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Sunday, 18 September 2016

Glenfarclas 30 Year Old Whisky Review!

A seriously old and now very expensive sherried whisky which recently had a massive price increase in Australia. It's way outside of my price range these days, but I was lucky enough to receive a sample from a generous mate who picked up a bottle for an absolute steal (and prior to the increase).

Actually, I should clarify that even after the recent price increase, this is still not unreasonably priced for a 30-year old single malt when compared to similarly-aged official bottlings from the competition. Both of the Glenfarclas whiskies I've previously reviewed, the '105' and the Whisky & Wisdom single cask bottling, were quite young and were bottled at cask strength. So this one is basically the polar opposite, at 30 years of age and 43% ABV.

Glenfarclas is now somewhat of an enigma for me. I really enjoyed the previously mentioned Whisky & Wisdom bottling, in fact it really redeemed the distillery for me, but that was an exclusive single cask personally selected by Whisky & Wisdom, so it can't really be used as a reference point for the distillery's normal offerings, and we'll leave it out of today's proceedings. And thus far, the other official bottlings that I've tried have disappointed me. I like the distillery on paper, I like that they're still family owned, that all of their stills are direct-fired, that they mature in traditional dunnage warehouses, and that they don't add any colouring. But the whiskies I've tried so far just haven't lived up to my personal expectations, particularly when compared to competing sherried whiskies from other distilleries. So far, anyway!

We know Glenfarclas mature their regular official bottlings in sherry casks, either ex-Oloroso or ex-Fino sherry, and either in 500-litre sherry butts or 250-litre hogsheads. But the 'core' bottlings very rarely tell you which type of cask was used, or whether they were first-fill or refill casks. But being a 30-year old whisky it's highly unlikely that any first-fill casks were involved, as they would likely have overwhelmed the spirit completely over those three decades of maturation. As mentioned above Glenfarclas don't add any artificial colouring to their whiskies, but unfortunately I can't find any mention of chill filtration, so we'll have to assume it has been chill filtered given the bottling strength. Regardless, this is one of the oldest whiskies I've had the privilege of tasting, which is pretty special. So let's get to it!
Glenfarclas 30-year old, 43%. Speyside, Scotland.
Matured in sherry casks, either ex-Oloroso or ex-Fino sherry. Chill filtered, natural colour. 

Colour: Bronze

Nose: Soft and quite complex. Strong furniture polish, nutty oak, stewed stone fruit & musty berries. Sweetened strawberry sauce, some resin. Some beef stock and fresh mushrooms. All good so far!

Texture: Light & quite clean. Definitely chill filtered, in my opinion, and it suffers for it.  

Taste: Hmm. More beef stock & mushroom, light caramel. Slightly bitter oak & tannins. Some raw spirit with a little prune juice, and something resembling struck matches. Thinking this is probably sulphur, I'm not normally sensitive to it at all but I'm finding it quite prominent here. 

Finish: Short-medium length. Big handful of pepper, and something vegetal. Root vegetables that have started to go bad. More struck matches, and some spirit-y heat, which is surprising for the age and strength. 

Score: 2.5 out of 5.

Notes: A bit of a disappointment really. I really enjoyed the nose, it had great promise, but it was let down by the palate and finish. There were some notes in there which I found very off-putting, which didn't appear on the nose but were quite strong on the palate. Naturally there will be batch variation with these older bottlings, and I don't have a batch code for this sample, but there's no way this one is worth the current asking prices. Which by the way are a massive $750 AUD at the time of writing. Ouch,  

Luckily the mate who generously provided this sample didn't have to pay anywhere near that, or I suspect he would've been seriously disappointed. But to be honest even at the discounted price I'm not sure it's worth it. For something so old and so expensive it just hasn't lived up to its end of the deal, and it's another mark in the negatives for Glenfarclas from me. But like I said, there will be batch variation, and I have seen some favourable reviews of this one, so there's still hope.