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We Yanks don’t have access to the highly praised Glenfarclas 15 year old, so we have to content ourselves with its younger and older siblings. The 12 and 17 yo’s are closest in age, and I find myself going back and forth as to which I prefer. The 12 is rich and malty, albeit a bit one-dimensional, whereas the 17 is more layered and balanced, but with a few off notes along the way. Nevertheless, I’d gladly accept a dram of either.
Nose: As much sherry as any ’farclas I’ve tried, but mixed with a little too much dusty wood for my liking. The sherry-and-malt marriage in the 12 yo is more pleasing on my proboscis. But the 17 has plenty of delights to compensate for any deficiencies: butterscotch, almonds, raisins, vanilla, and some earthy, herbal notes at the bottom of it all. It’s a big, bold nose with one unfortunate element that’s as pronounced as anything else. Still quite sniff-worthy nonetheless.
Palate: A gutsy arrival full of sherry, spices, and dried fruits. There’s also more malt than the nose led me to expect, and there’s even a hint of peat smoke lurking in the shadows. The development is a bit disappointing, in that the rich sweetness soon turns dry and flat, while the dusty elements from the nose re-appear. There’s good things going on, but it’s not a whisky that benefits from long tongue time. Best to appreciate the positives quickly, swallow, and get on to the finish.
The finish, in fact, is the near-flawless part of the experience. It’s long, warming, and with a fair amount of peppery spice. All the sweetness has virtually disappeared, but the spices and smoke that replace it are richly satisfying and devoid of bitterness.
Despite misgivings, the sweet-to-dry evolution of Glenfarclas 17 is both unique and rewarding. Overall, the quality of this dram reduces my gripes to mere nit-picks.