22 August 2014

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Glenfarclas - family values


Glenfarclas has been at the heart of the Grant family for six generations and now both its Family Casks and Glenfarclas 105 are winning a legion of loyal followers 

Glenfarclas 105 Speyside is generally acknowledged to be the cradle of single malt Scotch whisky production. One of the more traditional distilleries to be found there is Glenfarclas, which, unusually, remains family-owned. That’s why you won’t find it on the shelf of every supermarket. However, when you open a bottle, you’ll find unrestrained pride and heritage therein.

Glenfarclas represents the legacy of the Grant family, the independent owners and custodians of Glenfarclas since 1865. For six generations, the Grants and their team of dedicated workers have been united by an uncompromising commitment and pride in producing premium quality whisky.

George Grant is the sixth generation of the family to be involved with Glenfarclas. At 32 he is already a whisky industry institution and his generous, convivial personality sits comfortably with his current role of brand ambassador. You are as likely to find him enjoying a glass of Glenfarclas on the steps of Sydney Opera House or on top of Chicago’s Hancock Tower as you are in Speyside. 

In the past year, Grant has been touring the world to proudly unveil the Glenfarclas Family Casks, a collection of 43 single cask expressions representing the distillery’s very best whisky from every year between 1952 and 1994. Following the initial success of this limited edition range, Glenfarclas has now released a further five Family Casks to compliment the collection. Release II of The Family Casks comprises casks from 1952, 1957, 1960, 1967 and 1969. There is also a rumour that a 40 year old may well be released from the distillery in January 2009, which will certainly be one to look forward to.

Glenfarclas Spirit SafeAccording to Grant: ‘We are lucky to have good stocks of old whisky at Glenfarclas. We are in the unusual position of being able to offer whisky from every year since 1952. The Family Casks have been very well received and, as certain ages have sold out, we have decided to bottle further casks, to keep the collection complete.’

As with the first release, the five casks have been bottled at cask strength and at natural colour, to allow the whisky enthusiast to explore the subtle nuances between individual casks. Cask Number 1710, which was filled in 1952, has produced just 55 bottles after such a long maturation. Light in colour, this is a thick, heavy whisky with hints of malty sweetness and a long lingering finish. Whilst from 1960, Cask 1773, a hogshead which formerly held Oloroso sherry, is a dark, rich toffee in colour, and is full of sherry, lush chocolate and coffee flavours. 

While there are limited numbers of bottles available of each of the five new releases, it is the intention of the family-owned company to release further casks for The Family Casks, thus ensuring the collection represents as many years as possible. However the increasing scarcity will be reflected in the pricing. At the distillery’s visitor centre the prices of the Release II bottlings vary from £340 per bottle for the 1969 to £1,500 for the 1952. 

For a taste of the Glenfarclas that is more accessible than the venerable Family Casks and represents the essence of the distillery style, there’s Grant’s favourite expression, Glenfarclas 105. ‘It was first created in 1968 when my grandfather gave his friends a bottle of this whisky for Christmas that year with a festive, “There you go!” The fact that it was 60% ABV was purely by chance. In early 1969, he was getting calls from his friends saying, “That whisky was great – where can I get some?”

Glenfarclas vintage 1891_VINTAGE_02_opt.jpg‘That was the lightbulb moment and we started selling an Glenfarclas eight year old at 105% proof,’ Grant continues. ‘More recently, we are finding that Glenfarclas is holding its strength during maturation more than before. Theories abound that this is due to global warming or better casks but I’m not sure why it is.’ The result is that 105 is now 10 years old. It’s also harder to put together according to Grant.

‘In the old days, even though it stated ‘cask strength’ on the label, we had to reduce the whisky down 60% ABV. About five years ago the regulations changed so Glenfarclas 105 has to be cask strength. No water is added. This makes things trickier when you are vatting together 100 or so casks to come up with a precise final ABV of 60%.

‘My favourite description of 105 comes from a couple of Swedish hill walkers who visited the distillery. They are regular 
visitors to Scotland and had come straight down Ben Rinnes to Glenfarclas, admitting that they had been enjoying 105 for 35 years now. I was delighted and suggested they must be 105’s most loyal devotees but I had to find out why. “We spend all day walking up and down hills. For us Glenfarclas 105 has the best power to weight ratio.”’

Glenfarclas 105 is available to buy at most good independent whisky specialists so follow in the footsteps of those Swedish walkers and pour a dram to discover why Grant can be so proud of his family’s distilling achievements.

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Speyside Malt, 60% ABV

Nose: Complex, oaky, with apple and pear fruit and a dark toffee sweetness. 
Palate: Dry and assertive, quickly develops a rich spiciness, with a hint of oak and sherried fruit. 
Finish: Amazingly smooth for the strength; wonderfully warming and rounded with a lingering smokiness. 
Expect to pay: £39.99 from Milroy’s, Royal Mile Whiskies, The Whisky Exchange, Peckham & Rye.

Originally published in Square Meal Whisky Special 08/09

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