...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Single Malt Report: Glenfarclas 105 (again) and the Bastard's Share

If you ever do a little sample swapping with me, you'll see that I electrical-tape the crap out of my sample bottles.  Whisky has a habit of finding its way out of a bottle, no matter what it takes.  When you hear about low-neck fill levels on dusty whisk(e)y bottles, that's due to the good stuff escaping through the factory-sealed cap over time (or it's due to fakery but that's a whole other post), and being replaced by oxygen.  As oxygen fills the sad empty spaces in the whisky bottle, oxidation begins.  And the whisky character changes.

The Angel's Share is the evaporation loss occurred during the cask maturation process.  The Devil's Cut is the loss caused by the oak absorbing the liquid.  I'm sure there's an official name for whisky loss via a poor bottle seal, but I'm going to call it the Bastard's Share.  Because, screw that bastard.

Case in point, my Glenfarclas minis upon purchase:

Note the slightly lower neck fill on the 105.  Sadly, I didn't notice it at the time (this past April).  What I also didn't notice is that the cap was a little loose.  Perhaps a little tightening along with some electrical tape would have helped.  But, again, I was much too excited about having these minis to study them more closely.

Zip forward to this weekend:

There was 39mL of whisky left out of the original 50mL.  A 22% loss.

Not only is it a whisky loss, but oxidation has slowly occurred since its bottling in May 2010.

So if you ever wonder why I tape up my sample bottles (and even some of my better big bottles) like crazy, this situation is the answer.  You must suffocate that whisky until it's time to drink it.

Now, way back in October 2011 I posted a single malt report on Glenfarclas 105.  It was only my ninth report and the tasting had actually happened before I'd ever considered posting whisky reviews.  I drank it out of a wide mouth tumbler in a loud bar.  Nonetheless, I loved it.

I bought this mini so that I could experience the 105 in a quiet home setting.  I also bought the mini because.  Because.

So let's give this oxidized 105 a try!

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Ownership: J&G Grant Ltd.
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: 8 to 10 years
Maturation: ex-oloroso (and maybe fino) sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 60%
(Mini bottled in May 2010)

This thick viscous whisky's color is mahogany awash with ruby.  Considering its strength, the 105 has a surprising lack of burn on the nose.  Instead there's a whole box of plump raisins, along with dried apricots, baklava, and orange zest.  After a while there are some candy notes, like Skittles and bubble gum.  The heat arrives on the palate.  The sherry is so enormous it enters an entirely different dimension.  It starts with a brown sugar delivery, followed by rich thick swirls of dark chocolate, cloves, and pipe tobacco.  Some sweet maltiness still holds tight through all of that.  The finish holds a dry sandy sherry, dark chocolate, and pipe tobacco.  The sweetness lingers endlessly.

WITH WATER (approx. 44%ABV) --
Goes cloudy the instant water hits it.  Dry sherry on the nose, along with cherry cordials and molasses.  Maybe some citrus and floral notes.  The palate turns sweet like a liqueur.  Some molasses, sherry, and black pepper in there.  It finishes peppery and sweet.  A touch of citrus along with a floral flourish.

I liked it better neat.  But the question is, how much of the normal characteristics were corrupted by oxidation?  I'm not that bitter since I still enjoyed it.  My rating doesn't change.

A final note on price.  You should buy this via a UK retailer.  See below.

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - $80-$90 (US retailers) or $50-$65 (UK retailers, no VAT, before shipping)
Rating - 90


  1. Never mix this with Coke. When John Hansell asked for whisky horror stories, someone chimed in with a story of a friend making a Glenfarclas 105 & Coke. But, the person who submitted the story did admit the "cocktail" wasn't too bad.

    1. Glah. That sounds really sugary. Maybe he or she saw friends making Bacardi 151 & Cokes and that was the inspiration.

    2. Forgot to mention the important part of that story. When the poster saw his friend with the whisky & Coke in hand, he asked where he found the whisky. When his friend said that he used the bottle on the kitchen counter, the poster realized the only bottle he left on the counter was the Glenfarclas 105. I'm sure everyone reading that story did a Capt. Picard Face-palm that day. So the moral of the story is "Never leave a bottle of good whisky out in the open especially when you're having a party."

    3. Agreed. One must always have a Rodeo Clown bottle out to distract.

  2. Just wondering when you're going to review Aberlour A'bunadh. It's the one cask strength sherry bomb I like to keep on hand.

    1. I would like to a review on the A'bunadh. I have a sample from one batch, would like to compare it to a sample from another batch. Maybe later this year?

      On a related note, Trader Joe's used to sell an official bottling of Aberlour. I'm not sure which age - 10 or 12 - or version it was. But it was hideous. Bitter, sour, and otherwise boring. It has scarred me and my opinion of Aberlour, though I'm looking forward to getting over it.

  3. If you're searching for indie Glenfarclas, look for bottles named Blairfindy which might be one of the funnier alias used by a distillery.

  4. If you plan on buying a full bottle of any Glenfarclas, be very careful with the cork. Glenfarclas makes great whisky but their cork supplier is (pardon my French) shit. While it's still sealing sealing my bottle of 105, the cork is really crumbly and bits are getting into the whisky. The Grants have heard the complaints because they are finally changing suppliers.

    1. If you haven't yet, I recommend keeping a supply of spare corks from emptied bottles. For some reason, I never thought of doing that until this year. I'm glad the Grants are addressing the cork issue. Ardbeg used to have a problem with their corks. I think you might have mentioned that (relatedly) Glenmorangie once had issues too. Or maybe that was Ralfy? Anyway, different corks have slightly different gauges thus you may need a few on hand. I've seen someone with 50+ corks, but that could be getting a bit zany. I think I have a dozen.

    2. I did have an issue with a Glenmorangie 10 cork that was not sealing properly but that was definitely a fluke since two later bottles of the Original I purchased had great corks. For some reason LVMH uses wood tops for their higher end Glenmorangies while the Original and Extra Matured bottles have plastic tops even though the bottles are the same shape (in which case hold on to those wooden tops since they look fancier with the cork).

      On Glenfarclas, it looks like many small thin corks will fit fine. Of course if you're collecting those Highland Park or Aberlour fat corks, you may have problems getting a fit....

    3. I've been surprised by the subtle differences in cork gauges. There seem to be many of them out there. I'll test out my thin corks on the next Glenfarclas I open, thanks!

  5. On a recent shopping trip, I noticed Beltramo's had a number of new Exclusive Malts that included a mystery Speyside that had been matured entirely in an ex-madeira cask. A quick Google check revealed that this was a Glenfarclas with the serial numbers filed off (as are ALL indie Glenfarclas). Sadly I had no self control and bought a bottle even though the whisky was only ten years old and expensive. It is now the strangest Glenfarclas I have ever tasted on account of it tasting NOTHING like Glenfarclas. The ex-madeira cask certainly turned it into a very tasty wine-sky (I quite like it) but I can see why the Grants probably wanted to get rid of it.

    1. I've already gotten myself in trouble from commenting extensively on the Exclusive Casks/Malts, so I'll just say, I'm glad you like that "Speyside"! Madeira does take to whisky better than most wines, to my palate.

    2. Ex-madeira maturation/cask finishing really does weird things to single malts but it's always a good weird.