Bought: The Whisky Shop, 28th January 2016
95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
84.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
8.5/10 – Whisky Wednesday (their video review below)
In September 2014 I started a list of possible birthday presents for my brother when he turns 50 in 2018. There were 3 bottles of whisky on the list distilled in 1968, the year he was born. All 3 were similarly priced at £180. I looked at the list 18 months later and, to my surprise, one of the bottles was still available on its original shop page. The price? £430, an increase of £250, such is the crazy nature of the whisky market.
I thought of this story because of Glenfarclas and their ‘Family Cask’ range, which seems designed to answer the demand for older vintages, often caused by birthdays such as my brother’s. I sometimes see on whisky forums and Facebook pages that dram drinkers have treated themselves to a bottle from the year of their birth. The only Glenfarclas ‘Family Cask’ I can find from 1968 is selling for £2,190! Blimey! And I thought £430 was bad enough! Is it greed or market forces? If I’d increased my business prices by nearly 150% in the last 18 months I’d have lost all my clients but the whisky industry keeps on booming (for now). But, as a Scot, can I really complain about a Scottish industry coining in a fortune during the good times? I’m actually quite proud, and my brother is reduced to getting socks for his birthday.
Thankfully you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good example of Glenfarclas. This bottle distilled in 1994 and bottled in 2014 (19/20yo) scores an amazing 95.5/100 in the Whisky Bible 2016 and cost less than £80. The Glenfarclas Family Cask 1969 scores 8 points less but costs more than £800! The author, Jim Murray, describes the taste of the 1994 as “a delivery to die for….the cleanest, juiciest grape on the vine, at times eye-wateringly juicy and proud enough to absorb the continuing waves of toasty oak; a few sharper sauternes and marmalade notes mingle before the oils begin to form”. He summaries with “not far off God’s gift to present day sherried malt whisky.” 95.5/100 classifies this malt as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”.
Here’s Whisky Wednesday on You Tube with their review (December 2016):
Bought: Amazon, 22nd January 2015
83/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
85.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 224 member votes)
Although 83/100 in the Whisky Bible might not sound amazing it still classifies this mature single malt as “good whisky worth trying”. The author’s review reads “a chorus of sweet, honied malt and mildly spiced, teasing fruit on the fabulous mouth arrival and the middle compensates for the few blips.”
85.5/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark. A few reviewers express disappointment at a lack of depth, which they were expecting from 21 years of maturation, but others found it opened out nicely and had a good level of complexity. It sounds like the sort of whisky that needs a bit of getting used to in terms of adding water and giving it time to breath.
My boxed bottle came with the book “101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die” which, not surprisingly, includes the Glenfarclas 21-year-old. For £55, including the book and free delivery from Amazon (another ‘Daily Deal’) it was a bargain. Even at its normal price of £70, it’s hard to find another 21yo single malt at such good value.
Bought – Marks & Spencer, 22nd August 2014
84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
87/100 – Ralfy, of http://www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Glenfarclas 2003 – YouTube (December 2013)
This Glenfarclas 2003 is 43% and not to be confused with the 46% version being sold exclusively at ‘The Whisky Shop’. Initially I thought it was the same but it seems that Glenfarclas provide Marks & Spencer with a different, less alcoholic version. They probably don’t want their customers swaying uncontrollably down the High Street. Nevertheless, Ralfy in his video review says this 43% behaves more like 46%. So much for watering it down! The Whisky Bible provides a review for ‘The Whisky Shop’ version, giving it 83/100 but no mention of the M&S bottle. Thankfully other reviews are available online and 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. My bottle cost £35 from M&S but the version at ‘The Whisky Shop’ costs …. brace yourself … £62.99! Don’t all faint at once.
When Ralfy first opened his bottle he says it tasted “raw, aggressive and unsettled”. He then poured out some of the whisky into a sample bottle to give the remaining whisky a change to breath, which apparently resulted in a big improvement. All in all he is very impressed with this Glenfarclas. Always good to hear having spent money on it!
One thing Ralfy mentions, and I’ve noticed about Glenfarclas, is their value for money when it comes to older bottlings. For example, today’s prices for a 21-year-old bottle from the following distilleries would cost:
- £118 – Highland Park
- £108 – Glenfiddich
- £93 – Glenlivet
- £85.50 – Old Pulteney
- £70 – Glenfarclas
These are the best prices I found using Whiskymarketplace, with the Glenfarclas 21-year-old available for £70 from ‘The Whisky Shop Dufftown’. At the same time ‘The Whisky Shop’ is selling the 21yo bottle for £115. £45 more! It goes to show that it pays to shop around.
Bought – Waitrose, 22nd May, 2014
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
80/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviews)
Although Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) hasn’t reviewed the 12yo, it was a comment on his video review of the 10yo that caught my eye. Another whisky drinker had bought the 12yo about 6 months ago and said “an absolute shocker in my opinion, smells of bland nothingness, golden syrupy taste enhanced by a whole load of sulphur.” Interesting. Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible for the last 10 years, is the king of spotting sulphur. If there’s even the slightest hint of it he’d be frothing at the mouth in disgust. But he gives the 12yo an amazing mark of 94/100 and lavishes the whisky with praise. No mention of sulphur. I don’t always agree with Mr Murray but in this case I think the Ralfy commenter must have had a bad bottle.
The Whisky Bible review sums this malt up with “a superb rework of an always trustworthy malt.” And “what a sensational success!” In 2009 the Whisky Bible rated this whisky 89/100 so it has changed in recent years.
The Malt Maniacs rating of 80/100 is so-so. Interestingly I had to go back to the 1979 release of this 12yo to find a lower rating than 80/100, so it seems that not everyone is in agreement that this latest Glenfarclas 12yo is the best ever. Well that’s ratings for you! Even if you find one person agreeing with you about one whisky, chances are they wont when you both try another. But it does seem that, unless you get a rare bad bottle, this 12yo is a decent dram and considered a good example of a Speysider.
Here’s Scotch Test Dummies with their thoughts on You Tube (May 2016):
Bought – Whisky Galore, 1st August 2013
95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
84.78 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes – 35cl bottle)
93/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)
95.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the 105 as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. The author Jim Murray says about the taste “as the magnificent barley-grape mix is propelled with the force of dynamite into the taste buds; survivors of this experience still able to speak may mention something about cocoa notes forming.” He summaries with “a classic malt that has upped a gear or two and has become exactly what it is: a whisky of pure brilliance.”
On Whiskybase my 35cl bottle of the 105 scores 84.78/100 but the standard 70cl scores 84.06/100 from 881 member votes. It’s a very good score but a couple of points below a typical mark for the Aberlour A’bunadh, arguably the 105’s biggest rival. Indeed several reviewers on Whiskybase say the 105 falls short of its cask strength counterpart from Aberlour. Nevertheless the Glenfarclas 105 has many fans. Comments on Whiskybase include “the high ABV really gives a huge flavour delivery with a lot of really intense sherry notes. Fantastic stuff”, “a full flavoured and powerful whisky that is not overly complex but still offers you pleasant and challenging flavours” and “beginners to whisky should all try this whisky, hard to beat on value or quality.”
Here’s the Whisky Bitch on YouTube with her review of the 105 (January 2013):