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Glenfarclas 40 Year Old

Review: Glenfarclas 40 Year Old Highland Single Malt Whisky  89/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on May 13, 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.

This review continues my series of examinations of the Glenfarclas Single Malt line-up. I have previously reviewed the Glenfarclas 12 Year, the Glenfarclas 21 Year, the Glenfarclas 30 Year and the Glenfarclas Cask Strength 105. These reviews have been facilitated by Pacific Wine & Spirits Inc who have provided samples for me to assess, and who kindly invited me to a tasting event hosted by George Grant, the Sales Director for the Glenfarclas Distillery where I was able to sample the entire core range of Glenfarclas Whisky. Mr. Grant is part of the 6th generation of the Grant Family who originally purchased the distillery in 1865.

All of the Glenfarclas whisky is matured in two styles of oak, 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 barrels are stored in traditional ‘dunnage’ warehouses which date from the late 1800s. The Glenfarclas 40 Year Old Highland Single Malt Whisky which is the subject of this review has been bottled at 46 % and is produced solely from sherry cask whisky.

In the Bottle 4/5

With the Glenfarclas 40 Year Old Whisky we are at the highest and most expensive end of the range for the Glenfarclas Single Malt Whisky, yet the basic presentation for this whisky is pretty much the same as it has been throughout the entire range. I have mixed feelings about this as I want to be wowed by the look of the bottle which contains a 40-year-old whisky. Having said that, the Glenfarclas 40 Year Old is much, much less expensive than any other 40 Year Old distillery bottling I have seen on the shelves at my local liquor store. I find it hard to be overly critical when it appears that the company is passing the savings of this decision on to the consumer.

However, I do wish there was information on the label or on the cardboard sleeve which gave the consumer an indication of the taste profile of the whisky. This is because we are well beyond the point where the cost of the whisky is within easy reach of most consumers. I believe those potential customers who might be considering this whisky for a special occasion should be allowed to have just a bit of information regarding the taste profile of the whisky before they reach into their wallets to pay for it.

I realize this sort of tasting information is available on the Glenfarclas website which has tasting notes for their entire range of whisky. However not everybody is internet savvy, and I think it would greatly helpful if these tasting notes were included on the cardboard sleeve that houses the whisky.

In the Glass 9.5/10

I poured my sample of the Glenfarclas 40 into my glass, and had a nice look at the whisky before I began to nose it. This malt is a dark brown copper colour which reminds me of the colour of an old slightly tarnished penny. A quick tilt and turn of my glass reveals a reverse crown shaped oil slick on the inside of my glass which only stubbornly releases fat droopy legs. The initial aroma from the glass reveals the scent of old oak tainted by the dry fruity smells of the sherry cask. I like how the two distinct aromas have blended together such that it is hard for me to decide where the oak ends and the fruity sherry begins. There is also a nice herbal quality that reminds me of woodland meadow full of heather and willow thicket.

As the glass sits, the rich smells deepen. Ribbons of orange peel, Christmas fruitcake, fudge-filled chocolate, and cola develop in the glass, and even a few notes of fresh ground coffee seem to be scattered in the breezes. It is very satisfying to sniff such a rich and intense aroma.

In the Mouth 53/60

The whisky carries a good dose of wood-spice in the initial delivery. I can taste that woodland meadow (full of heather and willow) when I let the whisky cross my palate. If I chew on the whisky, my mouth becomes filled with pungent baking spices. I taste vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon; allspice and glimpses of ginger; dabs of orange liqueur; and glimmers of rich rum like demerara sugar. Those sherry accents are there too, as raisins and dates combine with bitter-sweet chocolate giving me impressions of fruitcake drizzled in chocolate pudding.

It is however, the wood-spice that dominates as 40 years of aging are speaking clearly in the whisky. I find this spiciness almost overwhelming as the whisky (at times) seems to be a challenge I must face and overcome. But it is the type challenge that I face eagerly, and (to be honest) I feel some remorse as my review sample slowly diminishes.

In the Throat  13.5/15

The finish for this whisky is just a little heated as that explosion of wood-spice I tasted in the delivery seems to last and last upon my palate. A beguiling sweetness left behind is the perfect foil for this spicy heat, and I am struck by how (in the finish) the flavour sensations left behind remind me more of well aged demerara rum than of whisky.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Glenfarclas 40 Year Old Single Malt Whisky has been an absolute treat to sample. I consider myself extremely lucky to have not only been invited to taste this whisky as part of that tasting event hosted by George Grant, but also to have been given a small sample afterwards such that I could share my views here on my website. This is a very good whisky, one which displays its tremendous age with a taste profile heavy on wood-spice. The whisky also displays lush sherry cask flavours and nuances which compliment that age with tremendous character.

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)


2 Responses to “Glenfarclas 40 Year Old”

  1. MMJ said

    If you can find them, I recommend trying some of the Glenfarclas Family Casks. They’re single casks and bottled at cask strength, so have much more flavor than the standard releases which are watered down to the 40s. And if you like sherried whiskies, Glendronach is also worth trying. Their single casks can also be very good.

    • So many expressions, and only one life in which to try to enjoy them all. I do agree though that I have heard very nice things about the Glenfarclas Single Cask bottlings.

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