Glenfarclas is a family owned distillery with an interesting history. If you want to know more about the distillery you may read all about it at Malt Madness. If not, let us proceed to the whisky.
I am fond of the (distinctive) Glenfarclas style which I have previously described as "dirty sherry". By which I mean good, honest, sherry cask, craft presentation whisky: natural colour, not chill filtered. Not dressed in a poncy cask finish, just traditional goodness. Having said that, I have had occasional disappointments from the distillery.
105 is readily available, at least in specialist stores, online and at the usual suspects such as Nick's and Dan Murphy's. In case you haven't sussed it yet, 105 is the UK Proof of the whisky, a very decent 60% ABV; more on Proof in later blogs. Which brings us to age. It seems here there is more than a modicum of confusion. 105 has been presented as a 10 year old for a while. If one has a spare $3.5K one can even purchase a 40YO 105. My last bottle (yes, I go through a few) clearly stated that it was 10 years old. The bottle Hitch is clasping has no age statement and the Glenfarclas website does not claim any particular age. So, while this bottle tastes and smells much like the last, I can not call it anything other than a NAS (no age statement) whisky. Both Nick's and Damn Murphy are selling the 10YO version whereas Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and almost everyone else sell the NAS pretender. I suppose that may explain the price difference; I paid 37 Euro for a litre of this in Germany. It's about $140AUD for the 10YO, 700ML in Australia.
At 60%ABV, I don't drink this whisky at full strength. I suggest you measure the water you add to 105 as getting it right with this whisky is critical. I've heard a figure of 50% water mentioned but for me this is too much; doesn't mean its too much for you so that is where I'll start tasting. Alas, I have but one liver to give so lets limit this appreciation to 50%, 25% and neat.
50% water: Still powerful on the nose. Pipe tobacco. Salted dark chocolate.Christmas pudding. The palate revives memories of old fashioned bread and butter pudding. Sweet caramel custard. Still mouth filling even at this dilution. A decent, spicy finish, despite being curtailed somewhat by the water. So, very drinkable even at a 50% dilution. For what I paid that works out to about 19 Euro a litre; ridiculously good value.
25% water: Now things are happening! The nose conjures pictures of a good sherry cask in a musty old dunnage warehouse.The tobacco is intensified and along comes damp hessian, brine and aged, rich Christmas cake. A hint of cedar. Brazil nuts. The palate, oh, that's it....full, rich, Peruvian dark chocolate, cardamom,faint red chilli, dark brown sugar. The milder custard and caramel notes have gone, replaced by flavours that will appeal more to grown-ups. A long, lingering and surprisingly malty finish. Top stuff!
Neat: The rum tobacco nose takes me back to summer afternoons long ago, chatting with my grandfather while he packed and smoked his pipe. More damp things, field mushrooms and strong Caribbean Rum. On the palate; hot, chewy, dark toffee, white pepper, more than a hint of Cointreau. Finishes with a not unexpected declaration of "I am Sherry!" Fades away as 60% alcohol anesthetises my tastebuds. Surprisingly accessible but, for me, not the experience it was at 25%.
Glenfarclas 105 is somewhat of a chameleon. It does vary from bottle to bottle. My enjoyment of it varies just as much with mood and timing. The mustiness that characterised this bottle was totally absent from the last and yet still it couldn't be mistaken for anything but 105. I had a dram of 105 last year at The Baxter Inn which was quite young and harsh. I'm not entirely comfortable with the suggestions of old dishcloth that surfaced on occasion from this bottle. Yet 105 remains a staple in my whisky collection and one of the most enjoyable from the Glenfarclas stable. Its not complex. It's not very sophisticated. But its honest, straightforward and characterful. And character goes a long way. 85/100
Drinkable at 60%. Reduced proof (about 50%) brings on an increase in must and a very slight soapiness. It is a very delicate whisky and adding the right amount of water can be challenging.
Nose: Big must, like grandma's furniture. Slightly winey with some spice.
Taste: Must continues with some dark chocolate, caramel and woodiness finishing with some big spice notes.
My rating varies with my love hate relationship with this whisky. Today I'll give it a solid 84/100.
If you botch the water it easily drops into the 70's.
Stuart Inger. Bar Manager, White Rabbit , Canberra, Australia.