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Glenfarclas 15 Year Old Single Malt Whisky

Review: Glenfarclas 15 Year Old Highland Single Malt Whisky  91.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on May 19, 2013

The Glenfarclas Distillery is located in the Glenfarclas valley on the Recherlich Farm at Ballindalloch which is in the heart of Speyside. The Distillery was purchased by the Grant Family in 1865, and 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.

I have had several opportunities to meet George Grant (of that sixth generation of the Grant Family) right here in Edmonton at a tasting events sponsored by Pacific Wine & Spirits Inc, who are the local importer/distributor of Glenfarclas Highland Single Malt Whisky in Alberta. At each event I attended, I was allowed to sample the entire line-up of Glenfarclas Whisky. Each time, I took the time to write detailed tasting notes for each whisky. After the events I was able to acquire additional samples of some of these spirits such that I could round the tasting notes into full reviews. I learned that all of the Glenfarclas whisky is distilled from unpeated barley which has been 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 aged in traditional ‘dunnage’ warehouses which have thick stone walls and earthen floors that date from the late 1800s. The Glenfarclas 15 Year Old Whisky is bottled at 46 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle  4.5/5

I like the reddish-brown cardboard sleeve the whisky is housed in, and I like the rather masculine shape of the Glenfarclas bottle with the slightly bubbled neck and the corked top.

I could do with a little more information on the label with respect to the expected taste profile of the whisky given the wide variation in the flavour of Scotch Whisky based upon the type(s) of oak used for aging and of course the level of peat which each drastically affect whisky flavour. I believe that giving the potential consumer some indication of the flavour profile ahead of the purchase decision is a good thing.

I have noticed that all of this information is available on the Glenfarclas website, included great tasting notes for the entire range of their whiskies. It would greatly help the potential customer if these tasting notes were included on the cardboard sleeve that houses the whisky.

In the Glass  9.5/10

The Glenfarclas 15 year Old Whisky, according to George Grant, contains no artificial colour to enhance its appearance. This means that the colour of the whisky from batch to batch will vary slightly. My glass was a deep mahogany/copper colour, When I tilted it and then slowly swirled it, I was able to observe a nice crown shaped sheen of whisky at the top of the glass.

The nose is very rich with the scents and smells of the sherry influence upon the whisky. Dried fruit (raisins, dates, and prunes) lead out with a very noticeable accent of dark chocolate. Dark toffee smells enrich the air above the glass, and as the whisky sits, rich baking spiced build and build. I can smell rich brown Demerara sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in the breezes above the glass. After the glass is consumed the brown sugars and the cinnamon continue to pour out of the empty glass. This particular glass of whisky was my absolute favourite of the entire range to nose after the whisky was gone.

In the Mouth 55/60

The whisky has quite a bit of unexpected heat in the initial flavour with hot orange peel spice leading out onto the palate. Dark toffee, treacle, and dried fruit begin to build on the palate, and the combined sensation of the orange peel heat and the these building flavours seems to almost overwhelm me. Impressions of bittersweet chocolate, delicious baking spices, and pan-fried walnuts swirl in the flavour stream making the whisky gloriously complex and wonderful to sip.

I added a touch of water to the whisky, and it became a little creamy. The heated orange peel was just a little easier to take; however, having said that, I admit I like the wallop of heat the whisky delivers at full strength.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The whisky has a long heated exit full of brown sugar, toffee and sherry flavours.  Dark bittersweet chocolate and rich baking spices linger upon the palate afterwards making this a great after dinner experience.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Glenfarclas website calls the Glenfarclas 15 Year Old ‘a whisky drinker’s whisky’ and I find myself in full agreement with this statement. The whisky is heated and knocks your tonsils for a loop, but it is full of rich delicious flavour which keeps you wanting to sneak back for just another sip. Before you know it, your glass is empty and you are reaching to pour another.

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)

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