We start with a pair of Glenfarclas placed around age before youth, present before past.
I’m down to the heel of the bottle, better take some notes. I’d never seen an 18yo Glenfarclas before and £50 for a litre sounded too good to miss. Life at sea huh? Initially travel retail only, I think by now, it may be part of the Glenfarclas core range.
- N: With a fragrant light fruitiness, it’s softer than the Glenfarclas 10yo [that follows] and slightly more crisp than contemporary Glenmorangie 10yo [review coming soon]. Be assured, this is certainly not very Glenfarclas-y. Descriptors speak of freshly cut apples & oranges, firm-yet-ripe pears, husky peach > sweet-grapefruit & a hint of pineapple – in ripe juice form – as well as pear/apple/banana bread. Joining the fruitiness are floral qualities: honeysuckle, rose,… potent little sweet-scented white flowers [what are they,…?],.. jasmine I think. Weirdly, I also get smeared set honey drying on paper plates, oh and peppered radish with a touch of muscovado sugar [one for the cookbook]. Simplified, think: light-peppery rum-like, lightly aged fruity=bready distillate. All fine, but not at all sherry-matured to my palate, an important part of the defining signature of Glenfarclas, no?
- T: Bready,… hemp-like with a lightly aromatic-fruity~floral sour~> savoury=sweet waxy astringency, the fruitiness providing moisture/texture over the flavour that is buried/consolidated/dissipated/baked[/aged] into a bready putty mash. Also expect a basic [column-still] rum-like booziness [Serge’s ‘Havana Club’ note is mind-blowingly accurate]. Towards the turn, let’s put a few waxy > buttery sour-savoury raisin tannins in the mix [the first sherried hint, but a hint is all I get].
- F: Bready, floury > chalky-sour yet also a tad [floral~raisin-y] waxy, eventually settling for lucid barley juice with a commendable balance that is established by the finish though a troubling congealed oiliness at the death spoils those middling pleasantries. Hard to believe this is 100% sherry-matured whisky, as much as it’s hard to believe I’m not detecting underlying bourbon cask maturation. Some investigation ensued. I queried this apparent absence of sherry cask influence on Whiskybase. WB administrator Schmausel contacted the distillery and got this reply:
‘All Glenfarclas is produced from ex Oloroso Sherry Casks, the 18yo for Travel Retail is no different. When the whisky is being bottled there will be a variety of 1st Fill (first time the cask has been filled with spirit) casks and 2nd/3rd/4th Fill ex Sherry casks. This will vary each time depending on the different qualities of the casks’. [With thanks to Schmausel].
- C: I still find it hard to believe with the words in front of me. This un-Glenfarclas-y Glenfarclas certainly improved with two months of oxidisation. Overall, a fine if innocuous malt that I wouldn’t buy again. No bad whisky. Simply put: boring.
Scores 81 points
Yet another bottle enjoyed to the heel before I began taking some notes.
- N: Rather stewed/well married, or as Serge brilliantly puts it, ’stodgy’. This stewed marriage [in glass] meant I found the delights & details unreachable much of the time, A waxy malty-sherried industrial/petroleum/briny pong was the main over-hanging feature. For the sadists, I broke that pong down to fusty-malty=sherried < creamy=milky-waxy, slightly sweaty burned/toasted barley [& plastic], with a mild and unique blend of Yogi teas, chai and oaky fruity ‘nougat’ – another Serge gem. A few more pointers included pecan halva [another one for the cookbook], organic vegetal scrub and olive brine. If you will, a soft sherried Inchgower at times.
- T: The sweet raisin-led likeness to a particular single cask DL Inchgower bottling [WB] continues. For immaculate details of this Glenfarclas, refer once again to Serge’s review [WF]. For my part, my main focus for this bottle centred around an almost chalky bitter-sweet-leathery-waxy > raisin-y chewy arrival turning slightly [ever-waxy &] oaky with some [more] soft toffee/nougat and a hint of molasses into aromatic ground black pepper [S=genius]. Simply, this is a well married [stodgy] waxy bitter > savoury-sweet thing, well-tempered without losing all its power. OBE would have played a part too. This particular waxy & briny mouthfeel isn’t to be found in contemporary bottlings.
- F: Short on peppery earthy wax – damn Serge! – finishing with a light tobacco & mole skin-sweet waxy maltiness, a soft damp cardboard note, faint budget milk chocolate and toasted heather. We see sweet dusty milky runny toffee at the death, remaining a touch heathery and raisin-y till the last.
- C: Amazingly this is my first Glenfarclas 10yo, so I’ve only the contemporary 15yo [which I have liked very much in the past] to compare it against. Those transport casks must have played a significant part in the radical difference between whiskies from two very different eras. Scoring fluctuated but settled at a well deserved:
- N: All manner of oak-dense dried, ripe & slightly festering/funky fruits. Weeks later it becomes more floral with thick vanilla cream cheesecake, oaky honey biscuits, soft aromas of carpenters workshops and used paintbrushes. There are plenty more subtleties besides, the list of which can be explored at one’s leisure. I’m determined to keep this bottle review concise.
- T: Sweet oaked honeyed < buttered popcorn, and shortbread/barley biscuits – the order being freely interchangeable. There’s an edginess before the vegetal-waxy oak-tannic > emulsion mouthfeel appears, followed by a slightly sandy & clay-like situation.
- F: A touch butyric with congealed oil every time, unfortunately, but water elongates the sweet barley oaked distillate whilst diminishing those not too distracting undesirables. Thankfully time also helps hugely, in seeing the fustiness [and not the oily congealings] to the fore. On this occasion, there’s a bit too much straight oak for my liking but the distillate is still present & correct at the finish.
- C: Concise full-bottle notes nailed, hmm? This is a lovely old thing that might also want to have been enjoyed/bottled a few years before. Who knows?
Scores 87 points
Last up is a bottle I scored for a mere £50 at auction. opened at the 2019 Campbeltown Festival and took to tOMoH’s My Precious.
- N: A great example where the cask has thoroughly served the distillate. This is not a shopping-list dram. It’s very light, mildly sweet yet desirably fatty [Mini Milk=shear butter=dried olive oil], with further notes of straw, drowned rose petals, wafting allium-hot aromas of garlic and salty lemon>lime peel. I love Gaija’s ‘wet newspaper’ and tOMoH’s ‘gentle metal’ & ‘flint’ notes [WLP]. I’ll throw in a mere suggestion of a faint farmy note in there too.
- T: Appreciating this one is about what is, not what isn’t – glass half full and all that – like the 1971 Bache Gabrielsen [WLP90] in that respect. It remains fatty though less salty than on the nose, always light and convivial, arriving mildly floral-sweet. There’s a flash of hesitancy/edginess before it settles into light waxy=malty > salty < < citrus & straw action with just a touch of heat. Maintains a fairly sustained if relaxed pace whilst chewing the sweetness out of the farmy straw is a joy.
- F: Medium-short with citrus/straw/coppery remnant trails. Sometimes more chocolatey on the finish, the fattiness remains as does the light-sweet lemon citrus. It’s balanced throughout and concludes without a blemish.
- C: I don’t recall having a whisky quite like this before, though barring the absence of peat, some less well-received Port Ellen’s might come close. A super-subtle, special little number that I’ll miss. Maybe Glencadam’s 15yo [WLP] is the contemporary replacement?
Scores 87 points