It's a mystery, unless its not

Posted 28 August 2018 by Matt / In Glenfarclas
The Dramble reviews William Cadenhead's 40 year old Single Speyside Malt (Glenfarclas)

Bottle Name: William Cadenhead's 40 year old Single Speyside Malt

ABV: 40.2%
Distillery: Glenfarclas
Bottler: Cadenhead's
Region: Speyside Age: 40

Mystery ‘undisclosed distillery’ bottlings invariably result in guesswork – sometimes reasoned, oft-times wild. In an effort to work out a distillery of origin, folks will assess the colour (is it obviously sherried?), the age statement, the vintage and even the ABV of unnamed bottlings. In doing so, perhaps they remove some of the enigmatic behind these bottlings, but who can blame them – everyone naturally loves to solve a puzzle. Sometimes unidentified bottlings come with subtle hints (Boutique-y Whisky’s cartoon labels love to lead folks on a merry dance for example), other times they’re much more obvious. Perhaps none more so than today’s 40 year old Single Speyside Malt bottled by Cadenhead’s, which rather bizarrely still lists the distillery quite clearly on the bottom of the bottle.

Back in 2015 I just happened to be in the London Cadenhead’s shop when this less than secretive whisky was released into the wild. At £123, in no surprise to anyone, it sold out in a snap. Some bottles (including mine) came adorned with what looks like a stock control print at the very bottom of the bottle heel – small, but still completely legible. I’ve seen other bottles without this ‘giveaway’, so one wonders if someone had the rather thankless task of washing all these off before final packaging, and simply got a little bored. Nevertheless, Glenfarclas is barely hidden in plain sight.

The release – in September of 2015 was relatively small (though I can’t find an exact number of bottles), and likewise has drawn additional online speculation that the actual contents are in fact 43, not 40 years of age. Rumours be rumours so take that as you please. The bottling strength is 40.2% - either this was watered down to a very precise ABV on the cusp of legality, or, perhaps more likely, its come from a very active cask, where anymore maturation might have been pushing it.

Nose: Expressive and clearly well-aged in a quality ex-bourbon cask with plenty of life still left in it. A tropical fruit basket of pineapples, ripe bananas and guavas sit alongside fresh green apples and touches of stone fruits – these are joined by honeycomb, rosewater, leather, tobacco and plenty of wood polish – buffed and highly shined. In the background some garden fresh green leaves – mint, honeysuckle and lemon grass. Lively and somewhat dainty, but very typically Speyside in style and altogether quite lovely.

Taste: Fruitiness continues – but in a slightly different vein. Still with pineapples, bananas, apples (and perhaps some mango), but played off against some hefty wood influence. This results in an arrival that’s full of natural fruit sugars like the nose, but that quickly develops sourness and bitterness from old, polished wood – the mid palate being more akin to a steeped tannic tea. Joining the party, almond, honey and some interesting underlying smoky notes – saltpeter and mineral coal dust – both sharp and adding a sense of sour tang. The back palate reveals an underlying savouriness – sweet potato and brown rice nuttiness.

Finish: Long and multi-faceted – sweet, sour, bitter and savoury. Ripe fruits, grapefruit juice, plenty of oak (which bring with it a bundle of tannins, but not the expected associated dryness), leather, humidors and roasted nuts.

This hidden in plain sight 40 year old Glenfarclas has been matured with love. The nose is exceptionally – packed full of well-balanced, long maturation, ex-bourbon flavours. The palate is similarly lovely – complex, surprisingly robust for 40.2% and with plenty of depth – it’s just not quite up to the near perfection of the nose. The price of this one is certainly worth highlighting – at the original retail of £123 – it was quite simply a steal. Now, at auction, unsurprisingly, you’ll need to dig deeper for this – but, if you’re canny it will not cost an arm and a leg and will certainly clock in at much lower than many other 40 year old expressions.


Score: 89/100

Master of Malt
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