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The Glenfarclas Family Casks

by Gavin D Smith

In an unprecedented move, reported last month by whisky-pages, the family-owned Glenfarclas distillery on Speyside has simultaneously released no fewer than 43 consecutive single cask bottlings, dating from 1952 to 1994.

Glenfarclas distillery has more than 52,000 casks currently maturing in its traditional dunnage warehouses, and is in the highly enviable position of possessing casked stock for every year from 1952 to the current day.

As company chairman John Grant notes, “By tasting a selection of whiskies from The Family Casks, one is able to explore not only the differences between the casks, but the distillery, and my family's history.”

The Family Casks range comprises a collection of the distillery's best single casks, offered at cask strength, which varies from 46.0% for Cask 4913 from 1961 to 65.1% for Cask 1316 from 1968. Interestingly, Glenfarclas was the first Scottish distillery to market a cask strength whisky, introducing Glenfarclas '105' at 60% in 1968.

Family Cask expressions are also presented at natural colour in clear flint bottles, packaged in oak gift boxes. Accompanying each bottle is a booklet with a history of the distillery, written by John Grant, and tasting notes prepared by his son, George Grant, Glenfarclas' brand ambassador. Prices for The Family Casks vary from £80 for the 1994 to £1,145 for the 1952 at the distillery's visitor centre.

Not even whisky-pages' dedicated sampler had the fortitude to drink all 43 expressions of Glenfarclas, and so we have selected six examples from this superb and varied line up for evaluation, chosen to give a range of ages, prices and cask types.
Glenfarclas, Family Cask 1952 (Scotland)
Cask 1712, 110 bottles, plain hogshead. The oldest of the Family Casks, this 1952 offering is surprisingly fresh and floral on the nose for its age. Time teases out more vanilla notes and a hint of smoke. The palate is quite citric, with boiled fruit sweets and more smoke from the malting floor. The finish dries quite rapidly to smoky oakiness. 56.5% ABV, 70cl, £1,175, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glenfarclas, Family Cask 1961 (Scotland)
Cask 4913, 159 bottles, Sherry hogshead. Rich, old Sherry on the nose, with lots of sweet fruit, liquorice and cloves. The palate is initially quite dry, with big Sherry notes, raisins, oak and then insistent toffee. The finish is long and toffee-sweet. 46.0% ABV, 70cl, £389.00, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glenfarclas, Family Cask 1968 (Scotland)
Cask 1316, 483 bottles, Sherry butt. Almost certainly the strongest 39-year-old whisky on the market, this Sherry butt must have remained remarkably tight over its near four decades of maturation! The nose is rich, delicious and complex, with honey, cinnamon, sultanas and orange marmalade, not to mention some smoke. Rich on the palate, with medium-dry Sherry, fruit and toffee, plus a hint of oak. The finish is long and robust, yet refined, with toffee, spicy oak, and a suggestion of smoke. A glorious whisky! 65.1% ABV, 70cl, £299.00, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glenfarclas, Family Cask 1979 (Scotland)
Cask 146, 225 bottles, plain hogshead. Not too much Glenfarclas has been filled into plain hogsheads over the years, and this expression is decidedly yellow in colour, lacking that characteristic Glenfarclas Sherry nose. Very delicate, with vanilla fudge and light spice aromas. Sweet and creamy on the palate, with toffee predominating. Long-lasting toffee and some floral notes make up the finish. 52.8% ABV, 70cl, £196.00, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glenfarclas, Family Cask 1986 (Scotland)
Cask 3434, 521 bottles, refill Sherry puncheon. Refill puncheons are rare beasts in any Scotch whisky warehouse, and this Glenfarclas example delivers a nose which is initially quite reticent. Gentle malt and Sherry develop with exposure to air, along with tobacco and worn leather notes. Again, the palate is quite reserved to begin with, though Sherry, mixed peel and sweet, lively spices develop in time. The finish is medium and quite sweet, with Sherry progressively developing. 56.5% ABV, 70cl, £159.00, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.
Glenfarclas, Family Cask 1994 (Scotland)
Cask 2935, 628 bottles, Sherry butt. Buttery spices, sweet Sherry and vanilla on the nose. Drying with exposure to air. The palate is big and rich, boasting spicy Sherry, stewed fruits and a herbal note. The finish is long and Sherried, fading to caramel. The youngest expression in the Family Cask line up, and a lovely example. This stands up very well in the company of so many of its elders! 59.6% ABV, 70cl, £80.00, distillery website, specialist whisky merchants.


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