Glenfarclas 10yo

A bottle of Glenfarclas

A bottle of Glenfarclas

Intro

The Easter weekend has totally ruined my update schedule, so I am going to be posting this review and then another one tomorrow morning to try and catch up in time for my usual Friday. I am sorry if anyone checks the site and missed them.

This was a bottle that InsanityCrap brought to club a few months ago. Though I have seen Glenfarclas around a lot over the years it occurred to me at the time that I had actually never tasted any. Had to fix that.

A small bit of history

I was unable to find any definitive history of the Glenfarclas site (Rechlerich Farm, on the Ballindalloch Estate) predating the legal establishment of the distillery in 1836 but every source I have found has agreed that drink making was being done there long beforehand under the leadership of a local family farmer called Robert Hay.

His own personal story has been lost to the ages unfortunately as the company and brand really begins (at least as far as the sources I could find are concerned) when Robert moved off the site in 1865 and it was leased as prime farming land to a highly successful Aberdeen Angus farmer called John Grant. The distillery was sold as a little extra for £511.

Though the farm was perfectly placed in regard to the many other family businesses in the region, John and his sons had little interest in making the water of life. Rather than taking a dabble in it themselves at this point they leased their building to a respectable distiller called John Smith (of Glenlivet acclaim) for the foreseeable future.

This set up did not last long however. John Smith had set up the infrastructure for the most part when he jumped into business with his father George and formed George & J.G. Smith, Ltd in 1869. He left soon after to concentrate on building and running the Cragganmore distillery the other side of Ballindalloch.

Luckily John Grant’s son George (it is like all other names were outlawed for a time) was rather business savvy and was able to help take on the running of the businesses including the distillery on the site. John ensured the future of the family business by teaching George everything before his death in 1889. Or so he thought…

Less than a year after John had died he was joined in the ground by George leaving the business in a state of disarray and chaos. When the dust settled George’s sons John and George (I am not kidding) were in charge of the (then shrinking) farm business and the (greatly picking up) whisky business.

When the relatively well known wholesalers Pattison, Elder and Co approached the brothers in 1895 to create a new business partnership, John and George were no doubt in awe of their success and jumped at the opportunity. They had however been wooed by suits and sharp words.

In 1898 the Pattison’s business collapsed and took a fair number of small distilleries with it. It took 15 years of tough decisions, hard work and no doubt a sizable chunk of the family fortune just to keep this particular distillery afloat.

By 1914 the J. & G. Grant company had been formed as a totally independent entity and the brothers vowed to never trust or rely on outside investors again. Though most whisky businesses went through the worst during the wars, the worst for J & G was definitely over. By the time the lease on the land was up in 1930 the company was able to purchase the site outright.

After a short time, a new name from the Grant family began to take the reigns. Indeed in 1950 it was a time for George Grant (son of the last George Grant, son of George Grant, son of John Grant). He managed to ferry the company through the second world war without much issue and (if you are to believe the company’s own history on the matter) managed to market the whisky so well that they had to start rationing the amount they gave to blenders in 1960.

It was also thanks to his foresight to continue production at the same rate after the whisky boom of the 1960s ended that the company has such a massive stock of well aged spirit. This combined with his son’s (John) decision to stop selling as much to blenders and concentrate on single malt has allowed them to stock and sell a 43 whisky back catalogue, one for every year from 1952 to 1994. I will review one of them if I ever get hold of one. 😉

This specific bottle is one of their flagship product and is the one you are most likely to find at your local supermarket.

Noteworthy awards

Though Glenfarclas has many awards under it’s belt. I could not find any for the 10yo I am afraid. Totally happy to update this if someone wants to correct me. :)

Taste notes

Your first smell of this dram will be of sherry and honey with spicy undertones joined by a hint of dark toffee.

Going in for the taste you will find the spiciness intensify slightly but be joined by the undeniable taste of Christmas cake with hints of cinnamon and orange peel.

Finally, the finish lasts a relatively long time, still keeps the spice but is joined by an overall smokiness that lasts throughout.

When I suggest drinking it

I am afraid this will not be making my best whiskies list but I do feel like I have been judging them on their cheapest product.

I came across many reviews and articles when researching that had nothing but praise for their range, and indeed, a company making substandard whisky is unlikely to have lasted anywhere near as long as theirs.

I would say you should try Glenfarclas if you get a chance, but if it is between the 10yo and one of their older whiskies I would definitely go for the latter.

Scapa 16yo

A bottle of Scapa 16yo

A bottle of Scapa 16yo


Intro

This is another gem I managed to pick up on the way to America a few years ago and have recently found the tasting notes for! If I remember correctly this was one of the few bottles I felt needed to make it back to the UK and made room in my bag for it.

A small bit of history

The Scapa distillery was built in 1885 on the coast of what is known as Orkney Mainland, near Kirkwall. It is named after the very convenient body of water in the center of the Orkney Islands which has been the base of nearly every major fleet in the UK from viking times til 1956 when the UK’s chief navel base was closed in the area.

The business began it’s life as a partnership between a Mr Macfarlane and Mr Townsend, both already successful businessmen, the former of the two already successfully running various distilleries in Speyside. Though the whisky was clearly good enough to last the test of time in the long-run, the business itself did not, and it went the way of most other small distilleries in Scotland.

I was unable to find details of exactly when the original business venture failed, or when the building started to fall into disrepair but it is known to have been relatively abandoned by World War 1, when it was used to house by Royal Navy sailors. It was saved by a group of businessmen calling themselves the Scapa Distillery Company Ltd directly afterwards in 1919.

Though their dream of rebuilding and making a lot of money from the distillery never came into being they did manage to keep it from being torn down until it was eventually sold to Hiram Walker & Sons Ltd in 1954 who immediately expanded and modernised it. Though the whisky was always loved and appreciated by malt lovers it did not get on in blends as much as Highland Park (their neighbor) and was just not profitable enough for the company.

They stopped producing new spirit there in 1994 and the site was to be entirely closed and demolished in 2004. However Chivas Regal (owned by Allied Domecq, soon to be owned by Pernod Richard… you know how it goes :P) had other plans. In November of that year they took the building (by now missing most of it’s roof) and renovated the whole thing, refusing to sell to blenders they aimed to sell single malt exclusively.

Though many sources (including my main man Ian Buxton) claim that the whisky leaving the building from that point onwards was never to the same quality as it was previously (the old 12yo is known as gold) and now goes through the usual chill filtering etc you would expect from something more mass produced, they still admit that it is unique and interesting enough to justify being praised and tried.

The 16 year old came out in 2009 and spent an additional 2 years in American Oak casks (like bourbon) and is the current incarnation.

Noteworthy awards

  • 2013 Silver Outstanding Medal by IWSC
  • 2012 Silver Outstanding Medal by IWSC
  • 2011 Silver Medal by IWSC

Taste notes

This is a very unique scotch and you will get that impression from the very first smell. You will find hay here, honey with floral undertones, orange peel and a hint of lime.

The palette keeps the lime hint, adds freshly cut grass, papaya, cinnamon, coffee and a nice salty undertone that get stronger with each glass. (Complex… a lot of stuff going on)

As you let it rest the finish will bring you an smokey oak finish and a light peppery undertone. It is there for but a few moments.

When I suggest drinking it

Though I will probably never have the opportunity to taste any of the older versions of Scapa, if it was more complex and interesting than this one it must have been quite a drink indeed! Though I don’t think I will keep it in stock here at the house I would definitely encourage everyone make a stop here on their way through their personal journeys.

Monkey Shoulder

A bottle of Monkey Shoulder

A bottle of Monkey Shoulder

Intro

This has been on my todo list for a long time also :) it was brought to club quite a number of months ago by emma and I believe was received rather well. Let’s crack on!

A small bit of history

I really need to get down to reviewing the more traditional malts that have long histories as this is another rather more modern drink.

David Stewart first joined William Grant & Sons (history of this company here!) as an apprentice shop clerk in 1962 at the young age of 17. Keeping his nose clean and working hard he was soon moved into their blending operation where he kept an eye on the casked spirits maturing for the company.

It was in this position that he started experiencing the drink first hand, was able to smell the aromas and (on rare occasion) taste the product. The Blender of the company soon took notice of his interest and began treating him as an unofficial assistant. Though it must have been somewhat frustrating doing all the odd jobs around the blending warehouse as well as having to assist the blender whenever it was needed he got his big break in 1974.

The old blender had decided to move on and left with very little notice. William Grant & Sons panicked and put the only man who knew the system in charge of the operation. Though he was originally only meant to hold the job for 6 months, they soon realised that putting him in charge was one of the best decisions they could have made. Over the last 30 years David has not only brought success to their blends but is also very much behind the continued success of Glenfiddich and The Balvenie range.

It is from the mind of David Stewart that Monkey Shoulder was born as a blended malt made from Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Kininvie (no grain whisky added) for use in cocktails. The batch is kept small and is supposedly made of very carefully selected casks from the mentioned distilleries before they are given further maturation pre-bottling.

Noteworthy awards

  • 2013 Silver Outstanding Medal by IWSC
  • 2013 Double Gold Medal by San Fransisco
  • 2012 Gold Medal by IWSC
  • 2012 Silver Medal by San Fransisco

Taste notes

The first smell you will find from this little thing is a little like lemon cheesecake, with hints of vanilla, cinnamon, orange peel and (obviously) lemons!

Going in for a taste you will find an ironic taste of bananas with cream and honey accompanied by fruity spicy undertones.

The finish is quite short and rounds the taste off with vanilla and a tiny hint of mint.

When I suggest drinking it

Definitely would use this in cocktails! It is very smooth, easy to drink AND their website has a load of interesting looking recipes.