London is a busy, noisy, dirty place…. But I love it. I could never live there, as I’m a country suburb kinda guy…. But that doesn’t take away its appeal. The hustle, bustle and atmosphere is great, but it’s what the capital offers you in venues, bars and events that makes it truly awesome. The Whisky Exchange is one of London’s leading whisky venues. Not only a Mecca for whisky drinkers in the bustling London Bridge area, but also an incredibly good venue to hold tastings. When I heard about the possibility of an upcoming Glenfarclas tasting event, I knew I had to get hold of a ticket. Lucky for me (and four of my friends) I did.
The whole evening was led by the man himself, George S. Grant of Glenfarclas – an incredibly engaging, knowledgeable, funny and passionate man. He led the tasting brilliantly, providing insight, tasting notes and a plethora of humorous anecdotes. We were treated to a fantastic range of expressions on the night with a collective age of 185 years of Glenfarclas matured whisky – older than Glenfarclas itself.
I’ve always been a quiet fan of Glenfarclas, after trying their 10yo a number of years ago, and having had the 12yo and 105 expressions on my shelf at different times too, I was excited to try more expressions. They are an incredibly reliable, honest distillery, providing quality whisky of numerous vintages; stretching back 61 years in their warehouse. George told us that they are soon to release a 60 year old: Six decades. 360 bottles. £10,000 per bottle!!! (Nice way of making £3.6 million!)
I loved all seven whiskies we tried and can honestly say that there wasn’t a “let down” in the collection at all. (Even the Glenfarclas new make was great stuff: fruity, spirity and slightly oily). Huge amounts of quality sweet Olorosso sherry used to perfection here. These guys know what they are doing!
Glenfarclas 15 year old 46%
N: Not too powerful, whilst retaining some good strong qualities. Fruitcake, sultanas, apple, hint of sawdust, toffee and some orange zest is present. Nice oak after a while and then the sweet sherry starts working beautifully. Cracking start.
P: Real sherried goodness here. Sweetness is very present but skillfully balanced with strong fruit flavours. Some zestiness reminds me of a chocolate orange. Small hints of cereal, wood and (very small hint of) peat. Sherry isn’t as dusty as nose wouldn’t suggest.
F: Medium. The sherry leaves a delicate sweetness. Fruit is still there, but with a more sugared/stewed quality. This isn’t too heavy at all, but works nicely at 46%. Smooth, perfectly balanced and simply lovely. I’m glad I have a full bottle of this in the cupboard.
Glenfarclas 21 year old 46%
N: Seems more powerful on nose than the 15yo, with the sherry not as present here. It is still dark and playful, however it seems more complex. With time it becomes incredibly smooth and balanced. Fruits working wonders with sweet woodiness. Fills nostrils brilliantly providing a rich, brooding character. I could nose this for hours.
P: This is crazy smooth! No rough edges at all. The sweet sherry starts stepping up, but far less sweet than the nose suggests. Some grape, spice and floral notes show their heads too.
F: Smooth smooth smooth. Pretty long and lingering with a hint of oiliness. Incredibly light for the power this whisky brings. Hints of chocolate, zest and sawdust towards the end too. I love the gentle and elegant way it moves round the mouth. [I may or may not have purchased a signed bottle of this…]
Glenfarclas 40 year old (Batch 2) 46%
N: Delicate old nose here with some cracking aromas… incredibly complex. When it starts to open up, some beautiful notes of fruit coated in olorosso sherry, chocolate, nuts and warm leather. Later on, I start getting some spiciness, cinnamon especially.
P: This just gets more and more complex, coating the mouth beautifully with dusty sherry (less sweet than the 15yo & 21yo). Dark berries, chilli, light woodiness, sultanas and chocolate covered raisins. This holds the tongue delightfully, presenting some malt, sawdust and wet wood.
F: Medium-Long in length. Not as smooth as 21yo, yet it sits in the mouth really well, leaving it feeling quite fresh. Driest we’ve tasted so far and gets dryer and dryer. Maturity and complexity really made apparent on finish. Impressive old whisky here; shame its out of my price range.
Glenfarclas 25 year old Quarter Cask 42.4%
N: Interesting nose, differing from the rest of the range. It’s an evolving one without a doubt. Strong one second and delicate the next. Sherry is there but the fruity notes are more present. Honey, fruit, wet wood, slightly floral with hints of vanilla pod. I find this one incredibly sweet compared with the rest of the range.
P: Nicely fresh and delicate on delivery. Vanilla far more present now, and the oak is at more at play. Far less sherry than 40yo. Sweet, fruity and slightly earthy this one. Less complex than the rest of the range.
F: Medium. Doesn’t linger too long, but gives some nice sweet flavours. The vanilla still hanging about. Fruit soaked in sugary sherry. Slightly dry with hints of oak. Again, complexity of finish isn’t as high as 21yo or 40yo. However, you can tell that there are far older whiskies than 25 years old in this one.
Glenfarclas 31yo Port Cask
N: Wow, this is different. A bed of Glenfarclas covered in sweet heavy port. Slight sour note. Sawdust, citrus, vanilla & sour fruitiness. Wood becomes more present with time. Remains delicate throughout.
P: Very soft/light on tongue. Not as sweet as I’d expect. Delicate, with slight rough edges on lower palate. Less floral towards front of tongue. Some wet straw. Nice & mature.
F: Medium. Plays nicely & holds tongue with the sweetness of the port. Relatively dry, retains delicacy throughout. Evaporates leaving sweet vanilla & port soaked oak.
Glenfarclas 1979 family cask
N: Powerful, rounded & edgy. Very fruity – in fact so many different fruits. Apples, bananas, pineapple and gooseberry. Some great sherry notes on nose. Fantastic balance of sherry/fruit/wood here.
P: Mmm powerful, whilst retaining the Glenfarclas smoothness and delicacy. Sherry is strong, dusty & wonderful. Not as sweet on front palate as I was expecting. Slightly tingly on the tongue. Sweetness comes in waves with butterscotch, candy floss and old school sweet shops. Wowzers!
F: Rich, strong, dusty, dry, ancient and beautifully mature. Lingers on the tongue tempting the taste buds with strong powerful aromas of wood, liquorice and old oil. Not overly sweet, and costs the mouth fantastically. Great at full strength, but more fruit cake with water. Great experience.
Glenfarclas 20yo ‘105’
N: This is the 105 nose I know, but stronger, more mature and knowledgable. Even for a 20yo this is complex. Lots of sultanas, banana and cocoa. Musty wood and sawdust. So strong and powerful (not like young feisty CS out there, but more mature and complex), really filling up nostrils. Tad closed perhaps?
P: Yep. Wham bam thank you mam! Strong on tongue, but not too overpowering as the nose would suggest. Strong woody notes, lovely chocolate covered raisins. Lots of gloppy sherry too.
F: Long. Good stuff. Really smooth and sweet considering strength. Combination of fruity flavours flickering around. Sherry stays strong & to forefront throughout. Powerhouse of an aged whisky.
A fantastic evening had by all. A big thank you goes to The Whisky Exchange for organising it, and of course to the brilliant George Grant for leading such a fantastic tasting. I went a fan. I left besotted!