Of the 100 or so operating single malt distilleries in Scotland, Glenfarclas stands out as a little rarity. In a world increasingly inundated with NAS (no age statement) whiskies bottled at the legal minimum of 40 percent propped up by shrewd marketing and E150a caramel colouring, Glenfarclas is no doubt a breath of fresh air, as much as it is a bastion of traditional values.
The name Glenfarclas is of Gaelic etymology, literally meaning “glen of the green grassland”. Glenfarclas received its official license in 1836, and that is regarded as its year of establishment. However, it is often the case that distilleries – in Scotland in particular – had begun whisky production long before they were licensed in the 19th century. In fact, the reason why there are so few distilleries in the Lowland and yet so many in the inconveniently far-flung corners of Scotland, is precisely because of tax, as unavoidable as death. The more remote it is, the more likely it is that the distillery might just about dodge HM’s taxmen. The advent of railways rendered all such attempts futile, and it is no coincidence that the majority of Scottish distilleries were officially founded in the 19th century.
The Grant family acquired Glenfarclas in 1865, and has been running the distillery ever since. Situated in Ballindalloch, Banffshire, Glenfarclas is within the geographical boundaries of Speyside, and yet its labels are invariably inscribed “Highland”. Its water source comes from nearby Ben Rinnes.
Free from the relentless pressure of continuous growth demanded by shareholders at annual general meetings, Glenfarclas appears to be a remarkably unhurried and charmingly bucolic distillery, indeed one of the last family distilleries in Scotland. It does not make use of complex double maturation or finishing in exotic casks, yet retains its richly sherried style, mostly bottled at a healthy 43 percent. Shunning marketing gimmicks, Glenfarclas is simple in label design as well as website, which feels more like one from the late 90s.
Luminous amber with light golden hues, the delicate nose offers cranberry, crème brûlée, sea salt and white smoke. With a fresh mouthfeel, the energetic palate delivers red apple peel, roasted barley, walnut cake and fragrant oak. Medium-bodied at 43 percent, the grassy entry carries onto a lively mid-palate, leading to a malty finish.
Glenfarclas 17 Years Old
Rich amber with bright golden reflex, the aromatic nose presents mandarin peel, dates, butterscotch, white smoke and iris. With a rounded mouthfeel, the luxurious palate supplies raspberry, plum, cinnamon, maltose and violet. Medium-full bodied at 43 percent, the composed entry continues through a creamy mid-palate, leading to a longer finish.
Glenfarclas 21 Years Old
Saturated amber with shimmering tawny reflex, the scented nose effuses morello cherry, prune, clove, roasted almond and geranium. With an unctuous mouthfeel, the redolent palate emanates redcurrant, red delicious, spice box, black chocolate and lavender. Full-bodied at 43 percent, the potent entry evolves into a complex mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish.
The following Glenfarclas whiskies were tasted – and are available – at Bar Azul of Four Seasons Hotel Macao, Cotai Strip, in the presence of Principal Sommelier Mr Kaleb Paw. E: firstname.lastname@example.org; T: +853 2881 8888
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages