whisky.

Glenfarclas 1978 Winter 2015 Family Casks 48.8%
Colour: Light Amber
Body: Medium/Full
Nose: Lighter, but interestingly soapy and minty again, cleaner though with less fruit and more obvious age about it. White chocolate raisin, swimming pool, dunnage and lovely musky-ness.
Taste: Spicy arrival, ginger, lots of clove, floral and clean, lots of oaky layers, old old oak, musky, old worn leather. Loooooooooong. Oily and malty too.
Finish: Long length. Subtle and stylish. White chocolate raisins and lovely subtle oak. Great musk keeps going.
From a 4th Fill Hogshead. The musky notes are lovely on this, definitely tastes older than the others. Requires time to open up though.

Glenfarclas 1966 Spring 2015 Family Casks 50.6%
Colour: Amber
Body: Medium
Nose: Dry. Old spice box, one that’s held a load of spices before but right at this moment there’s clove in it. Sharp oak, but in no way a bad thing here. Really complex, nutmeg, black pepper, that swimming pool chlorine thing is back and the best pine car air freshener that money can buy.
Taste: Spicy, then recedes and then the sweetness comes in. What is incredible is the fresh lime rind balancing the amazing raisin from the Sherry, floral, perfume, old cologne then a little woody.
Finish: Long length. Amazing entry into the finish, fresh still with lovely lime and malty oak, slightly sour.
From a Sherry Butt. Very rich but not as complex as the 1985. The second oldest whisky I’ve ever had.

What a fantastic tasting, with no pressure to hurry up and leave, which gave us the necessary time to really appreciate these amazing whiskies. Also great was the willingness to pour a little more of your favourite, be it the 1966 or 2002.
Overall, an amazing tour and experience, which I would thoroughly recommend to anyone. A great start to the stag!

Thanks for reading!

Scotch Reviews #371-#375
Whisky Network Reviews #417-#421

Network Average: 74.5
Best Score: 92
Worst Score: 44
0-49 Terrible
50-59 Bad
60-64 Just About OK
65-69 Ok to Good
70-74 Good
75-79 Very Good
80-84 Excellent
85-89 Superb
90+ Magnificent

Full Disclosure Disclaimer: I currently work as a Brand Ambassador for Penderyn Distillery. The views expressed here are purely my own and do not reflect the views of Penderyn Distillery or The Welsh Whisky Company. I try to maintain as much objectivity as I can but feel free to take my reviews with as big a pinch of salt as you like. Furthermore, my rating scale is NOT based on a Parker type wine scoring scale or a school/college/university % or A-F grade score. You can find more on my scoring here. I apologise for any seemly low or 'bad' scores given with my system and am sorry I can't say only nice things. Please keep in mind that I am ethically compromised and am unable to produce 100% unbiased reviews.

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