Age: 21 years old
Glenfarclas 21 year old could teach Roger Moore a thing or two about smoothness – Master of Malt
At a time when most new whisky releases don’t carry an age statement and whole ranges of aged expressions disappear altogether, Glenfarclas provides a notable exception. You won’t find Gaelic words or names of local landmarks on this Speyside distillery’s bottlings. Just plain 12, 15 and 18 year old. Somehow this resistance to the winds of change is strangely refreshing. What’s more, where prices for age statement whiskies have risen sharply over the past decade, Glenfarclas still provides tremendous value for money. This particular expression is one of the cheapest 21 year old whiskies you’ll find on the market. But even more than the cost, there’s one other thing that stands out at Glenfarclas: all of their bottlings are big, muscular whiskies that boast a heavily sherried character. The perfect after dinner dram!
And perhaps this body is why Glenfarclas is marketed as a Highland whisky, despite being located on the outer reaches of the Speyside. The distillery is owned by J. & G. Grant family (unrelated to the other whisky making Grants). The J. & G. stands for John and George, and indeed the descendants of the original owners have all been given these names. Now in its sixth generation of Johns and Georges, the distillery remained in family hands since 1865 and retains a very independent streak – quite unique in an industry dominated by corporate giants. For example, Glenfarclas 105 was the first ever whisky marketed at cask strength, which was a pretty wild thing to do at the time. Until the 1960s, Glenfarclas was almost exclusively sold to the big blending houses, and continues to be used in brands such as Dewar’s and Johnny Walker. In fact Tommy Dewar was so impressed with Glenfarclas that he poetically described it as ‘The King of Whiskies and the Whisky of Kings’. That’s high praise indeed, so let’s see if Glenfarclas can rise to the challenge.
Nose: Very aromatic, with plenty of tannins. Scents of blackcurrant and blood orange mingle with a mellow, oaky fragrance, not at all dissimilar to a wine cellar. Praline and Choco Crossies give way to a hint of star anise. Good stuff so far!
Palate: Big-bodied, with a smooth, gentle mouthfeel. The age certainly tells, offering a complex array of flavours, with nutty overtones and soft, sumptuous fruit. Silky smooth chocolate grows more prickly towards the finish, opening up to flavours of barley sprinkled with a hefty dose of white pepper.
Finish: Medium long, with a slightly herbal smoke – like a smouldering heather shrub. The aftertaste sticks around for a decent amount of time, offering toasted barley and a hint of leather.
Verdict: This is a very likeable whisky. Have I had better 21 year olds? Certainly. But at this price point, Glenfarclas doesn’t disappoint. Their 21 year old delivers what we’ve come to expect from the distillery: a solid, sherried dram that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. This particular Glenfarclas has the benefit of age, providing an additional smoothness that pairs very well with the already sumptuous distillery character. Sure, the result is perhaps a little meek, but if you’re looking for excitement then a 21 year old sherried Speyside is obviously the wrong choice. For a nice relaxing dram though, you could certainly do worse than Glenfarclas 21 year old!
Value for money: 🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩