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The Glenfarclas distillery buildings date from around 1790, though it was 1844 before a license to distil was granted to farmer, David Hay. Upon his death, Hay’s property was sold to his neighbour, John Grant for £512. Six generations later, the distillery remains under the ownership of the same family.
Such continuity of ownership has been of huge benefit to Glenfarclas and its single malt. During the industry downturn of the 1980s, rival businesses were winding down and mothballing distilleries. The Grants of Glenfarclas, however, kept their stills running. When the market picked up again, their warehouses were well stocked with a supply of aged malt that few could match.
In 1973, Glenfarclas became one of the first distilleries to create an on-site visitor centre. The design included a designated tasting room known as The Ship Room, with walls decked in wood panelling recovered from the RMS Empress of Australia, a ship famed for bringing British troops home from India, thereby ending two centuries of British rule.
The Glenfarclas malt is matured in ex-oloroso European oak casks, sourced from the Miguel Martin Cooperage in Jerez. The 105 expression, first released in 1968, is perhaps the forerunner for the trend for cask strength bottlings. It is bottled at 60% abv and can be bought for the very reasonable sum of £50.
Smell: Sherry, Caramel, Honey, Apple, Pear, Vanilla, Lemon, faintest hint of Smoke.
Taste: Big flavour. Sherry and Caramel, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Nutmeg.
Thoughts: Glenfarclas are a distillery on top of their game. No-one else has achieved such consistency and affordability with sherry matured whisky. Their reasonable pricing is something that isn’t praised enough for my liking. The whisky industry seems obsessed with words like premium and luxury and it seems like 90% of press coverage focuses on new supposedly-collectable bottlings, or new records being set at auction. In reality, of course, those products are available to an extremely small group of people. Personally I prefer to see more of a focus on whisky that lots of people can actually drink. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer sipping on a dram, rather than looking at one.
The 105 offers just about everything I want from a whisky. It’s got depth and layers of dried fruit flavours and even at a whopping 60%, it doesn’t need a lot of water to open up. Cask strength and sherry maturation are two things that are often used as justification for higher pricing but Glenfarclas don’t follow the others. They do their own thing.
*If the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers.