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Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining family-owned distilleries in Scotland. John Grant bought Recherlich Farm and its distillery in 1865 when founder Robert Hay passed away. Six generations later, his descendants remain in charge and the distillery enjoys a fine reputation among whisky drinkers the world over.
In the early days the family were more concerned with the farm than the distillery and the premises were let out to John Smith, who would go on to establish Cragganmore in 1869. Glenfarclas meanwhile passed from one Grant to another and in 1896 they formed a partnership with the Pattison brothers, an arrangement the family would come to regret. Robert and Walter Pattison were declared bankrupt soon after and in 1901 the pair were sent to prison, having been found guilty on several counts of fraud. The fallout from those events sent shockwaves through the industry, with creditors left empty handed and distilleries across the country forced to close. Glenfarclas managed to stay afloat but it took the family a generation to get back on an even keel.
Like so many of Scotland’s distilleries, Glenfarclas has spent much of its life dependent on the blenders to whom they sold their spirit but in the 1950’s George S Grant decided that for the company to survive, they needed to be putting their own brand name on bottles and began laying down stocks of whisky that would benefit the business for many years to come. Today around two thirds of the liquid goes into a bottle that carries the Glenfarclas label.
Family ownership seems to have served the distillery well. They managed to ride out another storm when decades of reckless over-production throughout the industry came to a head in the 1980’s. A total of 16 distilleries closed down but the Grants kept on distilling, calmly filling the warehouse and waiting for the market to turn. When things picked up in the 1990’s they were well placed to supply thirsty customers with mature whisky and when all around them were forced to turn to no age statement expressions to cover up the glaring holes in their inventories, Glenfarclas carried on releasing their 10, 12, 15, 17, 21, 25, 30 and 40 year old single malts. Earlier this year they announced the release of a 62 year old bottling that had been distilled in 1953, likely under the watchful eye of George S Grant, who first saw the potential for Glenfarclas all those years ago.
Earlier this year Glenfarclas were forced to close their visitor centre in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and announced in May that they would not reopen until 2021 in order to ensure the welfare of their staff. In these uncertain times however it’s nice to know that the Grants will keep distilling, just as they have been doing since 1865.
The Glenfarclas 12 year old is bottled at 43% and retails for £36.
Smell: Orchard fruits… apple, pear… Also orange marmalade. Honey. Soft sherry notes. Touch of freshly sawn oak. Brown sugar. Hint of smoke maybe… Slight touch of marzipan too.
Taste: Rich honey arrival followed by some woody spice. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Orange and apricot. Oloroso sherry. Slightly nutty. Dry oak and allspice finish.
Value for Money: Glenfarclas have some fantastic drams on the market. Where value for money is concerned, their 15 and 105 bottlings are great buys at around the £50 mark but while the 12 doesn’t quite live up to that standard, it is significantly cheaper and the quality of the spirit can match just about anything of a similar price point.
Glenfarclas is one of the great Speyside distilleries and their extensive range of age stated single malts are fantastic examples of the sherry-influenced style. The 12 year old certainly isn’t their best release but that’s only because the rest are so good. Complex yet easy drinking, fully flavoured yet never overwhelming… a great dram, in other words.
For more information, visit Glenfarclas here.