When on the hunt for sherry cask matured whiskies, Glenfarclas should always be somewhere on your horizons. The majority of the distillery’s whisky is sherry matured (mainly from ex-oloroso and ex-fino sherries) from spirit which is produced via direct gas fired stills.
Glenfarclas describe their whisky as ‘Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky’ which might confuse some when they learn that the distillery is actually located in Ballindalloch in Speyside – traditionally the Highland region embraced what is now delineated as Speyside and, deep-down, Glenfarclas is still a very traditional distillery. These old time values still have some modern day benefit for whisky lovers - Glenfarclas bottings present unfussy low-key branding which eschew the current trend for marketing-driven label twaddle.
Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength is somewhat of an oddity in the distillery’s current range. It is the only one which doesn’t presently carry an age-statement (however the Internet suggests that it is at least 8 year old). Similarly to fellow cask strength sherried heavy weight Aberlour A’bunadh, as a vatting of casks there are reports of batch variance for time to time, but that’s the nature of the beast when it comes to vattings. It’s bottled at a hefty 60% ABV is naturally coloured, and although not specified, I am presuming is probably non chill-filtered.
Nose: A sugary and potent mustiness – very similar to the aroma of an empty but still moist sherry cask. Syrupiness from fudge, toffee and light brown sugars with fruitiness from stewed red berries and a refreshing citrus note. Light maltiness and oak influenced vanilla are initially present but subdued until water is added. This livens up the nose massively, heightening the top end fruity aromas and bringing forth some greater floral influence.
Taste: As one might expect from the mighty ABV, an initial powerful attack with real bite. Good translation from nose to mouth with simmered fruits, maltiness and mustiness all present and correct. However, reaching for the water once again will somewhat tame this beast and offer up a lot more complexity. Mouthfeel, to my palate at least, is enhanced greatly with some dilution, presenting a viscous, oily and chewy body. There’s a good punch of wood here and as such associated sherry wood spicing which is both peppery and with pleasant salinity. Sweetness is dialled down a notch becoming better balanced, and offering more stone and tropical fruits alongside cutting lime-like acidity.
Finish: Medium in length (you might initially have thought it to be quite long, but without water, much of that would have been your taste buds shuddering at the cask strength) with a very nice level of astringency.
105 Cask Strength is robust and powerful. I’ve seen it recommended to new-comers, but personally I’d be holding this back a little bit (until they’ve found their malt feet) and using it as a great example of how water can improve the depth and complexity of whisky. With 60% ABV to play with there’s quite some scope to find the right level of hydration based on your personal preferences. At under £50 (at least in the UK) this represents good value for money for a cask strength bottling.