Can you buy a decent bottle of whisky for under £40 anymore? I’m talking about the full 70cl bottles, not the deceptive 50cl bottles that have been creeping further into the marketplace recently.
Supermarkets are one venue that may provide some reasonable choice at the £40 level, depending on the day, the offer, the supermarket itself. Budget chains such as Lidl and Aldi have been releasing some tasty things at a low price point. But many of those whiskies will likely be chill-filtered, or have the addition of E150 caramel colouring. What if you want something a little more authentic for your £40?
Well, in Germany, they tell you if there’s colouring in the bottle. The little words “mit farbstoff” are printed on the back label, to tell you that the whisky in your hands isn’t quite the real deal. That it is “with caramel”, which brands will claim is for reasons of consistency and not at all to hide the fact that average to poor wood may have been used in maturation. Germany also happens to be Glenfarclas’ biggest export market, and needless to those words “mit farbstoff” do not appear on any of their bottles. Perhaps those two facts are connected in some way and the German whisky market does not approve of colouring being added. (And why would they need to use colouring given the amount of sherry casks on site?)
This rather rambling introduction brings me to a bottle of Glenfarclas Springs, which was part of the The Legend of Speyside trilogy released for the German market. Glenfarclas Springs honours the role of water in the production of the whisky. It’s aged in ex-oloroso sherry casks and a bottle of this cost me, including delivery, less than £40. (If you Google hard enough, you can find these things.)
Glenfarclas Springs Review
Colour: russet. (I don’t know why I’m surprised it’s so dark for a whisky so young – clearly decent casks.)
On the nose: heavy strawberry jam with ground almonds and vanilla sponge. Raisins. Sultanas. Almost a ketchup-like tartness, with a splash of cider vinegar. A little nutmeg. All spice. Slightly resinous. Toffee. Something absolutely classic about this, though it’s not highly polished.
In the mouth: those dried fruits are less prominent than the nose, but still present in traces. It’s very oily though, which is to be commended. Brazil nuts, a little blackcurrant perhaps. Nutmeg again. Baked pears, with salted caramel. Meaty, in a Mortlach kind of way. Dried apricots. Olive oil. The flavours vanish way too quickly, leaving you feeling a bit short-changed at the end.
For £40? This is indeed a decent bottle of whisky. The finish is rather disappointing, but the flavours while they’re there are perfectly charming. You wouldn’t want to be paying too much for this, as Glenfarclas already makes some very good whiskies in its core range (the 15 Year Old and 105 especially). The last Glenfarclas whiskies I tasted were all 40 years old, and believe it or not there was still some echo of the house style here, even in a bottling that was a fraction of their price and age. That’s something to be admired.