Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Glenfarclas 21 years Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky

In 1836 there was quite a lot of drama:

- The battle of the Alamo;

- Slavery was officially abolished in Texas;

- Davey Crockett arrived in Texas;

- Samuel Colt received a patent for his Colt revolver;

- ZZ Top members entered puberty (. . . it takes a long time to grow those good 'ol boy beards!)

And more importantly, across the pond in Scotland, a distillery was born: Glenfarclas

Family Business
Continuing with our history lesson, I thought I would mention that in 1865, John Grant acquired the distillery and it has been in his family ever since.

Not too many Scottish distilleries are still in family hands.  Most are owned by multinational corporations that suck the souls out of their employees leaving empty shells of men littered in fluorescent lit cubicles all over the world, and worse:  a computer, a technician and a cat are at the helm of some distilleries (I am not joking!).

Still owned by the same family after all these years, eh?  One would assume that is a good thing.  Depends on the family.  I mean, think of the Kardashians, Paris Hilton's clan or G-d forbid, the most gauche of them all: Donald Trump at the head or the tail of a scotch whisky dynasty?  Yeah, perish the thought!

Anyhow, I think I will evaluate the efforts of the Grant family based on my tasting of Glenfarclas 21 years, as arbitrary and unfair, as bleeding heart, tree huggin', hemp necklace wearin' hippie wannabes may think such an evaluation methodology may be.  That's just how I roll.  Ok, let's do this!

Nose (undiluted)
Powerfully minty!  menthol cigarette taste (but in a good way).  Some medical bandages too.

Palate (undiluted)
Huge sherry! Da bomb!  Oak abounds too.  Salty milk chocolate.

Finish (undiluted)
Mint leaves, peppercorns, basil, lemon and pistachio flourish.

General Impressions
For a 21 year old single malt, it is surprisingly delicate.  The finish is the best aspect of the drinking experience.  All the flavors meld well leaving a little tapestry of flavors that pleases oneself.

Nevertheless, I can't say I am a huge fan.  It is not a bad whisky by any means.  I am just expecting something more for the price and age statement.  Certainly more complexity of flavors.  A certain je ne sais quoi is missing.  There is no 'hook' or in musical terms a 'riff' like in Day Tripper or (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction that reels you in time and time again.  This malt, for the price, needs a 'riff.'

I have been sampling this bottle for quite sometime and it can on occasion taste kinda woody, like a mouthful of balsa wood, if that makes any sense.

Peer Review
When I compare Glenfarclas 21 to other 21 year old malts, the shortcomings are more obvious.  Balvenie Portwood 21yrs or Highland Park 21 are far superior in range and intrigue of flavors.  Matter of fact, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 years is more interesting.

Again, Glenfarclas is not a flawed whisky, just lacking some buzz or panache that would justify the price point.

Family Honor
Ohh maybe the same family running the show for five generations has meant the family tree branches need some pruning . . . but the family honor is still intact as they did create the great Glenfarclas 17.


Jason Debly

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission. Photograph of ZZ Top was taken by Alberto Cabello and used in this post by way of a Creative Commons license.  Note:  All images appearing in this article are for the purposes of nostalgia, education and entertainment.  Moreover, all images used are considered by the author to be significant in illustrating the subject matter, facilitating artistic/critical commentary, as it provides an immediate relevance to the reader more capably than the textual description.


  1. Jason, Thanks for your Glenfarclas review series. I enjoy this house's malts more consistently than most others which practice similarly generous sherry cash maturation. The textures and complexities here are simply far superior, for me. Peat and salinity are noticeable. That barb was aimed at both Macallan and Glenlivet, whose severe diminution in terms of scale and frequency of their most glorious releases saddens me. Among the standard Glenfarclas releases, the 21Y stands behind only the 15Y as my personal favorites. The have found the Family Cask, 105 and vintage releases to be typically very worthy of attention.

  2. I respectfully disagree with you on this one Mr. Debly. I think this expression offers a whole lot of depth. It is subtle granted but it is really nice whisky and a great 2017 value at $129.

    1. I have read and heard from others that Glenfarclas of today is a lot better than it was at the time of my review (5yrs ago). I guess the only way for me to know for sure would be to get another bottle.

      Thanks for commenting!