The historic Glenfarclas Distillery in Ballindalloch is literally one of the most traditional distilleries in Scotland. It was officially licensed in 1836, and has been ran by the Grant family since 1865, making it one of few remaining independently owned Scottish single malt distilleries. While it’s six pot stills make it no small operation (the stills are in fact some of the very largest in Scotland at over 25,000 liter capacity), outside of a few minor modern upgrades things are largely done the same way they would have been done in previous centuries. Glenfarclas pretty much exclusively matures its whisky in traditional sherry casks (which was the norm throughout Scotland before American bourbon casks became widely available and much cheaper), and matures all of its casks onsite in traditional dunnage style warehouses. Most notably, they are the only remaining distillery in Scotland to heat all of their stills with direct gas-powered fire rather than with safer and more efficient modern steam coils (Springbank still direct-fires it’s wash still, but not it’s two spirit stills).
Add it all up and the resulting whisky is Speysider with a very retro feel that, if place side by side with a dram of, say, Aberlour or Macallan which are adjusted to fit more modern consumer taste preferences, will stick out quite a bit. Glenfarclas has dozens of bottlings from 10 years old up to 40 years old, along with several vintage “Family Cask” bottlings. The “105” is a cask strength non-age-stated offering that is relatively widespread and allows malt fans to taste Glenfarclas at undiluted cask strength without breaking the bank. (Note that 105 is 60% ABV by the imperial proof system, which no American including me really understands).
To bring you tasting notes and opinions on this hefty single malt, we’ve enlisted two reviewers instead of one – Robert, who has his hand, er, palate in whiskies from all over the world, and Bobby, who drinks more bourbon than the rest of us combined. Two very different palates, one whisky. Let’s see how they compare!
Notes on Glenfarclas 105:
- Distilled, matured, and bottled at the Glenfarclas Distillery
- Cask type: ex-sherry (Oloroso or Fino)
- Age: no age statement
- ABV: 60%
- Chill filtered? No. Color added? No.
Nose (Robert): This is definitely grain forward with an aroma of raw bread dough. After a little time in the glass, ripe apricots follow along with red grapes as well as some plums. Hints of milk chocolate sit along the edges.
Nose (Bobby): Notes of sweets, fruits, and cereal grains. Salted caramel and a pinch of butterscotch with pear or green apple and sweet and sour berries. Subtle woodsy molasses accented by a soft honey note round it out.
Palate (Robert): Rich and oily feel. Loads of milk chocolate and apricot, a little plum in the background. There is an underlying smoke note interwoven through everything that really ties it together.
Palate (Bobby): Slightly salty malted sweet cereal with a bit of mocha show first before a faint chocolate powder and molasses take over with more sweet and sour fruits. There is a hard to describe slightly honeyed earthiness similar to charred wood and kindling in the background.
Finish (Robert): Immediately some bitter oak comes to the fore. The milk chocolate makes an appearance, gets burnt out by some warmth followed quickly by a subtle smokiness. Fairly short which is a little disappointing.
Finish (Bobby): Full flavored with a body of sweetness that blends with the spice of the proof, honey and tart crisp apple combine with coffee bean before turning to a woodsy dash of smoke and briny caramel/butterscotch.
Buying Recommendation (Robert): Buy it now! This was my first bottle of anything Glenfarclas, and certainly won’t be my last. I am always a little hesitant to buy new sherried scotches, but Glenfarclas is continuously recommended by people. I am not against the sherry influence, but it is too easy to have that influence overpower the character of the underlying malt. This typically happens in younger and cheaper offerings regardless of the brand, however that does not happen here. Given that this is a hefty 120 proof pour, it also has a fairly reasonable price. There are not many high proof single malts that you can get in this price range, so grab one if you get the chance.
Buying Recommendation (Bobby): Worth buying a pour. The notes in here are so sweet and spicy that it reminds me of a salty bourbon. The liquid is strong and pleasant with notes of sour, sweet, earthy and creamy playing together in an interesting way that never gets dull. There is an underlying earthy, near vegetal, note that balances out the sweetness in a pleasant way. The consistency of the liquid on your palate is bold yet not as oily as many older scotches I’ve had. The spice of the high proof and the balance of the sweetness mingle with a full yet crisp profile I believe most whiskey drinkers would enjoy. This is a whiskey worth trying but at today’s prices I would suggest making sure you like it before splurging.
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: Truly Exceptional
All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.