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Glenfarclas Aged 12 Years

Jigs’ review of the Oban 14 reminded me that I also have a mainstay whisky I now take for granted that’s stashed away. I’m referring to the Glenfarclas 12.

Glenfarclas is something I haven’t had in a few years, due to most of their regular expressions being bottled at 43% ABV. My becoming sensitive to sulfur notes from wine influenced spirits also became a huge factor… but the brand always brings back plenty of memories. If I can recall correctly, my first encounter with this was through watching a Ralfy review. It was through him that I learned of single malt distilleries being mostly owned by corporate giants, and that Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining family-owned and independent single malt Scotch distilleries.

Come to think of it, this might have been the first “craft” single malt Scotch I tried, after having gone through the big boys’ basic range such as the Glenlivet 12, Glenfiddich 12 and Glenmorangie 10, which were the only easily accessible and locally available single malts about a decade ago. Because it was so long ago, this might have been the whisky to have gotten me into sherried whisky and more interested in trying spirits bottled higher than 40% ABV.

(For clarity, I said “craft” because I don’t like using the abused word. For me, it’s the fastest way to describe an independent and, possibly, family-owned brand like Glenfarclas without repeating it.)

The Glenfiddich 15 might have been my first “more noticeably” sherried single malt, but Glenfiddich has always been transparent about the recipe of casks used here. I think there’s a small amount of new oak and ex-bourbon mixed with the ex-sherry casks here. However, the Glenfarclas 12 – which is widely considered to be matured purely in ex-sherry cask – was my first taste of a single malt of this style. It’s because of this whisky that I ended up loving sherry bombs from Glendronach and Aberlour.

Since I’m taking a stroll down memory lane, I remember Glenfarclas 12 as being that Speyside whisky with a bit of smoke. We all know that Farclas doesn’t use peat, so a lot of people wonder why there’s a bit of smoke? Some say it most likely comes from the barrels being charred, and/or the way they dry their barley. I guess so many of us tend to focus on popular talking points like barrel-aging that we forget to consider the less popular parts of the production process.

It’s also interesting and satisfying to note that Glenfarclas has stayed family-owned all these years. When I ended up being more attracted to the heavy sherry flavors found in Glendronach, I ended up disregarding Glenfarclas. Today, Glendronach is no longer an independent distillery. Safe to say that its spot has been taken by Glen Allachie, which is owned by Billy Walker, and other sherried single malts from small companies such as Tamdhu and Glenturret.

Glenfarclas Aged 12 Years – Review

43% ABV. €39.98 from Master of Malt. USD $60 locally.

Color: Oolong tea.

On the nose: A harmony of fruits. I get light aromas of dried apricots, star fruit, sapodilla, pears, peppermint, and apples. The fruity, floral and sweet aromas make me think of the Doublemint and Juicy Fruit gums combined. In between are subtle aromas of coffee, oranges, dates and chocolate. At the end is something sour I can’t put my hands on.

In the mouth: Fruity but not typical sherry fruity with a bit of an ethanol bite. I get light tastes of star fruit, pears with skin, kiwi, peppermint, sapodilla, dried apricots and Granny Smith apples. In between are subtle tastes of orange peel, coffee and charred bits from barbequed meat.

Conclusions:

It seems like the Glenfarclas 12 hasn’t changed after all these years, which is a good thing. It’s still a solid single malt, but there are others that can be similar to it. Drinking this even made me think of ex-bourbon cask aged Kavalan.

Now, this isn’t a complaint but I’ve always wondered if this is really purely matured in ex-sherry casks. The lack of a dark color doesn’t matter to me, but it doesn’t have the flavors you get from the typical ex-sherry cask matured Highland or Speyside single malt.

I wonder if these are mostly from well-used ex-American oak sherry casks? Which, if I’m correct, explains the lack of ex-sherry cask flavor, and explains why I seem to taste more of the distillery DNA.

It’s nice to have tried this again after not having had a Glenfarclas in years. Perhaps I should start thinking of this as more of a spirit-forward sherried single malt rather than a wood-forward sherried single malt?

Score: 6/10

Image courtesy of The Whisky Exchange

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. HM-2 says:

    “Sherry cask” can mean a great many things. A whisky matured in Fino or even Amontillado casks will be nothing like the Christmas fruit bomb we’ve come to expect from Oloroso or particularly PX cask. The tropical fruit flavours you describe here are strikingly similar to some of those I recently experienced at Penderyn when I sampled one of their single cask Welsh whiskies that had been exclusively aged in Fino sherry casks.

    1. John says:

      Hi HM, you’re correct. But in spirits, when sherry cask is mentioned it’s almost always either Oloroso or PX. I’m sure this isn’t PX.

      I don’t think this is Fino as well since Fino gives a funky dry flavor. You have to consider that Penderyn’s distillery DNA will result in a different flavor mix with the cask. So it’s not a simple comparison. Being a single cask also makes it more of a coincidence due to the natural inconsistencies of single casks.

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