KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 22

22 12 2016

I have started to think of Glenfarclas as the official mascot scotch (mascotch?) of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar, after 2014’s special Christmas Eve 40 Year and 2015’s Christmas Eve redux 25 Year, not to mention two other entries in calendars past.  I was sort of wondering if we’d see a third straight December 24th whisky from the distillery, but I also suspected we were starting to run out of super-old Glenfarclas releases to slot in that esteemed end-of-calendar spot.  Well, it got Day 22 this year, with the notably younger $95 15 Year Single Malt – still a respectable position if not an exalted one.  Glenfarclas is one of the few pre-20th century distilleries not to be shut down or sold to a gigantic beverage empire in modern times, owned by the Grant family since 1865 when patriarch John Grant bought it for just shy of £512.  That sounds astoundingly cheap even in 1865 money, and it is:  it equates to around £59,000 today, or around $98,000 CAD.  Nice buy, John.  We are now six generations of Grants (all of whom have been named either John or George) into the family’s stewardship of Glenfarclas, which is known for producing one of the classic examples of Speyside whisky out of the region’s largest stills.


To obtain the legal designation of “scotch whisky”, a spirit has to (1) be aged in oak casks (2) which are no larger than 700L (3) for at least three years (4) in Scotland.  Glenfarclas uses both plain new oak casks (which we haven’t heard much of in this year’s calendar) and ex-Sherry casks (with which we have been bombarded by this year’s calendar, and by the whisky industry in general), and it is definitely known for its emphatic use of the latter.  The 15 Year is a glimmering dark amber colour reflective of its barrel time and has a few different aromatic identities:  confectionary (butterscotch chips, and nougat, like the inside of a Three Musketeers bar), nutty (almonds, oatmeal), herbaceous (corn husks, grass).  Bold and fiery as soon as it touches the tongue, this is not messing around, slinging toast and spice, banana Runts, mandarin orange, Americano, char and vegetal flavours with authority and powering into a lacquered finish.  It is punchy and powerfully concentrated, coming across like a cask strength whisky despite its 46% abv.  Mammoth scotch.


Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 24

24 12 2015

Merry Christmas Eve, everybody!  While the children are tucked all snug in their beds, I’m drinking scotch at my kitchen table and writing about it for the 24th day in a row.  The penultimate whisky of the 2015 Advent Calendar is giving me a couple different flashbacks, first to 12 days and half a calendar ago, when on Day 12 KWM rocked the Glenfarclas 21 Year Single Malt, and then to exactly one year ago tonight, Christmas Eve 2014, when the prior calendar’s final whisky was the $720-a-bottle Glenfarclas 40 Year Single Malt.  Tonight we fall somewhere in between, with the $215 Glenfarclas 25 Year rounding out the 50 mL selections in the current calendar (there’s a special bonus super-sized 100 mL bottling for Christmas tomorrow).  I heartily concur with the value distribution in 2015 as opposed to 2014, as I can say with certainty that there isn’t a $505 quality and flavour difference between the 25 and the 40 Year, and the savings from that selection had significant effects on what else was able to be offered this time around.


I don’t have many production details on this whisky, but like the 21 Year it was aged in sherry casks, although it doesn’t show it in the flavour profile quite as much as its younger brother.  A dense amber colour, it billowed out intense yet relaxed aromas of smoke, carrot cake, molasses, burnt honey, spicy oak, graham crackers and celery stalks, that last lingering vegetal hint keeping the surrounding sweetness grounded.  Its quarter-century in oak made it soft and mellow on the palate, dripping with chocolate orange, roasted marshmallow, mesquite, charred wood, pumpkin spice, honey and Fig Newtons.  This is basically the perfect fireside whisky on a cold winter’s night like tonight, the ideal Santa pick-me-up.  Important epilogue:  I swear to god I didn’t read or refer back to my notes of the Glenfarclas 21 before writing these ones, but reading them side by side now, you sure can tell they’re family, can’t you?  I don’t think I’ve ever used the term “carrot cake” to describe any wine or spirit before, but it’s the first thing that came to mind with this scotch, and there it was in the Glen 21 aroma writeup; “pumpkin spice” too.  Deja vu!  Have a great one tomorrow – one last writeup to come!

Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 12

12 12 2015

Halfway there!  Well, almost.  At this calendar milestone, it was fitting to pull out a scotch from a distillery that was the focal point of an even bigger milestone last year, when the Glenfarclas 40 Year  was the culmination of 2014 Advent on Christmas Eve.  Since this is only the halfway point of 2015 Advent, we got a scotch about half as old, but the Glenfarclas 21 Year Highland Single Malt is still the oldest whisky pulled from the calendar to date.  The Glenfarclas distillery is located in Speyside, in the northeastern Scottish Highlands, and has been owned by the same family since 1865, when it was purchased for a shade over £511.  If you really want to make something out of your investment portfolio, buy a scotch distillery 150 years ago.


As you might expect from a spirit that spent 21 years inside of a (I’m guessing Oloroso sherry – that’s Week 2’s quota) oak barrel, the Glenfarclas was a gorgeous polished amber colour, one of those whiskies whose visual appearance is a central part of its drinking pleasure and not just an afterthought.  The nose was part confectionary (carrot cake, burnt sugar, sticky toffee pudding) and part sherried (brine, nuttiness, vegetal hints, dates), with the former aromas giving the latter some life and approachability and the latter keeping the former in check.  The scotch was a little fiery to taste, its alcohol asserting itself even at a relatively tame 43% abv, and even after I added water, but it still delivered flavours of toasted marshmallow, pumpkin spice, cedar, coffee grounds and cinnamon sticks ahead of a slightly salty finish.  All in all a well put-together dram at a solid price for its age ($143), but for whatever reason I couldn’t quite forge any emotional connection with it, so it probably won’t leave any lasting memory.  It was clinically good, but not in a way that would make me scramble to get more.  It’s all downhill from here for the next 13 days…

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 24

24 12 2014

Well, the stockings have been hung by the natural gas fireplace with care, and I have officially completed whisky Advent.  Thanks to all those of you who have read along to date – I can quite confidently say that you will not be seeing a post on PnP tomorrow, so enjoy this one!  The KWM Whisky Advent Calendar comes to a close with a bang, delivering the promised 40 year old dram in the form of Glenfarclas’ 40 Year Highland Single Malt.  This scotch comes with a $720 price tag (actually a strong value for the age of the whisky involved) and with a number of critical accolades, having been hailed Whisky of the Year by Malt Advocate.  It’s Glenfarclas’ second appearance in the calendar; it previously tried to destroy your mind with its 60% abv bottling Glenfarclas 105 on Day 6.

The one you've been waiting for.  First calendar whisky older than me.

The one you’ve been waiting for. First calendar whisky older than me.

The GF 40 certainly delivers, albeit not in a way that will embed itself on your psyche for years (or even weeks) afterward.  It is a deep amber in colour, although not deep enough to immediately give away that it has spent four decades in a barrel.  The aromas are mellow and meandering, maple syrup and marzipan, smoke, apple cider and Meyer lemon.  It is soft and warming on the palate, opening up discernibly with a couple drops of water and featuring a complex yet subtle array of flavours:  honey, vanilla and florals, orange zest, green grapes, dark rum and a dry heated wood note I can best describe as “sauna”.  It isn’t life-changing, but it’s extremely well put-together, an experience to drink if not a lasting memory. Read the rest of this entry »

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 6

6 12 2014

Whatever your views on whether or not adding water to whisky helps unlock and open up its flavours, we can probably all get together on the fact that when a whisky clocks in at 60% ABV it’s probably a good idea to hydrate that bad boy, right?  I made a big deal previously when the Advent scotch lineup jumped from 43% to 46% from one day to the next; in contrast to that jump, today’s almost seems like sensory obliteration.  Day 6’s whisky is the Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength (no kidding) Highland Single Malt Scotch.  Any whisky labelled as “cask strength” means that the finished whisky was not diluted with water down to a set alcohol level after barrel aging is complete.  The aging process results in varying levels of evaporation and concentration of the distilled liquid in cask, which is how you can end up with substantially advanced levels of alcohol, although 60% is close to the highest I’ve seen.  The Glenfarclas website suggests that “the smoothness makes the 105 drinkable at cask strength”, but the smoothness I got pre-dilution was somewhere between motor oil and fire, so in went the water.  Obviously not quite a scotch drinker’s palate yet…maybe on Day 24.

Day Six…ty?  Percent?

Day Six…ty? Percent?

Once I got the booze in check to a point where it didn’t feel like pure ethanol, I was able to appreciate the deep burnished gold colour and the vegetal nuance of this scotch.  There isn’t a whole ton going on, and the flavours are fairly laid back and mellow, but I coaxed out notes of grain/barley and brine, with an herbal undertone and a touch of honey lemon Halls on the nose.  The green, grassy undercurrent continued on the palate, shot through with vanilla, honey, toast and a notable hit of spiciness to go with a pleasant heat that lingered long after the scotch was gone.  Probably a middle-of-the-pack calendar whisky at the end of the day, one that I didn’t dislike but won’t remember much about in three days.

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