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Glenfarclas 21 Year Old

Review: Glenfarclas 21 Year Old Highland Single Malt Whisky  90.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 22, 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, and it has remained in the control of the 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 had an opportunity to meet George Grant (part of that sixth generation of the Grant Family) in Edmonton at a recent tasting sponsored by Pacific Wine & Spirits Inc, who are the local importer/distributor of Glenfarclas Highland Single Malt Whisky in Alberta. At this tasting I was allowed to sample the 15 Year, the 17 Year, the 21 Year, the 25 Year, the 30 Year and the 40 Year Old expressions of Glenfarclas Single Malt Whisky. I took the time to write detailed tasting notes for each whisky. After the tasting I was able to acquire some additional samples of a few of the whiskies such that I could round out some of these tasting notes into full reviews.

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 21 Year Old Whisky is bottled at 43 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle  4/5

I like the whisky presentation for Glenfarclas 21 Year Old Whisky. The forest-green cardboard sleeve the whisky is housed in looks good, and I like the shape of the Glenfarclas bottle with its corked topper. I do wish we had a little more information on the label or the sleeve with respect to the taste profile of the whisky, and for this expression of the Glenfarclas Whisky I am going to be a little more critical of this aspect of the presentation than I would be for the younger versions. This is because we have reached a point where the cost of the whisky is getting to be a rather expensive indulgence. I believe the consumer should be allowed to have just a bit of information regarding the taste profile of the whisky before he or she plops down their hard-earned bucks.

This sort of tasting information is available on the Glenfarclas website; but I think it would greatly help the potential customer if these tasting notes were included on the cardboard sleeve that houses the whisky.

In the Glass 9/10

When I poured the Glenfarclas 21 Year Old into my glass, the whisky displayed as nice dark copper colour which resembled the hue of an aged penny. The initial aroma from the glass is well-rounded and balanced. The smells of dried fruit from the sherry barrels, the spicy orange peel from the oak, and the scents of toffee and caramel seem to be melded together such that each impression is part of the others.

As the glass sits, I also sense some firm vanilla accents in the breezes, and a nice floral accent as if heather and willow have made their way deep into the whisky. The nose deepens, but the melding of scents and smells retains its integrity. I sense no separation of individual components, and the impression of balance continues as I let the glass breathe.

In the Mouth  55/60

There is a strong sense of continuity between flavour and aroma, as all of those impressions I received as I nosed the glass come through clearly upon the palate. The flavours of dry fruit, oak spice and toffee have merged into what I shall call a wonderful whisky syrup. This syrup is tinged with herbal flavours of heather and willow. Additional flavours of chocolate fudge, and espresso coffee have joined in making this whisky remarkable easy to sip. Perhaps it is too easy to sip as my small sample is disappearing rather quickly.

In the Throat 13.5/15

Perhaps I like chocolate just a little too much, as the fudge filled chocolate finish is very intoxicating for me especially with the tinges of coffee that are teasing me as the whisky goes down. The palate is left warmed with flavours of mellow baking spices and hints of dates and caramel.

The Afterburn 9/10

At the tasting event where I first sampled the Glenfarclas 21 Year Old, George Grant reflected that this was perhaps his favourite expression of Glenfarclas Whisky. I understand why he would come to this conclusion, the whisky is smooth, flavourful and wonderfully balanced making it the perfect whisky to serve to friends.

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)


3 Responses to “Glenfarclas 21 Year Old”

  1. rawkabillyrebel said

    I agree, free booze always tastes better than the stuff I buy!!

  2. rawkabillyrebel said

    I’ve had the 12 and 15 year old, bought them in Honk Kong for 20 and 25 bucks in 2005. They are good whiskeys but not worth the price, at least here in Ontario. Seriously, $69.95 for the 12 and $89.95 for the 15 is ludicrous. The best buy in a single malt the last 2 years is the ARDMORE TRADITIONAL CASK HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT for $44.95. For the money you can’t go wrong with Alberta Premium.

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