Glenfarclas 15yo (52.1%, OB, Limited Edition for The Netherlands, 50% Refill & 50% First Fill Oloroso Casks, 1.800 bottles, 2020)

In 2015, I wrote a review about the core range 15yo (from 2006), and even with 83 points being a half-decent score, it also means it didn’t really blew me away back then. But, as is often the case with core range bottlings, there is a possibility of batch variation. Most distilleries try to replicate a certain profile and they usually succeed. Understandable because the bulk of those bottles are sold to people who like consistency, because they buy the same expression over and over again because that’s the one they like. Lets mention Talisker 10yo as an example of this consistency, although this 10yo exists for quite a while now and a shift in profile as times passes is inevitable, however, the quality seems consistent. Some distilleries are less proficient. Highland Park 18yo comes to mind showing a lot of variation in batches close to one another, just punch the reviews for these 18yo’s up from this site, like these 2012 and 2014 bottlings. Some distilleries embrace the possibility that batch variation gives them, Springbank is a master at this. With Glenfarclas I’m not sure, but I do know that this Dutch 15yo differs quite a bit from the 2006 15yo mentioned earlier.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Fresh, tight and fruity, maybe a little bit sweaty even, as well as some deep and brooding dusty notes, dust and chocolate powder. Sometimes farty organics. Beautiful fresh wood and wax. Fruit cake. Mushy red fruits, mushy after speedy or forced defrosting in a microwave. Wet or soaked oak, slightly sour, yet also some sharp fresh air. Very lively, with red fruit acidity combined with American oak vanillins, milk chocolate and the tiniest hint of toasted cask and cigarette smoke from a sixties living room. Fresh mushrooms. An autumn Whisky for sure. Rainwater flowing down the road. Dusty and quiet with a full on aroma. The woody bits transform into more paper like and old cardboard aroma’s, which sounds horrible, but isn’t. Red fruit still present throughout. Perfumy, leafy and all sorts of kitchen spice notes (a note of some dull, weathered, cinnamon comes to mind, mixed with the toasted oak and the chocolate powder), give this one some time to release all the aroma’s. It’s almost like it is in part steeped in the past and in part modern. Very well balanced. Very nice.

Taste: Starts sweet and fruity, like diluted jam, forest strawberry jam, raspberry jam, red fruit jam altogether. Warming going down, well balanced and tasty. Nice wood aroma’s, just the right amount. Fresh oak and toasted oak are all here. Nutty. Tiny hint of tar and toast mixed in the distance with some menthos (I don’t get that all the time though), which is a nice addition to the fruity and syrupy notes. After swallowing, a slightly more dry and spicier wood note comes forth, as well as more tar. Again warming and drying my lips. So definitely some astringent wood with actually not a lot of bitterness. At times slightly soapy, but not every time I taste this. The woody bit of the body, let’s say the middle bit, seems to have some definite tarry notes to it. Tasty stuff, really good, especially after not expecting this one to be this good.

When analysing this one in my controlled environment, it is a very good expression, when tasting this one randomly, let’s say within a flight of some other Whiskies, this one performs differently, so beware. It doesn’t overpower others so it depends a bit, what came before. It can be easily overpowered by other Whiskies, and I don’t even mean your heavy hitting Islay Whisky or a bona-fide confirmed Sherry monster, no, even a normal refill bourbon casked single cask Whisky like the Tamnavulin 8yo I just reviewed can overwhelm this Glenfarclas. Something one wouldn’t say from tasting this Glenfarclas alone.

Top tip, give this one the attention it deserves, take your time with it and you’ll be rewarded. Still, this is very tasty stuff and it is better than I initially expected. As said above, it is well balanced. This is a bottle that will be gone soon, since when I see this standing on my lectern, the only words that come to mind are “yes, please” and off comes the cork. A fun and foremost a very good Whisky. An instant gratification Malt. Maybe not all that complex, but what you get is very balanced and tasty. As I said, this will be finished soon. Is this really merely the undiluted version of the core range 15yo? If so, it is a worthy special release by any means and decently priced to boot for those el cheapo Dutch. Lucky bastards!

Points: 89


Glenfarclas 16yo 1990/2007 (58.9%, OB, The Family Casks, Sherry Butt #9246, 617 bottles)

And we’ve already reached the end of our short journey of Whiskies left behind by Erik. Professional work has almost ended at our house (the ceiling has yet to be done) and the time has come for me to finish up in true amateur style. The final chapter of this brief tour will be this vintage Glenfarclas. This is the 1990 vintage from the original release of the Family Casks back in 2007. In that year The Grant Family released 43 cask strength single cask bottlings, with vintages between 1952 up to 1994. Many different casks were used, like ex-Bourbon casks, first to even fourth-fill Sherry casks, but also Port pipes can be found in this series, or the many series that followed later. This first 1990 vintage is from a pretty hefty Sherry Butt, I can tell you that!

Color: Warm orange brown. Definitely mahogany.

Nose: Big and spirity. If caught off guard, it almost seems as if whiffs of acetone pass by. Fresh oak, Earthy next. Spicy and meaty, with lots of gravy notes. Honey (The Bee stuff). Perfect thick and cloying Sherry nose. Fresh and woody. Lots happening, with already signs of excellent balance. Soft warm wood, nothing like the sharper style I found in the 25yo Cadenhead Highland Park. No, this is entirely different and also a bit younger. Sometimes it smells like a Bourbon from a very heavily charred cask. George T. Stagg style. Fruity, nutty, yet this still carries those nail polish remover notes. Weaved into the fabric of the aroma’s I mentioned above is a wonderful, and sometimes odd smell of happy red fruits. I tried to describe it differently, but it just smells fruity, sunny and happy to me. The Highland Park, mentioned earlier, could be thick, dark and brooding, more like a gray rainy day. This Glenfarclas, on the other hand, also is a big Sherried Whisky, but happier, livelier, with a more acidic fruity bit. Sometimes this smells like food, chewy, substantial. Hey after the first sip I smell some Jasmine in here too. So a hidden floral bit rears its pretty little head. Nice.

Taste: Yeah big again, very big, definitely loads of wood, with rich tannins and also some bitterness. Oak and ashes. Fruits overpowered and pushed back. Warming. Quite hot with rough edges. You even could call it harsh. Yes this takes no prisoners, and is definitely not for everyone. Very hot going down, this is beyond warming actually. Cola notes, and also some burnt notes. Underneath fruity and because of its age, an oaky bitterness kept well in check. Its only so…hot. Coal, licorice, oaky, its big and harsh but also shows quite some beauty. Something you know is bad for you, but still you can’t help yourself and keep being drawn to it. Very interesting. Its in many ways over the top, woody, drying tannins, yet not all that bitter. Already towards the end of the body, this gets very simple and good. Not a lot of development though. The Highland Park had a lot more going for it, especially after some (extensive) breathing. The finish of this Glenfarclas is about wood, oak, fresh oak, virgin oak, Fresh sanded oak planks, but definitely less bitter then the Highland Park. So chocolate yes, dark chocolate, no, not exactly. Milk chocolate then? Nope, lacks the sweetness of that. No, it’s more like cocoa powder. Yes that’s it. Wood, leather, gentleman’s club. Rich, but in the taste not fruity. For fruity Sherry I turn to old Longmorns and Strathislas.

If I’m not mistaken, Erik brought this bottle with him when our Whisky club went abroad and did a tasting in Hamburg, Germany some years back. When freshly opened this was considered almost to harsh to drink and we all tried to find out why it was actually being released in this new and prestigious The Family Casks series. It’s more do-able now, but still not a Whisky to tackle without gloves. A full bottle of this would last me for many, many years to come.

Points: 85

Glenfarclas 21yo (43%, OB, Circa 2006)

Following up on the 15yo I reviewed last, here is the 21yo Glenfarclas from the standard range that was around in 2006. Trying the 15yo I was in a way amazed how the feel was “different” from the more modern malts that are around today. There seems to be an old way funkiness to that Malt. I’m quite curious now, how this 21yo will do.

Glenfarclas 21yo (43%, OB, Circa 2006)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Funky and somewhat waxy and sweet. A different profile from the 15yo. Lighter in color and fuller in a different kind of way. It almost smells chewy! Maybe more Bourbon aged Whisky went into this 21yo. Smells funky and organic. It’s like being licked by a dog which earlier licked some spilled honey (don’t ask). I love it. Hints of wood, and especially sawdust. Chocolate and some acidic fruits. This is more a creamy and woody Glenfarclas. Dusty vanilla pudding. It’s almost like his is more fruity than it shows. It just doesn’t come out of the liquid for us to smell. Encapsulated by some ice-cream notes. Great nose, and it has not a lot of the florality the 15yo had.

Taste: This starts with cardboard we know from the 15yo, and a lovely dried apricot fruitiness as well as some Calvados. Definitely lower in ABV than the 15yo. Waxy and before the wood comes this persistent cardboard and paper note, I don’t particularly care about. The finish is accompanied by the same burnt note the 15yo has, but in a softer more gentle way. Just like the 15yo, again not overly complex. Extremely drinkable. This is a Whisky I fear will be gone soon. By the way, this one does have a bit of soap in the finish, as well as in the aftertaste, which also carries some bitterness.

Although this starts well, the finish and aftertaste let it down a bit. Again a very specific Glenfarclas, and just like the 15yo, it’s hard to imagine they still can make it like this. I really have to get me a new version of one of those “standard” Glenfarclasses, or is it Glenfarcli? If you ask me I’d probably go for the 25yo, although the 17yo is also a fan favorite. But, you also might want to consider this one, which fits the same profile and I liked it very much.

Points: 84

Glenfarclas 15yo (46%, OB, Circa 2006)

Almost three and a half years ago I reviewed it’s older brother from the same series, the 25yo. Rummaging through samples stored (read: misplaced) all over the place, I found this 15yo, as well as the 21yo, which I will review next. These two are samples of the standard range Glenfarclas from more or less ten years ago. Today the label look different, although the dumpy bottle stayed. So without further ado, I give you Glenfarclas 15yo.

Glenfarclas 25yo (43%, OB, Circa 2006)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Dusty and dry, hints of Wine and Sherry. Creamy with vanilla and some nice soft oak. A perfumed woody wind seems to emanate from my glass. The perfumy, jasmine tea, bit seems more powerful with air, up to the point you could almost wear it. Next a cardboardy note joins the slightly minty florality. It smells nice, not “wrong” as most soapy notes often do. Quite some depth. Notes of roasted beef, covered in black pepper as well as toasted oak. Wow, the diversity of aroma’s the Sherry has given this Whisky is amazing. I’ll call this “oriental”.

Taste: Starts with oak and wood, with a smooth and slippery mouthfeel. Some burned oak and cardboard again. Luckily the cardboardy notes don’t ruin this Whisky at all. Warming, fruity and aromatic. Not heavy, cloying of full of raisins. Nope this Sherry is more lively and fruity. This one is bottled at 46% ABV, where as the 21 and the 25yo are 43% ABV. The slightly higher strength hold it up beautifully. Beer-like finish, some burnt notes. The Sherry returns in the aftertaste, but the charcoal, burnt wood notes never leave. Not overly complex.

Well, one thing is for shure, they don’t make them like this anymore. Although this was bottled almost 10 years ago, I can’t imagine the current 15yo will taste, and smell, anything like this. But I could be wrong. I hope I’ll get the chance to try some more recent bottlings of “standard” Glenfarclas (apart from the 21yo I’ll review next).

Points: 83

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 (50.6%, OB, The Family Casks III, Plain Hogshead #2216, 171 bottles)

In 2006 Glenfarclas started with an ongoing series containing lots and lots of single cask bottlings called the Family Casks. From the beginning, almost every vintage thinkable was released in very nice looking wooden boxes including a nice booklet. After a while, some vintages were not available anymore in the warehouses, and the wooden boxes were replaced by something a lot simpler. For the time being 2014 was the last year any Family cask was released, since 2015 saw no release of a Family Cask bottling (yet). Although Glenfarclas has a name to uphold with heavily sherried malts, just like The Macallan once did, and Glendronach does today, what was nice about the Family Casks was that any type of cask was released. This 1979 expression from the third run of Family Casks is from a Plain Hogshead and was bottled on the 17th of July 2008. Plain Hogshead could mean a rebuilt cask from staves that once formed a Bourbon barrel.

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 Family Casks IIIColor: Copper

Nose: Lots of creamy vanilla and coconut, what immediately makes me think about American oak. Very creamy and firm. Extremely fruity. Apricots, pears and ripe green plums. Hints of not yet ripe banana-skin and sweet ripe apples. It does have notes of a high quality Calvados. Almonds with dry powdered coffee creamer. Amazing how strong the aroma’s are, this is in no way a closed Whisky, no, no, no! Spicy, the wood kicks in a bit. Hint of latex paint. Lurking in the depth is a strange note, which is hard to describe. Old dried out cucumber with a tiny speck of acetone. You know how a cucumber smells, tone that down a few notches, and that’s whats in here too, underneath all those heavy hitting aroma’s from the highly active cask. I wonder what Bourbon it came in contact with. Wonderful old Whisky, with a perfect and endless nose. A true gem to smell!

Taste: Again extremely creamy and full of aroma. The power. Wonderful. Perfect stuff. Quite sweet upon entry. Creamy sweet and following quickly is a much drier woody sensation with just the right amount of bitterness. More wood than the nose had, but when the wood takes a step aside, wonderful aroma’s of ginger with jam made with red and black forest fruits present themselves, but not a lot of the fruit I mentioned in the nose. Amazing! Small hints of cask toast, slightly burned bread and candied cinnamon. Cloves and Christmas cake. Of course not a perfect Whisky, that does not exist, but this does come close. Wow! Warming and luckily a super long finish.

Here we have another super fruity old Bourbon Hogshead Whisky from the seventies. Reminding us of the stellar Caperdonichs from 1972, to name but one. I can only hope I’ll find me one of these sometimes.

Points: 93

Glenfarclas 16yo 1995/2011 (53.9%, Kintra, Confidential Cask, Sherry Butt #5, 120 bottles)

In the depths of my ever-growing amount of samples, I found this sample of an undisclosed distillery named Glenfarclas. Actually, Glenfarclas isn’t stated on the label, but it has somehow become common knowledge that this Whisky was made by Glenfarclas and hand-picked by Erik Molenaar of Kintra from the Netherlands. Erik as well as Glenfarclas have been featured before on these pages, so why not continue immediately with this undisclosed Glenfarclas…

Glenfarclas 16yo 1995/2011 (53.9%, Kintra, Confidential Cask, Sherry Butt #5, 120 bottles)

Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Heavy on the Sherry there! Velvety but also a lot of sulphur. Licorice, dry air and wood. Black and white powder and cookie dough. Lots of aromas and all are on full volume. Meaty (cold raw meat), creamy, vanilla but also some mint and flint. Lot of aroma from wood, without being overpowering. Like the wood of an old door which has just been stripped of its thick layer of cracked paint (and cooled off) (no, I’m not on LSD, it’s an association).

Taste: Full on funky sherry, thick. Coal. Watered down red berry juice with (bitter and sweet) licorice (The Whisky is not watered down, mind you, nor tastes like it’s watered down). Quite sweet at first but quickly taking a turn towards the drier side. Sulphur here again, but all very tasty if you like your heavy hitters. Sometimes a whiff comes across like a rum (heavy on wood). Towards the finish some nice red fruits come to the front. Strawberries (not fresh ones, but ones that have been frozen). Spicy and prickly wood.

Definitely not your daily drinker type of malt, but a nice, albeit flawed expression of a nice Sherry bomb (hello NSA, it’s me again). I like this pick by Erik. It is a Whisky which is far from boring. A lot is happening in this, and not even all at the same time. However, a word of caution. This malt loses a bit of its balance when it gets enough time to breathe. The aromas start to unravel a bit, the wood gets weaker and even worse, a soapy component rears its ugly head, so no slacking with this one!

Points: 88

Glenfarclas 35yo 1971/2006 (51.4%, The Whisky Fair, Oloroso Sherry Butt, 534 bottles)

Well why not, why not try another Glenfarclas from a bottle without the distillery’s name on the label. This time a Glenfarclas again, but now from 1971, especially bottled for The Whisky Fair in Limburg Germany. For many the mother of all Whisky festivals on the planet. This Glenfarclas is definitely darker in colour than the previous one I reviewed. I’m guessing the 1965 should be from a Fino Sherry Butt, and we know this 1971 is from a new and fresh Oloroso Sherry Butt.

KnipselColor: Copper Brown.

Nose: Wow, perfect dry Sherry nose, with mint and a lot of elegant wood. Lacquered mahogany furniture. You always get this from old dark Sherry casks. Dried meat, bacon and chocolate, lovely. Extremely spicy, licorice and old shelved books. For the die-hards of old dry Sherry, a stunning nose. Exactly what I like. Menthol in the finish, including its cooling effect in the nose.

Taste: Again heavy Sherry. Fruity and the promise there once was more sweetness to this. Like cold tea, drying with a lot of wood influence. Still its so “firm” the woodiness doesn’t deter me. Whiskies like this should have this elegant wood. It’s a distinguished old gentleman. Coal and steam, not a lot of tar, maybe the smallest of hints of tar. The finish is dry, very dry and the wood shows it’s acidity here, but hey, it’s not bitter. Now it does show its lack of sweetness, or roundness if you like. This usually hides this woody acidity. So yes its fabulous but has it’s flaws. If this would have been perfect this would have been an 1971 Longmorn (Scott’s Selection).

Although Fino’s are quite different from Oloroso Sherries (and PX Sherries), both works very well as a cask to age Whisky in. Both have different characters and both will have a large following. In this case I wish I could have tasted this alongside a 1971 Scott’s Selection Longmorn (the dark ones), that should have been a blast. Not having that, I still wish I had a bottle of this Glenfarclas too.

Points: 92

Glenfarclas 40yo 1965/2006 “Blairfindy” (51.7%, Blackadder Raw Cask, Sherry Cask #1850, 194 bottles)

Well hello Blairfindy! Wait a minute, Blairfindy isn’t a real distillery is it? As far as I know, there isn’t a Blairfindy distillery, and there never was one too. No, Blairfindy turns out to be “another” name for Glenfarclas, used, when the bottlers weren’t allowed to use the real distillery name on their labels. Something like Tactical for Talisker, Leapfrog or Laudable for Laphroaig and so on. Blairfindy, amongst others, was the name of the farm, the Grant family (of Glenfarclas fame) originated from. Although the Glenfarclas name isn’t on the label, it most definitely is a Glenfarclas, and an old one to boot…

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: For me a typical perfumy Fino Sherry nose. Definitively a wine note up front, quickly chased by quite some wood. Toffee and caramel, with a hint of sweat (no typo). It gets more fresh after a while. Hints of car-wax and even later some black fruits. The smell of burning off dry leaves in the garden combined with a small hint of licorice. It all comes across a bit harsh, dry, dusty and powdery, but nice. I hope this doesn’t translate into the palate. Lets see…

Taste: Yes, not very sweet, but luckily not as woody and dry the nose suggested. Earwax and wood. Some drying tannins on the tongue, but hey, it was on a cask for forty years! The wood then becomes spicy. Although some people might consider this too dry, for me the wood isn’t that dominant. It is dry, but it definitely has a charm to it. Elegant stuff. No bitterness whatsoever. The finish is half long, and breaks down a bit into some sourness, toast and tar. The body is strong so it can take this sourness very well, and the light toast and tar add to the character of the Whisky.

Despite everything, this still is an easily drinkable Whisky. Great old Glenfarclas that fetch enormous amounts of money these days. Yes, the market is rapidly changing…

Points: 88

Glenfarclas 15yo 1991/2006 “Breath of Speyside” (60.2%, Adelphi, First Fill Sherry Butt #5642, 615 bottles)

Almost two weeks ago I reviewed a Adelphi Highland Park, and here is the next Adelphi bottling. This time a bastard malt. A bastard malt is a Whisky of which the distillery name can’t be found on the label. Usually some kind of fantasy name pops up like Probably Speysides Finest (Douglas Laing name for Glenfarclas), Director’s Tactical (Douglas Laing name for Talisker) or Laudable (Douglas Laing name for Laphroaig). Well this is called Breath of Speyside and in this case, that is Adelphi’s name for Glenfarclas. Glenfarclas do sell off lots of casks, but never allow the bottler to use the Glenfarclas name.

Glenfarclas 15yo 1991/2006 Breath of Speyside (60.2%, Adelphi, First Fill Sherry Butt #5642, 615 bottles)Color: Orange copper gold.

Nose: Cream and cherries. Quite fresh and fruity. Very lively, and not that deep dark in your face Sherry. Very obviously a first fill sherry. Perfumy, with a nice touch of wood, very elegant. lovely stuff and easier on the nose than A’bunadh, that can be harder or harsher (due to its youth). Toast and pepper come to mind and very spicy. Pot roast, tobacco and furniture polish. Very lovely and interesting nose. Great complexity and perfect balance, between the Whisky and the Sherry.

Taste: Creamy and woody. Nice sweetness that is delivered after the initial woodiness. It’s not overly woody though. Again roasted meat, combined with the dry woodiness and the late sweetness (caramel), makes for a very interesting play on your tongue. Excellent. Definitely elements of wine (Sherry). Also some organics I usually get from some white wines. Thick excellent stuff that works well at this high ABV. This Glenfarclas really intrigues me. Well chosen cask.

Heavily Sherried and high in alcohol, so this is Aberlour A’bunadh territory, the only difference being the age. A’bunadh is a young Whisky, probably around 8 to 10 years old, and this Glenfarclas is 15 years old. This one is milder older and wiser. It’s deeper, more complex and less rough around the edges. The only problem, you can only get this at three times the price of the Aberlour A’bunadh, just to show you how cheap the Aberlour actually is…

Points: 89

Glenfarclas 1994/2005 (46%, OB, for Switzerland, Cask #3979, 402 bottles)

First of all, the picture below is a picture of a similar bottle that was bottled at Cask Strength for Switzerland a year later. The picture is for cask #4726. Glenfarclas is great, it’s family run and most of the make is going into Single Malts, so no room for error, everything must be good. Second, it’s at its best as a Sherried Whisky and even in these times the Grants are able to make a very good Sherried Whisky. The self-proclaimed kings of the Sherried Whisky, namely The Macallan, gave up on this practice. For reasons only the marketing department will know. Good luck to them, Glenfarclas may very well be Speyside’s finest!

Color: Lively orange brown (like a Bourbon)

Nose: Nice creamy Sherry with quite some wood, of which more than half smells like new oak. Cappuccino or Tiramisu. Meaty like gravy. The longer you nose it the dryer it gets. Spicy, lavas and white pepper. Cardboard and ice cream. The wood is pretty raw as opposed to elegant. It’s new untreated wood (maybe some toast). Still I wouldn’t call this overly oaked. A sort of rural Sherried Whisky.

Taste: Initially it’s syrupy sweet that coats your mouth. When that coating is removed from your mouth by the alcohol, just as in the nose, a lot of wood emerges. Dried leaves. Apart from the wood, there is diluted licorice, with added bitterness. For the bold body this has , you could even say that the finish is rather mild. Also the wood makes the finish a bit sour and not of perfect balance. Nice coffee in here too. It does dry your mouth quite a bit, o there definitively is some wood influence. No sulphur.

Actually this is quite good. It’s not complex, but it does have character. It’s a nice young Sherried Whisky. It’s a bit on the edge considering the wood that’s in it, but I still do like it. It’s not over the top.

The best way is to drink it quickly after you pour it, since the mouth coating sweetness hides the wood a bit and makes it less dry and bitter, it gets when you take your time with it. When you are a quick sipper, than the score is even higher than mentioned below 🙂

Points: 86