Ah, Glenfarclas, the distillery that seemingly everyone's got a soft spot for. And for good reason - they make some excellent sherried whiskys that are very competitively priced. Their range is extensive, from eight years up to fifty plus Family Casks that, although never tasted personally, can be quite spectacular, apparently. They also use direct-fired stills, never add colour and mature in traditional dunnage warehouses. Throw in the cherry of being owned by an actual native, tartan sporting, haggis chomping Scots family and BOOM, you have a distillery that ticks most, but not quite all, of anyone's boxes who appreciates fine malt whisky.
I requested this as a gift for my 40th earlier this year after enjoying a few other Glenfarclas' in my time, the 15 and 105 in particular, and low and behold, here we are! Bottle's been open for just over three months and it's down to the top of the label. Review is neat but sat for 30+ minutes.
Nose - soft. Creamy vanilla sherry notes with some soft white pepper and delicate powdered ginger. There's also some green apple and pear notes with a dark, bitter chocolate in the background. Deeper investigation reveals something sour and tropical. My experience of 20+ year old whisky is limited, but this doesnt offer the sense that it's done it's time in fresh casks, sherry anyway. I suspect a lot of second and third fill went into this. There's a youthfulness to it, not unlike Cotswold whisky, that's puzzling to me.
Taste - Fruity and sour arrival with strawberry and raspberry and more of that 'young' note. Develops into bitter chocolate and oak.
Finish - More bitter chocolate and strong, black tea tannins - think Assam.
Well, it's not exactly earth shattering, but it is a fairly easy and accessible dram that exhibits quite a gentle and restrained nature. The bitterness can be a little too much but air does help bring the whole thing into better balance. On it's own, it's a decent whisky that is certainly quaffable but, I don't know, I guess I was hoping for more of a richer, fully matured sherry experience that would offer layers of complexity. Sadly, thats just not here. I suspect this isn't from the best of batches but, hey, that's the gamble we have to take sometimes.
@RianC I could almost duplicate your review word for word if I was to review the 21 year old, also @43%. I still say the 15 is the sweet spot and there is not much reason to go beyond it. A friend of mine had a cask strength 25 year old a couple of years ago and it was spectacular. I just recently got a bottle of 15 year old cask strength that was bottled for a Canadian retailer and it is excellent.
@RianC Thanks for the honest review. They do tick all the marks for a traditional Scottish distillery. I am skeptical about Glenfarclas's cask policy. I've found a vast divide between the 21 and the 25. Much like @BlueNote I've found the 21 disappointing and unbalanced. There some over used and tired casks. Yet, some I know have high praise for the 21. Yes, 15 is the sweet spot of the core range. The caveat emptor with any whisky is "batch variation".
There seems to be a trend among many distilleries(Kavalan, Kilchoman, Cotswolds and Glengyle/Kilkerran) seem to be releasing "STR" (Shaved Re-Charred Cask). I wonder if this trend will become more common with future releases of whiskies from the dominant distilleries. Apologies ... internal speculation.