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.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

One of only two Scottish distilleries that has remained in family ownership since its establishment, the Speyside distillery has six stills, and are some of the largest in the region, but still refers to itself as a “Highland” malt. The stills are direct-fired rather than steam heated, which the family claims is necessary to produce a weighty spirit. Its water flows from the heather-covered slopes of Ben Rinnes. Glenfarclas whisky is aged exclusively in ex-sherry casks, most from producer José-Miguel Martin. The whisky matures slowly in earthen-floored dunnage warehouses, with little loss to the angels. It might be said that Glenfarclas shows best after long aging, and the family releases a long series of bottlings into the 40 and 50 year-old range.
Glenfarclas (12 year)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $50 - $55
Acquired: (1/4 oz pour) K&L Spirits Tasting

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  • 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”

      • 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.

        • 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.

      • I know it’s been a while but I just looked this up on your site because of the bottle of Glenfarclas 12 that I recently opened. I have always enjoyed both the 10 and 12 yr expressions very much. I also love supporting a good family owned distillery. I found your review to be less than generous when I first read it a few years ago. I agree that it better fit Abelour 12 which I am basically indifferent to. However after I opened my current bottle I reread your review and I think it is spot on. Have my tastes changed? Did I just get a bottle from a bad batch? Has the product changed or become inconsistent? Or is the Glendronach 12 that I finished a few days before opening this bottle just a superior whisky and I never noticed it before. I always considered them equal the way that I consider Ardbeg 10 and Laphroaig 10 equals. If you happen to see this I would love to hear your thoughts. Cheers!
        I also think it’s worth mentioning that both the Glendronach 12 and the Glenfarclas 12 sell for $52 at the Long Island liquor store where I purchased this

        • I do think that GD12 is superior to the ‘farclas and the Aberlour, as it has much more depth of flavor despite a little less bright fruit, so that could have colored your impressions. It’s also worth noting that the Internet at large (and information from some retailers and insiders corroborates this) has concluded that nearly all major single malts have degraded in quality in the last decade. This is generally due to older stocks that have gotten used up, so what used to be 12 years mixed with some 15 and 16 and 18 and whatever is now all 12 years old. It may also be due to increased filling requirements to meet demand leading to more inferior barrels being used, and more sub-par whisky dumped into the vat (as opposed to being sold off to blenders or indie bottlers). Obviously there’s no way to know exactly which distillers are having these issues, but it’s certainly a noticeable trend lately.

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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”.

      • 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?

          • 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..
            > 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.

    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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

      • You may be happy to learn that I just purchased a bottle for $36 in New Hampshire (I don’t know how often you make the pilgrimage back). Perhaps they are becoming a bit more progressive.

    • Tyler,

      Where in NC do you live? I’m lucky as I am a resident of Charlotte, but can be across the border in SC in about 10 minutes. SC has decent prices and a solid selection. Not as good as I had it in Florida, but so much better than the state run ABC’s of NC.

      If you are in western NC, take a trip to TN. Also much better than NC.


    • Hi Robert,
      I’ve had that happen once or twice. It’s a toss-up whether you’ll get the cork out or not – I’ve had success with a corkscrew (waiter-type) and pair of needle-nose pliers. I’ve also heard that a cork-puller (the kind with two flat prongs) works well for split corks. Worst case if the cork falls in, you could always pour it through a funnel into another bottle. Use a strainer if there are cork fragments. Good luck!

      • Thanks for your advice. Tried to carefully remove remaining cork in the neck of the
        bottle. Some came out and some pieces dropped inside. There remained pieces too small to be captured by a strainer. Happily, using a thin wood skewer partially broken to provide
        an angled tip, I was able to tease every bit of cork out of the original bottle. Took time.
        The original cork appeared to be made of compressed cork pieces. Not common.

  • Just have to disagree with the comment “Very mild sherry influence” and I also disagree with most of your thoughts (but can’t be bothered going indepth). I suppose I shouldn’t have thought I would get ‘good’ info coming to a website called scotchnoob, so my bad. But if you can’t find a large sherry influence on 12+ Glenfarclas then I would say don’t write anymore reviews….

  • I totally agree with your review on GF 12. I have tried the 21 and loved it, so I thought the 12 would be a ‘younger brother ‘ kind of deal – not as good (obviously) but still in the same ball park. Truth is they are nothing like each other. Yes, it’s only fair to factor in the price, but most other distillers seem to have a common thread that covers their bottling, but I think if I did a blind tasting, I wouldn’t connect the GF 12 and 21 as being from the same source. If sherry influence is the goal, there’s better options for the same price point such as Glendronach (my favorite) .

    Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Robert! Yes, I think I expected more from GF 12 after enjoying the 17 so much, and found its sherry character lacking in comparison to Macallan, GlenDronach, GlenGoyne, etc.

  • Purchased the GF 12 at the New Hampshire Liquor Outlet earlier this month for $35.99! Excellent value for money. Go find this malt or something like it for that price. Good job on the blog Noob – don’t listen to the haters. If you ever want to hook up for a dram sometime let us know! @noshwhiskyclub on Twitter.

  • Agreed with your review and sentiments. I would rank it on par with Glen Grant 10 and Glengoyne 10. Glen Grant 10 goes for about $35 in my neck of the woods and Glengoyne for anywhere between $40 and $50. I give thumbs up for all three. I have never seen GF 12 for sale (in California) for less than $50. One other vote I would put in for GlenFarclas 12 is that if you can’t part with $100 for the GF 17, the GF 12 is not a bad substitute at half the price.

  • The GF 10 is pretty darn good too by the way…like it better than the 12 and other more expensive (and cheaper whiskeys). Actually I have to go with Scotch Noob on his quality assessment; and agree that there are exceptions: I like Talisker 10 over the 18 (richer, more full bodied and character) and it is 1/3 the cost…on the other hand, I like Balvenie DW 17 better than Balvenie DW 12 (17 is smoother allowing to enjoy the flavors IMO) and it costs 3 x as much. subjective? probably but not 100%, some whiskeys are just gooooood no matter what anyone else thinks and regardless of the cost or hype or non hype. And yes – I must try them all to confirm my theory before I die (of old age).

  • I gave up trying to find a bottle of Glendronach 12 here in Colorado (been touting every liquor stores for about 2 years I follow your blog, never found one), would you say it is the one to buy if I can’t find a GD12?

    I had a bottle of Macallan last year, liked it but not for the >$60 they fetch nowadays. Never tried Aberlour 12 (but have a bottle of A’bunadh batch 50 for special occasions)…

    • If you can’t find GD12 (and you’ve priced out shipping services like or and the price is too high or they don’t ship to your state), I’d look at GlenGoyne 12, Tamdhu 10, or Edradour (all possibly harder to find than GD), then Dalmore 12 or 15 (might be too expensive?), followed by Glenmorangie Lasanta (should be easy to find, but is sherry-finished, not sherry-aged, so it’s not as “full-on sherry” as the GD and Macallan). If you strike out on those, I would recommend looking for sherry-aged malts that I haven’t reviewed. Glenfarclas 12 is OK, but it’s really “just OK” and doesn’t scratch the itch like GlenDronach and Macallan do. Cheers!

      • Thanks, I will check what I can find in that list, my local store has a few rarities and these could be part of it. I know for sure they carry the Lasanta and Dalmore (used to be $45, recently priced in the high 50’s). Thanks for the recommendations.

  • SN, I’m here for your sage advice on my next sherry-influenced scotch…
    I’ve tried GD 12, Edradour 10, Aberlour 12, Auchentoshan 3W, and Tamdhu 10. Trying to decide between GF 12, Glengoyne 12, and Dalmore 12 for my next one. They are all priced right around $50. I’m not looking for most sherry-bombed necessarily, just best overall whisky.

    • Of those three, I would go for the Dalmore. It has something vaguely unique among sherried malts, in that the house characteristic has an orange/orange-peel note. The more expensive Dalmores are particularly good, but it’s one of those brands that attaches big price tags once you get above the entry-level, alas. I also highly recommend you try Aberlour abunadh, if you haven’t. Cheers!

  • I think this stuff has a heavy sherry presence. I think you hit the nail on the head that it’s just not a very sweet sherry. In my opinion that’s what makes this unique. I like this about as much as I like Glendronach 12, I just think they’re different. I like it better than a lot of other 12 yr sherried malts. The 10 yr is very good as well. Similar on the nose, but very malty on the palate. With the 10 yr the sherry is really in the background.

  • First of all, great great work on this site, always a fan!
    Quick question, how do you compare this with aberlour double cask 12 (not the NCF version) ?

    • I haven’t tried the Aberlour double cask yet… I’m kind of stuck on the a’bunadh – every time I find money in my whisky budget for Aberlour, I always seem to spring for another batch of a’bunadh. 😉

    • I’m not SN, but I find Aberlour 12 Double Cask far superior to Farclas 12. The Aberlour is much richer and has a broader range of flavours imho. It’s also about $11 cheaper here in Ontario. I bought a bottle of Glenfarclas 12 about 6 weeks ago and I’ve only had 3 drinks from it so far. It’s incredibly ordinary and unimpressive. In fact, I’d nominate it for a “Macallan Effect” award: cruising on its reputation, selling for too much money ($75 here in Ontario) and not really delivering the goods. Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Macallan. I find their whiskies underwhelming and overpriced. The ONE Macallan I had whose flavour I enjoyed (Macallan Rare Cask) sells for $400 per bottle here in Ontario, so I will NEVER, EVER buy one. Glendronach 12 is about the same price as Glenfarclas 12, but GD better imho. That said, I’ll take the Aberlour 12 Double Cask over ‘dronach 12 or ‘farclas 12 any day.

  • Hi again. I agree on Glendronach 12 vs Glenfarclas comparison. GD 12 is heavier, more deep and intense sherry whisky than GF 12, which is light sherry cavalry.
    But, 38€ for 1 L bottle of Glenfarclas 12 is pretty good deal. I closed it today. ?

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