Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Highland Single Malt Whisky
Review: Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky 87.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 26, 2012
The Glenfarclas Distillery is located on the Recherlich Farm at Ballindalloch in the heart of Speyside. The Distillery was purchased by the Grant Family in 1865 for a total sum of £511.19sd. It has remained in the control of the Grant Family for six generations up to the present day. In fact, Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries remaining in Scotland which is independently family owned and managed.
All of the Glenfarclas Whisky is matured in two styles of oak barrels, plain oak barrels which have previously contained Bourbon or Scotch whisky, and Spanish oak which has previously contained Oloroso or Fino Sherry from Seville. The whisky is stored in traditional ‘dunnage’ warehouses that date from the late 1800s. These warehouses have thick stone walls and earthen floors. The Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength has no age statement on the bottle. However, I note that on the Glenfarclas website it is mentioned that all of their whisky is aged at least eight years. Glenfarclas blends this whisky from mature barrels to be a consistent 60 % alcohol by volume with no added water.
I was provided with a 375 ml sample of the Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength by Pacific Wine & Spirits Inc. who are the importer/distributor of Glenfarclas Highland Single Malt Whisky in Alberta.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
Pictured to the left is the bottle presentation for the Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Highland Single Malt Whisky. The reference on the label to the whisky as a ‘Highland Malt’ is rather confusing to many persons as this whisky is referred to by most sources as a Speyside, not as a Highland Whisky. However, I have learned that whisky from Speyside has historically been considered Highland Whisky. This is because there were originally only four official whisky regions identified in Scotland, Highland, Lowland, Campbeltown and Islay. Given that Speyside is home to the greatest concentration of distilleries in Scotland, it later was decided that Speyside deserved its own status as a region. Thus a Speyside whisky is a Highland whisky and a Speyside whisky.
Setting this aside, I like the whisky presentation. I like the dark cardboard sleeve the whisky is housed in, and I like the rather masculine shape of the Glenfarclas bottle with its corked top. I would like a little more information on the label with respect to the taste profile of the whisky, as in my market, there exists a great deal of angst amongst consumers when they are selecting a Scotch Whisky. Giving the potential consumer some indication of the flavour profile ahead of the purchase decision would be a good thing. I have noticed that all of this information is available on the Glenfarclas website, included tasting notes for their entire range. I think it would be a good idea if tasting notes were included on the cardboard sleeve that houses the whisky.
In the Glass 9/10
Once poured into the glass, the whisky is a coppery amber colour with hints of inky blackness within. When I tilted my glass and gave it a slow swirl, I noticed the whisky imparted rather thickish legs which ran slowly back down into glass. The initial aroma is cloaked by an alcohol push which results from the 60 % bottling strength, However if you let the glass breathe, and allow the initial astringency to evaporate, the scents and smells left in the breezes are rich and assertive.
Above the glass I smell caramelized toffee, dark fruity sherry, and some hints of organic peat. (I should point out that information presented to me at a recent tasting event hosted by George Grant of Glenfarclas indicated that the Glenfarclas Whiskies are not peated, yet my nose cannot deny what it senses.) As the glass breathes, the toffee begins to ooze chocolate and baking spices, and the fruity sherry aroma deepens to reveal dates, raisins and juicy plums. There is a bit of a woodland bog in the glass as well with spruce trees, willow thickets, saw grass and heather in the air above the glass. The overall aroma is deeply complex and inviting.
In the Mouth 52/60
The Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength is bottled at 60 % alcohol by volume and thus has a full 50 % more alcohol than the usual 40 % bottlings I am used to. This means the flavours are more concentrated and the bite the whisky carries is far stronger. Sipping the whisky at full strength is a challenge, but it is also a pleasure. The sherry comes through very clearly on the palate with fruity flavours of dark fruit (plums and raisins). Sweet toffee and hints of chocolate add a nice layer to the whisky, and rounding out the flavour is a nice firm oakiness which carries a dollop of floral peat.
I added a little water to the glass, and the whisky turned cream, and that alcohol punch seemed to evaporate into the glass. The intense flavour seemed to be knocked down a notch or two. Although the whisky is much easier to drink with the added water, I found myself preferring the punchy flavour and intensity of the undiluted dram.
In the Throat 13/15
The Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength Whisky is not for the timid. It swats at the tonsils and kicks at the palate as you sip and swallow. Having said that, the burn in the throat is not severe. The whisky warms the gullet and leaves a sort of spicy aftertaste tinged with fruity sherry flavours behind.
The Afterburn 9/10
Just for the record, I like over-proof or should I say ‘cask strength’ whisky and rum, and so the Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength is right up my alley. Not only is the alcohol content stronger in cask strength whisky, but flavours and the aroma are also richer and more concentrated. This gives me more versatility when I consume the whisky such that I might find my own sweet spot of flavour and intensity. I can enjoy the spirit in its strongest form or I can add a little water (or a lot) to suit my particular mood at the time. For this whisky, my sweet spot turned out to be full strength with no added water. (I really like the rich flavours and the intensity of the alcohol push.) I think it is a great whisky, especially when the Canadian weather has turned bitterly cold!
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)