The Back Bar

In the first of a four-part series, the team at the fabled Rummer Hotel in Bristol will be reviewing a selection of whiskys from The Whisky Exchange. This issue, Chelsie Bailey leads Dan Vidowsky and Borbala Csorvasi in a tasting of the historic Glenfarclas 15 and 20 year old.

“I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis”. Bogie was only 57 when he died. When he was sick, he was frequently visited by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy who heard him speak the immortal words the night before his death. Obviously smoking killed him, not the sauce. Livers were issued during the 1900s, made only from carbon fibre, so there was little to no change of falling from a taxi, spread eagle on the pavement.

The Glenfarclas distillery was granted a license some 63 years before Humphrey Bogart was born. Presumably before that they were making moonshine in the forests around Ballindalloch.

The distilleries original owner was Robert Hay, who sold the operation to John Grant in 1865. Today, it is still run by his descendants. Far be it from me to open up the discussion into heritage branding and change of ownership.

There are 50,000 casks maturing on site in the traditional dunnage warehouses, with stock from ‘52 to present day.

Are you thirsty now? Are you making excuses to leave the house for thirty minutes to see if they serve it in your local? Well, they don’t. Glenfarclas is a special drop. No doubt you can find it in certain highbrow establishments, but certainly not in the local battle cruiser.

This issue we are taking both the 15 year old and the 20 year old ‘105’ out for a walk.

Glenfarclas 15 year old, 70cl, 46% – £41.25

The 15-year-old already ranks as Chelsie’s favourite Speyside, and Glenfarclas is Dan’s favourite distillery, so this was always going to rank highly. The tasting notes are sherry, oak, cherry, stone fruits, raisins, dry dark fruits and apricots. This is not the first time the 15-year-old has been likened to a Christmas fruit cake. We are briefly tempted to see if the kitchen had any, but feel we might be straying wildly off topic. No one came for cake-tasting.

The nose is clearly full bodied and warm, well-balanced and full of punchy vapours – honey, sherry, orange.

The majority feel this to be an armchair whisky enjoyed and savoured. Dan is convinced he could mix it convincingly into a cocktail, whilst everyone thinks that’s unfair for such a fine dram. One thing is for sure: if anyone can do it and stay true to the Whiskys heritage, it is the team at the Rummer.

Color: Golden sherry

Nose: Thick and warming, perfectly balanced; candied cherries, nutty, heather honey, sherry and warming vanilla

Taste: Full and creamy texture; orange, raisin, sherry, vanilla and spice

Glenfarclas 20 year old, 70cl, 60% – £181

The first comments are wood, leather and attic. Clearly this is a whisky forged for Tom Ford then. The 105 is obviously aged five years longer and so the colour is darker and the sherry notes are more prevalent towards the end rather than on the initial attack. It is a smoky blend hitting the mid-pallet and is a full punch sweeter than the 15. The first actual tasting notes are owl impressions, as the 105 hits the gullet. This is indeed a 60% and so delivers a mighty clout.

Spice, pepper, smoke, wood, leather, a variety of construction items and salad adornments are chosen as fitting notes. The choice is then taken to add water to the 105 to release some of the more subtle layers: raisins, dark fruit, coconut. The consensus is that adding a drop of water is a help, not hindrance. Moving on, we get toffee, and hints of chocolate add a nice layer to the whisky. Rounding out the flavour is a firm oakiness carrying a dollop of floral peat.

Once again, this is a slow sipping whisky, and a complex one at that. Really take the time to appreciate it.

Color: Coppery amber

Nose: Complex and inviting; toffee, spice, smoke

Taste: Biting dark fruit, oakiness, construction equipment

Both Whiskys are available from The Whisky Exchange:


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