Sherry bomb whiskies seem to be an ever-popular sub-category in the whisky realm.

Drinkers and enthusiasts rant and rave about the “Top 10 Best Sherry Bombs” or claim the best whisky in the world can be categorised as a “Sherry Bomb.” But what is a Sherry Bomb? Well I’ve seen them described as “whiskies that are matured either exclusively or for the majority of their maturation period in sherry casks (most often mostly first-fill).” An additional caveat would be that some are cask strength, but this is not always the case.

You think “Sherry Bomb” and concrete examples come to mind. Macallan releases, Abelour A’bunadh batch releases, Glengoyne tea pot dram and Glendronach 15 and 18 year old expressions. Some cask strength whiskies, some not. A mixture of different sherry cask maturations from Pedro Ximénez, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Fino… the list is quite varied. Uniquely, they do offer a broad range of flavours when maturing whisky.

Sherry casks have always been a common cask maturation choice for distilleries in the whisky industry across the world, not just in Scotland. I can’t seem to find many expressions out there labelled a “Sherry Bomb” that don’t come from Scotland. Maybe something to investigate for a future contribution for Malt, perhaps? Although I think that might become costly very quickly, as I don’t have many whiskies outside of the British Isles at home. A few come to mind outside of Scotland such as the Redbreast Lustau, Mano A Lamh, or Dreamcask series. Or, you could look at the Kavalan Sherry Oak Single Malt. You can venture far and wide to investigate what sherry expressions are available today on the global whisky market.

The review today is an alternative Sherry Bomb, that won’t break the bank: Glenfarclas 105!

The expression started back in 1968 as a Christmas gift to family and friends from George S. Grant. It was eventually re-named “105,” referring to its alcohol content in Imperial/British Proof(not the American proof you would see on bourbons/ryes/American Single malts which is normally double the ABV).

You don’t see an awful lot of Imperial/British proof on bottlings. It comes from using the formula ‘4/7ths’ (four sevenths). 4/7th of 106 equals 60. You can thank the ole Imperial system for this simply non-sensical way to tell us the alcohol strength. A quick segue: the word proof comes from the sense of showing that something is true or correct. Back in the 16th century, the Parliament of England would test the amount of alcohol content in a liquor by soaking a gun pellet with it and attempting to light the wet pellet on fire. If the wet gunpowder could be lit, the alcohol was said to be a proof spirit and would therefore be taxed higher. There you go!

Nowadays the expression is bottled at 60% ABV. Glenfarclas 105 doesn’t carry an age statement; maybe the only non-age statement whisky within the Glenfarclas core range. However, it is suggested that it is matured for eight to 10 years in a combination of both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels. “Bourbon barrels!” I hear you shout. Those don’t make for the traditional sherry bomb whiskies. No mention on the label or packaging of no added colour, or non-chill filtered.

On paper, this is a good and cheaper alternative to some other popular cask strength Sherry Bombs out there that seem to be continually climbing in price with each new batch number… you all know which brand I speak of. You can find this at most online speciality drink retailers. When writing this piece, Amazon UK have this bottle priced at £58.35, Master of Malt for £47.90, and The Whisky Exchange for £55.95.

Glenfarclas 105 – Review

Colour: Golden syrup.

On the nose: Aggressive and intense on first smell. Quite loud, shouting at me. It’s rounded with some dense dark fruits. I’m getting some stewed fruit sweetness with a blast of alcohol in there too. The high ABV rings through. Trying quite hard to get past the intensity on the nose, but you can begin to pick out some green elements. A little mint and Granny Smith apples. Fresh sherry envelops the senses with fudge, toffee, and a little honey. It’s not the most complex nose and my guess is that it’s leaning towards quite a young spirit.

With this being a hefty 60% ABV, let’s add a little water to the mix and see what happens?

With about 5ml of water, the nose rounds off in a nice way. The initial intensity calms and more of that sherry freshness comes through. More brown sugar and toffee. I fear that this will be very quiet, very quickly if too much water is added, so be careful.

In the mouth: That intensity is right there on sipping. The tip of the tongue is prickly and the sherry freshness from the nose takes over in the mouth. Think of a blast of mushed peach. The entirety of the mouth is covered with fruit sweetness; it’s almost quite oily. Some astringency there, too, and a little sour once finished. That hot element on the nose lingers, with corn syrups, vanilla, and caramel. After sipping and taking a deep breath, you can just feel intense hit of alcohol rush around your mouth and into the lungs!

A little water and a second sip; you can calm your own senses down and not fear of the punch in the face from this dram. Like the nose, it’s quieter with a touch of water and a bit more rounded. Less of that alcohol blast. It’s sweet, but I can’t seem to get past or shake the youthful element of this whisky. Not a lot more to add to the taste when water is added.

Conclusions:

A nice dram, one that would scratch the itch if you’re looking for a Sherry Bomb experience. Not overly complex, and decent enough for the money. It can fade away quite quickly with water added, and you do need some water because it’s quite intense on arrival and as it opens. I’ve had this dram alongside a cigar before and it was an enjoyable experience. Good pairing if you’re looking for something sweet alongside a cigar.

Score: 5/10

Photo courtesy of The Whisky Exchange.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    I am not privy to the 105 recipe but I doubt the part with the bourbon casks. Not to say that there are no bourbon casks at Glenfarclas distillery but the overwhelming part is sherry casks there.

    I find it worth to mention that Glenfarclas 105 is bottled at exactly 60% abv with no water being added – making it a difficult whisky to make. It used to carry an age statement of 10 years in the small print on the back of the tube. But when demand outstripped supply the malts were taken back to the 8 year old bracket.
    Why? Much easier to find casks at a higher alcoholic strength that can be brought down to 60% abv than in the 10 year old range.
    So you could say the 105 in made up of whiskies with a minimum age of eight years. Older whiskies that go into the vatting are used not only for flavour but as a way of reducing the bottling strength to 60%.

    Afaik that is.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    1. Ryan says:

      Greetings Kallaskander,
      Many thanks for your comment.
      Like I mentioned above, it is suggested that the liquid in my bottling and recent releases of the 105 is aged for around 8 – 10 years.
      On discovering the prices right now on speciality retailer websites, Master of Malt have the note of ‘ex-bourbon barrels’. I’m not going to argue with them and it was a quick tid-bit on my part. Hopefully not falling under false advertising from them if it’s wrong. I agree with you, this expression is overwhelmingly sherry cask matured, but the label doesn’t state this and we can only speculate for now on the complete recipe used.
      Cheers!

    2. John says:

      Hi Kallaskander, you’ll be interested to know that Taiwan gets a couple of Farclas 105s with age statements. I think the regular has an 8 year and there’s an occasional 20 year. I’ve been told this is due to George Grant being married to Taiwanese lady.

      1. Ryan says:

        Hey John,
        How do the prices vary when the 20 year pops up? That would be a lovely surprise if it was the same price as the 105 8 year old.
        Cheers!

        1. John says:

          Ryan, I forget how much. The last time I was in Taipei was in 2019. But tax for Scotch in Taiwan is pretty low due to Scotland recognizing as a country or something like that. Oddly, online sales of alcohol isn’t allowed there so its hard to check their prices online.

      2. Tom O'Donnell says:

        I think your 5 out of 10 is too low a score. I can get this litre bottle on special for under $80 NZ. The high ABV, huge sherry influence make it a standout when you have a thirsty visitor and youre trying to defend your 25 yr or older bottles. This is the defender of the collection and a must have for anyone.

        1. Ryan says:

          Hi Tom,
          Thanks for your comment.
          In my opinion this warranted a 5. Being a good whisky it wouldn’t be one I’d rush out and get another bottle of.
          I try my best to stay within the scoring bands set within Malt (it can be found if you search ‘Scoring bands’. Apologies my mobile browser won’t allow me to create a handy link).
          To me it’s not a great whisky, or a 6 in the scores. But hey we’ll all never agree on what scores actually mean! Hopefully the tasting notes were relatable at least and I’m glad the 105 is one you really like.
          Cheers.

  2. Malthead says:

    Haven’t got any bad Glenfarclas ever. Simple as that. I especially love the 105′ because of its higher strength and the – for glenfarclas normally being straight simple but classic in design questions – outstanding design. Reminds me of the 185th anniversary bottling. Awesome dram.

    Greetings!

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