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Glenfarclas Fountainhead Special Release 2005

A fellow (diminutively-sized and easily-enraged) MALT contributor recently tweeted that Springbank reviews are boring, because the distillery is already everyone’s favorite. As Jason notes in this review, the same could be said of Glenfarclas given the effectively universal admiration this family-owned, fiercely-independent distillery commands.

I’ve absorbed some of the Glenfarclas worship by osmosis, having enjoyed a handful of pleasant-but-not-life-changing drams from them in the past. In more than a dozen Glenfarclas reviews here on MALT, it’s clear they’ve had a few missteps. Mark kvetched about having to queue for a young-but-expensive festival exclusive in this piece, after having bought and enjoyed 26 year old festival bottling without incident the year prior. The 30 year old also seemed a bit of a letdown, though this didn’t stop Mark from re-asserting that Glenfarclas is “one of the greatest value-for-money distilleries in Scotland.”

So, with due respect for Glenfarclas but also keeping in mind that “sacred cows make the best burgers,” I’m taking a look at a relatively young single cask that was selected by a local bottle shop.

I previously reviewed a store pick Four Roses Bourbon from Chicago’s Fountainhead, which is a bar, restaurant, and retailer that I like very much. Though store pick fever doesn’t seem to have gripped Scotch whisky in the way that it has with Bourbon, there’s plenty of folks in on the game, as Phil pointed out in this piece.

This bottling is subtitled “Ferd in the Spey.” You’ll notice that the typical Glenfarclas line drawing on the label has been augmented with a partially-submerged automobile. The origin of this moniker is a not-very-funny drunk driving story about how the Fountainhead team nearly crashed their rented Ford into the Spey river following a tasting session at Glenfarclas. You guys went all the way to Scotland to buy a cask of whisky and you couldn’t plump for a professional driver? Let’s hope this poor decision making was limited to choice of transportation, rather than choice of cask.

In any case, this is the second release in the “Ferd” series, after the inaugural single cask from 2000. Cask #1065 (the Fountainhead notes indicate that it’s a second-fill Sherry cask), distilled 3/23/2005 and bottled in October 2015, 10 years old, at 46%. This is one of 363 bottles. I paid $90 for 750 ml.

Glenfarclas Fountainhead Special Release 2005 – review

Color: Medium-dark brownish-orange gold

On the nose: Cheerfully fruity, bursting with ripe kiwi, freshly-squeezed lemon juice, fig and walnut cake, vanilla bean, and zucchini bread straight from the oven. There’s a funky vegetal note distracting somewhat from the otherwise pleasant nose.

In the mouth: Extremely subtle. Starts with a nondescript fruity note and some varnished wood flavors. Dilute through the midpalate, this finishes with mint sprigs and another vegetal note of celery.

Conclusion

Should perhaps have been bottled at cask strength. As it is, this isn’t any better than the 12 year old, which retails for $55 at my local. I get the sense that we’re paying up for the store pick single cask format, albeit without any specific improvement in the quality of the whisky itself. Not a credit to the storied reputation of this distillery; they’d do well to prevent too many more casks like this from hitting the market.

Score: 5/10

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CategoriesSingle Malt
Taylor
Taylor

Taylor's a native of Chicago. After heading to university in Scotland, he graduated from drinking Whyte & Mackay and Coke to neat single malts. He's also a keen fan of Japanese whisky, having visited the country regularly over the last several years, where he was able to assemble a decent collection before prices went batty.

  1. Avatar
    kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    interesting. Some years ago – 4 or 5 could be more, Glenfarclas had a strict policy of no single casks for third parties.
    You had to buy two casks which were vatted and bottled for you. I tried one of those vattings once and the casks might have been brilliant on their own… but the vatting did not work very well.

    Anyway, even at distilleries with a good reputation not all casks can turn out brilliant.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    1. Taylor
      Taylor says:

      Appreciate the insights, thanks kallaskander. Not all casks are created equal, and it’s a roll of the dice when you go for a single cask bottling. That said, someone selected this and put it out in the world with a hefty price tag, so the criticism is more about them than an overall condemnation of Glenfarclas.

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