After the Laphroaigs, we go to the other side of the spectrum: the rich sherried Glenfarclas(es).
Glenfarclas is one my favorite whisky producers. Owned by the Grant family since 1865, they specialize in ex-sherry European oak-matured whiskys and have a wide spectrum of releases: 10, 12, 15, 17, 21, 25, 30, 40, 50, three high-strength 105 bottlings, and their vast single Family Casks. Their regular range is well-priced in the UK compared to other companies' sherry bombs. They have a large capacity that turns out best-selling product, yet have never sold their shop to a multinational corporation.
Some quick official history:
Robert Hay officially opened the distillery in 1836. Upon Hay's death, father and son, John and George Grant, bought the distillery in 1865 and began renting it out to John Smith (of Glenlivet fame). When Smith left to open up Cragganmore in 1870, John and George founded J&G Grant Ltd. and began to run Glenfarclas on their own.
Here's the family ownership tree since then:
John → (son) George → (sons) John & George → (sons) George Scott & John Peter → (son) John L S → (son) George S.
Though I'm not the biggest fan of first-fill sherry-oak whisky, I do adore Glenfarclas 105 And when I've sampled a couple other 'farclases, I found the oak, wine, and malt very well integrated. It was never like sipping a glass of 86 proof sherry; there was whisky in there. Whenever Macallan decides to gut their 12yr in the States, I'd like to have a sherried replacement. I've tried Glendronach, now let us go 'Farclas.
Ownership: J&G Grant Ltd.
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: at least 15 years
Maturation: ex-oloroso (and maybe fino) sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(Mini bottled in July 2010)
The color is dark amber. The nose starts with sour fruit (apple?), stewed raisins, and rum raisin ice cream. There's some balsamic vinegar in there too, along with carob and brandied cherries. The palate is very fudgy. The sherry is present but not overwhelming. Prunes, cherry liqueur, a touch of salt, and whipped cream show up promptly. The medium-length finish carries mellow sherry. There's some salt, a little bit of chalk, brief bitterness, but also a fresh floral fragrance.
Water dries the nose right out, so it's mostly cardboard and sherry. Some oranges follow, old sweat, and a slight metallic moment. The palate is also mostly sherry with the malt stripped back. A little fudge remains, along with caramel sauce. The finish is mild with that metallic note, but mostly sherry again.
SIPPED ALONG WITH A SPOONFUL OF NUTELLA:
Do this. For your own sake.
Without Nutella, water seems to squelch most of the malt, so I recommend drinking this one neat. Especially alongside Nutella.
Of course, I'm a total a**hole because the fifteen year isn't sold in the US. But it is priced right if you're ever doing a UK order. If you like sherried whisky, I'd recommend giving any Glenfarclas a try. If you're on the fence about first-fill sherry casks, 'Farclas does a good job letting their malt live in the whisky, so perhaps you can give one a sip...
Availability - UK liquor specialists
Pricing - $55-$65 before shipping
Rating - 85