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Glenfarclas 12 Year Old

Review: Glenfarclas 12 Year Old Highland Malt 90/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 6, 2011

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.

The Glenfarclas Single Malt Whisky line-up includes the Glenfarclas 10 Year Old, the Glenfarclas 12 Year Old, the Glenfarclas 15 Years Old, the Glenfarclas 21 Years Old, the Glenfarclas 25 Years Old, the Glenfarclas 30 Years Old and the Glenfarclas ‘105’ Cask Strength. I was provided with a sample of the Glenfarclas 12 Year Old by Pacific Wine & Spirits Inc. who is 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 12 Year Old Single Highland Malt. The reference on the label to the whisky as a ‘Highland Malt’ was rather confusing to me. However, I have learned that whiskies from Speyside have historically been considered Highland Whiskies. 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 at the same time.

Setting this confusion aside, I like the whisky presentation. I like the brightly coloured cardboard sleeve the whisky is housed in, and I like the rather masculine shape of the Glenfarclas bottle with its corked top. I could do with a little more information on the label with respect to the level of peating and the types of barrels used in the maturation. I have noticed great variation in flavour based upon the type(s) of oak used for aging and of course the level of peat can drastically alter flavour. 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.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The colour of the whisky in the glass is a nice coppery orange. When I tilted my glass and gave it a slow swirl I noticed the whisky imparted long slender legs which ran slowly back into whisky. The initial nose from the glass is full of floral oak spice with obvious honey and marzipan notes rising up as well.

If I close my eyes and allow the glass to breathe, I can imagine that I am surrounded by saw grass in a lowland meadow. Some heather and lavender grows in small clumps nearby, and a few pine trees lie on the edge of my sensory range. These scents and smells from the glass are clean and pleasant.

In the Mouth 54/60

The whisky tastes clean with some nice light lemony citrus notes combining with the spicy sweetness of honey oak. That spicy flavour has a noticeable almond taint which settles on my palate with lighter flavours of butterscotch, and vanilla. There are some light floral sensations which slide by my taste buds, and I also taste a few hints of something fruity reminding me of sherry. The whisky is not overly complex; but its flavour and mouth-feel are vibrant.

I found that the more I sampled the Glefarclas 12, the more I wanted to return to it the following evening. It is easy to approach in spite of the spicy flavour, and that ribbon of honey sweetness is very appealing. This urge to return to the bottle means far more to me in scoring the whisky than any fancy descriptors I could use.

In the Throat 13.5/15

In the exit the Glenfarclas 12 continues to be spicy, but it also continues to carry that honey sweetness through the finish. I really like the combination as each component seems to serve to compliment the other rather than to compete with it. This prevents the finish from being cloying, and is part of the reason why I just keep wanting to return to the bottle.

The Afterburn 9/10

With the Glenfarclas 12 Year Old Highland Malt Whisky, I found that there was more to the whisky than what my taste descriptors could quantify. I was continually drawn back to the bottle each night for just a little nightcap. This unconscious desire I experienced which kept me returning to the whisky made me realize that although the flavour seemed rather straight forward, it was also so easily approachable and delicious that the whisky is deserving of a high score. We are not in the stratosphere here, but we are approaching it.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Although I think the Glenfarclas 12 is wonderful when served neat or on ice, I did find myself exploring the cocktail realm again. What I came up with  I call, Soft Touch.

Soft Touch

1 oz Glenfarclas 12 Year Old
1/2 oz London Dry Gin
1/2 oz Triple Sec (sub any good quality orange liqueur)


Stir with ice until chilled,
Complete with Soda
Garnish with a lime slice

Please Enjoy Responsibly!


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)

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