As we slowly trundled north along the A9 towards the Spirit of Speyside Festival, meandering through the Glens and limited to 60mph, the conversation turned towards this year’s festival bottles and in particular the 2007 Glenfarclas.
Normally this family owned and family run distillery delivers the goods each year with its limited offering to those who visit the distillery for the festival. Bottled at 59.4% volume with an edition of 369 bottles, this sherry butt has been split with an exclusive release headed for the Taiwan market. So far so good on paper, but then the most debated aspect of this release is the price of £115. It’s an interesting scenario as last year the 26-year-old 1989 Glenfarclas represented fantastic value and a drinking experience. A tall order to follow for anyone and given the times we live in with the investment and flipping approaches that smother releases nowadays, the pricing makes sense. In my opinion the flaw here is the butt split, so whilst the price has increased and the age reduced, the quantity has contracted thereby increasing the demand.
With Glenfarclas it’s the quality that’s key and whilst we demand age statements generally, we shouldn’t then cry foul if such a piece of information is not to our liking. This didn’t stop the initial allocations selling out with Thursday’s batch of 50 bottles gone within the hour. How do you ensure that demand is satisfied? You can never win in today’s bottle climate especially when you are handling what is essentially a single cask release. Fair play to Glenfarclas, as they stuck to the daily quota despite I’m sure receiving various enquiries and phone calls trying to prize bottles from their hands thereafter.
Standing in the queue on Friday morning it was predominately locals who were taking the opportunity to pick up their bottle of Glenfarclas; often with their partner dragged along for the day. We arrived around 0920 and spent the queue time chatting to those around us including a local lass with her 2 young children. By the time the doors opened at 10am, the bottle would have been sold out to those who had patiently waited. I'd also suspect that those towards the rear would have to try another day.
The key aspect here at Whisky Rover is that it all comes down to the whisky my friends. I show no favouritism and having purchased a bottle appreciate the outlay, cost and expectation.
Colour: cinder toffee
Nose: straight out of the glass it’s a fine chocolate ginger with that lovely interplay. This moves into the sugary childhood memories of cola cubes and maple syrup. The consistency of an sticky resin is apparent oozing across the senses, whilst the earthiness and depth of liquorice are noticeable. Freshly struck wood chips and the essence of beef stock drift by, taking us into honey and treacle. With water the sharp sweetness of raspberry jam reveals itself.
Taste: initially charcoal with beeswax followed by honey with a hint of rubber. Spicing lingers with cardamom and Szechuan pepper before ginger, walnuts and liquorice step forth. Dark chocolate and black Scottish breakfast tea.
Overall: it’s more forceful, robust and direct that the 2016 bottling. There’s a noticeable confidence particularly when you give this dram more time in the glass to open up. There's no mistaking the Glenfarclas DNA and this will delight those in-tune with sherry themed drams. I’m on the fence regarding this whisky. Last year’s offered more depth and complexity, whilst here for the price some may feel a little short changed. It’s down to personal opinion and I’ve enjoyed what I have tasted yet given the choice the Glenfiddich bottling this year has the edge (review incoming shortly).