It’s day two of our mammoth Glenfarclas vertical and now we move into the teens with the much loved (and higher strength) 15 year old and two slightly more unusual expressions which were originally released for travel retail. We’re now firmly into sherried Glenfarclas territory with all of the distillery’s expressions being matured in ex-oloroso sherry casks.
Glenfarclas 15 year old is the only bottle in the distillery’s core range (other than the 40 year old) with an ABV of 46%. Why? Well according to Glenfarclas, it was because previous family owner George Grant simply preferred it that way! A firmly established favourite and winner of several industry awards over the years.
Nose: Initially a little tight, but unravels nicely after a brief resting period. A woodland full of berries (raspberries in particular) and a hint of rancio. Lightly vegetal with some fine grass, but plenty of deeper notes from spent coffee grounds, chocolate cake. A touch of cask spicing comes across, as does an interesting almost wine-like quality.
Taste: A solid arrival with excellent body and viscosity. Sweeter than the nose with honey, butterscotch and a load of jammy fruit and marmalades. Deeper still there’s blackberries (perhaps the wine-like note form the nose?) and liquorice. The cask influence is much more prevalent than it’s younger siblings and offers some spice and some immediate astringency.
Finish: Medium in length, very jammy and with some interesting star anise. Quite drying on the palate.
Glenfarclas 15 year old’s higher ABV delivers solidly and allows some of the deeper and richer notes to shine through. There’s unarguably more complexity and cask influence here than younger expressions which gives this whisky more of the prominent notes that you might expect from sherry cask maturation and Glenfarclas in particular.
The 17 year old expression was originally released for the travel retail sector, and is described as combining the smoothness of Glenfarlas’s younger expressions with the greater depth of its oldest.
Nose: A lot going on here. Muscavado sugar mix it up with berries (some fresh, some dried) and in particular strawberries. Interestingly there’s a real minerality steeliness running through the nose. Quite biscuity and with some nuttiness also, florals play a supporting act and provide some immediate complexity. Orange peels give yet more fruitiness and alongside both toffee and vanilla there’s a whiff of smoke – not peat, nope, this is more cask smoke, possibly charring.
Taste: Sweet. Very sweet in fact. Strawberries again, and now stewed fruits sit alongside a variety of sugars, caster, icing and muscavado. The nuttiness is present again and joined by nice damp earthiness and a lot more spice than was on the nose – cinnamon and particularly cloves.
Finish: Medium to long with pure sherry coming through strongly and clove spice lingering through to the end.
I find Glenfarclas 17 year old to be an odd bottling in the distillery’s stable. It’s lighter, sweeter and fruiter than its 15 year old sibling, but also less full-bodied and well-defined. The central role of juicy sweet fruits rather than deeper richer sherried notes is an interesting departure, and sits well with a good dose of cask spice. However, the overall sweetness is perhaps a touch too high for my personal taste and I could not find a balance of water that managed to take the edge of this without reducing the fruit intensity. Worth trying for a slightly different Farclas experience, though quite pricey compared to other expressions.
Glenfarclas 18 year old is another of the distillery’s travel retail offerings – though it is now commonly available elsewhere.
Nose: Very pronounced creamy fudge and toffee. There are lightly stewed stone fruits (peach) and some nice bite from lemon zest. Some quite strong malty aromas, vanilla and going a touch deeper – chocolate. Throughout there’s a certain dusty/mustiness to the whole affair.
Taste: Silky arrival and packed full of juicy fruits. Much more fruit-driven than the nose, we’re into oranges, tinned pear, mangoes, guavas and sour cherries. The creamy fudge and chocolate are still there, but taken down a notch compared to the fruit.
Finish: Medium with a touch of white pepper.
Despite only a year older than the 17 year old, this turns out to be a rather different Glenfarclas. The 18 year old emphasises fruit, fruit and more fruit, eschewing the heavier cask and spice notes found in the 17 year old. As a travel retail expression you’ll get a whole litre of this for roughly £75 which represents decent value vs. quality. Tasty stuff, but perhaps not as bold as other expressions in the distillery’s line-up.