February 2011

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards “Scotch Whisky Single Malt of the Year”: Glenfarclas 40 year old

"Now in its 175th year of whisky-making, Glenfarclas is one of the few distilleries that IS still family owned and operated. Family ownership has its advantages. They can do as they please, without having a corporate board to answer to. To our benefit, this means they can put out as many different expressions as they want, And indeed they have. From the Glenfarclas 10 year old, through to their newest (and oldest) 40 year old, there’s sure to be a whisky to satisfy your palate and budget.

However, one of the disadvantages of being family owned is that there usually isn’t a massive marketing budget to make the whisky known to all the people who might enjoy it. In many respects, the Grant family (who owns the distillery) relies on the whisky itself to do the talking. (When you ask a relatively new whisky enthusiast what brand they like, they usually mention one of the more famous whisky brands with a similar flavor profile. Ask them, “But have you tried Glenfarclas?” We don’t recall anyone ever being disappointed.)

In addition to the lack of massive marketing spending, the Grant family also eschews fancy packaging, once again letting the whisky itself do the talking. The minimal spending in marketing and packaging means that the savings can be passed down to you, the consumer.

This brings us to our award winner, Glenfarclas 40 year old. In an era where 30 year old whiskies with fancy packaging are going for $1,000 and higher, a 40 year old whisky for $460 seems like a steal! (But don’t tell the Grant family we said so. We’ll let this be our little secret.) It makes an “ultra-luxury” whisky affordable to a much larger audience. That’s what whisky was meant for: drinking, not collecting!

Of course, none of this would matter if it didn’t taste good. Indeed, it tastes very good. It’s complex and well-rounded, with great depth and no excessive oak. Lush, candied citrus (especially orange), old pot still rum, maple syrup, fig, roasted nuts, and polished leather, with hints of mocha, candied ginger, and tobacco. A bit oily in texture (which we find soothing) with good tannic grip on the finish. A classic, well-matured Glenfarclas."
John Hansell - Malt Advocate Magazine Publisher and Editor