Glenfarclas (12 year)

I always like to support independent distilleries that produce reliable quality malt year after year. Glenfarclas is among that dwindling group. However, I also like to spend under $45 for my entry-level scotches. While the price of the 17 (review here) can be justified by its maturity and by comparison with the price tags of some competitor 18 year malts, the 12 is (in my opinion) not quite good enough to command a $50 price point. A little extra wood character (maybe at 14 or 15 years) or a deeper sherry influence via the use of some first-fill casks (or a sweeter sherry) might elevate it to compete with other malts in the midlevel category. As it is, though, Glenfarclas is a malt that benefits from long aging (as evidenced by their deep stocks of 30, 40, and even 50 year-old juice) and comes off slightly thin and insubstantial without that time in barrel.

I would say that this is a malt you should grab up if you see it on sale in the $40-$45 range, but otherwise should only fill the void if you’re in need of mildly sherried Speysiders without much heft.

Glenfarclas markets itself as a Highland malt, eschewing the coveted Speyside origin designation. However, most texts categorize it with its brethren in the valley of the Spey due to its location.

Nose: Lemony, and light orange notes. Nice malt balance. Deep, but not very complex. Very mild sherry influence. A rest in glass reveals deeper sweetness and a slight nuttiness or nougat.

Palate: More citrus, in a light, crisp, refreshing way. A bit thin.

Finish: Nice, if somewhat short. Raspberry coulis and the barest shavings of fresh oak wood. Ends elegantly, without bitterness.

Overall: Good for a 12 year, but not a whole lot of sherry character. Would be great value at $40, but it suffers from a case of overpricing of entry level malt: Not substantially better than other sherried 12 year-olds, but priced at the psychologically detrimental $50 mark. Look for this one on sale, or splurge on the older malts in the line.

Glenfarclas (12 year)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $50 - $55
Acquired: (1/4 oz pour) K&L Spirits Tasting
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
21 Comments

21 Responses to Glenfarclas (12 year)

  1. Allen says:

    If your list of entry level sherried malts consists of Glendronach 12, Macallan 12, and Aberlour 12 then I disagree with your conclusion. I find Glenfarclas 12 to be superior to any of those choices. I would say that your tasting notes above fit the Aberlour 12 better in my opinion. The Macallan 12 is also very nice, but I’d still rather pay the $5 – $10 premium for the Glenfarclas.

    • Thanks for the comments!

      I found GF 12 to be superior to Mac 12, a slight improvement over Aberlour 12, and inferior to GD 12. I can’t really complain much about the GD 12 comparison, because it’s gone up in price to the $48 mark around here. Suffice it to say that when I tasted GF 12, I thought “I’d pay $40 for this, but I’m uneasy about $50″

      • Allen says:

        I wish it was in the $40 range as well. I won’t complain too much, because the other bottles in their line are virtually bargains. I can go grab Glenfarclas 25 for $125, which is insane. I’d like to see more entry level sherried malts quite honestly. In my opinion it’s underrepresented. I haven’t had the revamped Aberlour 12 which is now non-chill filtered I believe, so perhaps it’s worth another look.

        • Dennis H says:

          GF 12 is in the $40 USD range in my neck of Florida and that makes it a great deal, I think< compared to the GD 12 at $58 in the same area.

  2. Logan says:

    Wow! Glenfarclas 12 is only $36 here in STL! An excellent value for THAT price. Agreed though that at $55 you can do a little better! Good review!

  3. Jordan says:

    While I think I like GF12 a bit more than you do, I do agree that it’s better priced closer to $40 than $50. However, I agree that Aberlour 12 pips it by a bit, though the mid-30s price tag for that one also helps it. Sadly it seems like entry-level malts are starting to crowd around the $50-60 range, which is going to make them a really tough value proposition.

    • Allen says:

      There are still some bargains to be found in scotch, but when you look at all the under $40 deals in bourbon, there’s no comparison. Scotch has become less appealing lately because every time I look on the shelf now I’d have to spend $60 or more to try something that really intrigues me.

      • Jordan says:

        What confuses me is how many entry-level single malts are near or at the $60 point. How are they going to attract new customers, especially the distilleries without a lot of name recognition?

  4. Agree with you here about supporting independent distilleries. If I can find the 17 year old, I’ll definitely have to check it out. Great blog by the way.

  5. Robert says:

    Aberlour 12 is definitely better and the GlenDronach 12 much better. Then again, I’d rather pony up the extra cash for GD 15 Yo Revival. Yummy stuff!

  6. joeblow says:

    I did pay a bit of a premium for the the Glenfarclas 12 where I live, but I wanted to try it. Having done that, I wouldn’t do it again. It’s a decent 12 year, but honestly one can do just as good if not better at a lesser price.
    All in all the experience continues to cement my notion that paying more, 98 percent of the time is a waste of money. Once you get out of the bottom range of cheap crap it’s all pretty much the same after that, sure there’s differences but….
    I know we are all tempted when we see bottles for 80, 90, 100, 150, 300 dollars to think “oh god, I’d love to try that, it must be soooo amazing” – Well SAVE YOUR MONEY, they really aren’t any better, sure they “might” taste a little different, but so do so many brands in the lower price range, taste different than their counter-parts.
    Repeat after me …. “It’s all marketing and hype” The grass is not greener on the other side of the hill nore is scotch any better on the expensive side of the hill.

    • Joe,
      In general, you’re correct. If you exclude the “cheap crap” (which I would define as anything under $30), then most whisky on the market, regardless of age, is in a narrow band of quality. In other words, the quality difference between a $20 whisky and a $40 whisky is pretty huge, while the quality difference between a $40 whisky and an $80 whisky is much less. There are, of course, exceptions… by which I mean there are $80 whiskies that are significantly worse than $40 whiskies, and there are $80 whiskies that are simply amazing and worth far more. I personally never spend more than $100 on a single bottle of anything, because of this effect. However, I have definitely spent $80 to $100 on bottles in the past (usually with a recommendation from someone whose tastes I trust) and been very happy with the purchase.

      Anyone who sits in front of a glass of Macallan 12 and a glass of Macallan 18 and tells me that the quality difference is minimal is lying. However, Macallan 18 is WAY overpriced, and could easily cause buyer’s remorse because of its vastly overinflated price. Rules of thumb like Joe’s are good in general, but don’t tell the whole story. That’s why I say go out of your way to TRY everything you can… seek out bars with really good selections, go to whisky tastings if you can find them, or order samples from the UK. It’s far better to spend $14 on a glass of 18 year scotch in a bar and save yourself the $100 if it doesn’t do anything special for you. In an ideal world, you’d never buy a bottle of something that you haven’t already tried. That may not be possible for most people, but it’s a better rule of thumb than “don’t spend more than $XX on whisky”.

      • joeblow says:

        To take issue with a few of your statements..

        “$80 whiskies that are simply amazing and worth far more” – no there aren’t, just because you like them better doesn’t make them worth more or amazing to anyone else but yourself.

        “Macallan 12 and a glass of Macallan 18 and tells me that the quality difference is minimal is lying” – can you quantify “minimal” for use … do you have some kind of scotch measure stick that you use to determine that ? I think we’d all love to see it.

        “That’s why I say go out of your way to TRY everything you can” – Spoken like a true salesman. Truth is that you’re chances of finding a scotch that you really like at $200 are no better than they are at $40.
        I would encourage you all to not go down that “TRY” as many you can path, the grass is not always green, in fact it usually never is.
        And get that notion out of your head that expensive equates to better, nothing could be further from the truth, in reality all you get for spending more is a lighter wallet and something that tastes different, and there is just as much varitey in taste on the bottom shelf as there is on the top shelf. Just as much to like or dislike on the high end as there is on the low end.
        It’s all just a matter of taste. And you’ll be making it exceedingly harder on yourself to just sit back and enjoy your dram when you’re constantly thinking that the scotch is always better on the other side of the hill, the expensive side of the hill I might add………tah tah bottoms up

        • Joe, I’m not sure who you think you’re talking to. I’m a salesman? I don’t care if you buy one $40 whisky or sixty $100 whiskies. It’s not like I’m in the industry or make a commission.

          You seem to think people shouldn’t try whiskies and should instead settle for the first cheap one they try? What a sad existence.

          I don’t know who you’re trying to convince of what, but I think you’re doing it in the wrong place. People come here to read my recommendation about whiskies they haven’t tried, or to share their experiences with whiskies they’ve tried. Why are you here?

          • joeblow says:

            hummmmm, you seem to have mis-interpreted or misconstrued everything I’ve said…
            First off I never said you were a salesman – I just said “spoken as a true salesman” – meaning it’s the same kind of rhetoric you’d expect to be coming from a salesperson or any other one who has a self-motivating interest
            Second, I never suggested that people shouldn’t try different whiskey, and I think in my very first post, I in so many words said there was a difference between cheap crap at the bottom and decent whiskey – with that in mind go back and read what I wrote again.
            Lastly, I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, I could care less what other people drink, spend, or in many cases waste their money on..
            Remember….
            > a word to the wise is sufficient
            > the grass is NOT always greener…dah dah dah
            > you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink
            And my own little twist on old bits of wisdom
            > you don’t always get what you pay for, you just get what’s ever in the bottle, good, bad, or indifferent

            $40 bottles, 98 percent of the time are just as good as $100, $200, $500 bottles,
            Save you money it’s a fools game to start chasing that elusive scotch that you think will be ‘the one’
            Remember it’s all matter of taste, if you don’t like peat, a $10,000 bottle of Ardbeg ain’t going to make it taste any better or make you to like it.
            Buy and enjoy your $30,$40,$50 bottles, and remember heaven is where you find it.

  7. JoeBlowBlow says:

    STOP THE MUSIC –
    I’m rethinking my opinion of the ‘fraclas 12
    I been sipping on it for a week or so now, a wee’ taste every other nite, and you know what – Yea, I’m saying – it’s worth that bit extra in price
    This is one reason that I don’t beleive in reviews, you can NOT judge a book by its cover nor a whiskey in one or two tastings. It’s like getting to know a person, some people obviously suck, some obvious good, but for many you can’t realy tell until you get to spend some time with them and get to know them.
    As much as I know this fact, I always forget it.
    So what’s the lesson here – give it a chance, don’t be to quick to judge, which is completely the opposite of what most reviewers do. They pop the cork and immediately start shooting their mouth off with their ludicrous reviews.

  8. Pablo says:

    I just bought my first bottle of Glenfarclas 12 year old. Looking forward to trying it in a few days. In South Florida, Costco has the 12 year old on sale for $42.99

  9. Brian says:

    Excellent for the 37 I paid after sales tax at Costco, I guess the price has been falling here is south FL. it is really growing on my bit by bit.. easy though to see how it would be improved being a bit more sherried.

  10. DGb says:

    I love it and $39 here locally in atlanta ga, its a great bargain, no caramel , and its a great sherried malt, i know its not a sherry bomb but at $15 dollars less than macallan or $20 less a bottle than Glendronach 12 its a great dram.

  11. Tyler says:

    Unfortunately, here in North Carolina we are unable to buy Glenfarclas 12 — or any other GF, for that matter. The state controls all liquor sales, and the stores run by the state do not carry GF, or Glendronach (or a lot of other single malts). If you want to try a scotch not sold in the state stores, you must buy an entire case by “special order,” which means spending several hundred dollars. Let this serve as notice to all scotch drinkers: stay away from North Carolina!

    • This is also the case in New Hampshire (where I grew up), and a few other states. The only real recourse is to make quarterly pilgrimages to a neighboring liquor-friendly state and stocking up. Alternatively, if you have a good friend in one of those states, you could order shipments from online retailers to deliver to that friend, and then pick them up. Silly that such things are necessary. I feel for you!

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