Glenfarclas has been known in whisky circles as a way to get old-fashioned, independently-distilled, sherry-forward single malt at insider prices. I remember at the beginning of my whisky adventure, the NAS-when-NAS-was-cool 105 was on the lips of many a contemporary blogger and professional reviewer for its cask-strength bottling proof, its sherry bomb trendiness, and its reasonable price. Those days are over. I can’t find a bottle of 105 for cheaper than $80 in the US.
The ‘105’ in the name refers to the proof, which in the British proof system is 60% ABV. Around here we use the US proof system, which means the 105 is actually 120. Got it? It’s worth noting that being exactly 60% ABV and also “cask strength” is a bit of a trick – Glenfarclas actually chooses barrels and batches them together so that their combined proof is exactly 60%, so that they don’t need to add any water to hit the target number (which would render the result not ‘cask strength’). Glenfarclas uses only sherry casks to mature whisky, which previously held oloroso or fino sherry, and are either 500 liters (butts) or 250 liters (hogsheads). While there is no age statement, the word on the Internet is that the 105 is at least 8 years old. You all know how much I love paying $80 for 8 year-old whisky.
Nose: Sherry bomb. Dry, with most of the fruit notes of the “dried fruit” variety. Dried red currants, dried orange peel. Are dried raspberries a thing? If so, those too. Other than that, a hint of candle wax, and surprisingly little nose tickle for such a high ABV.
Palate: Thin body. Fruit punch gummy candies (Gummi Bears) make an initial impression, which is followed by a brief but painful wave of Help-Help-My-Tongue-Is-On-Fire (that’s a medical term). This clears quickly, leaving more dried fruits, raspberry jam, orange peel, and those fake gummy bits in that awful shelf-stable vintage Christmas fruitcake. (That’s a professional whisky-taster term. I’m pretty sure I read it in a magazine.)
Finish: Long. The dried fruits reign. A little bit of vegetal “bramble” appears, and fades with the rest. Not bitter, but not particularly sweet either.
With Water: A few drops of water give this some of the sweetness that it’s yearning for, and freshens some of the fruit. It lessens the tongue burn very slightly, and adds a little vanilla frosting to the finish. Water is decidedly not a bad idea with this whisky.
Overall: I’m sorry, but I don’t like this. I’m generally a sucker for sherry bombs, and I’m not shy of cask strength whiskies, but I find this very one-dimensional. Back in the day when this was $50 a bottle it made a lot of sense – you got a high-proof, sherry-flecked ‘farclas for reasonable money and you didn’t need it to justify itself via quality because it was cheap and big and powerful. Now, though, at $80 – $90 this thing is competing with the 18 year-olds lagging the price curve, not to mention the incredible Corryvreckan, and the still-cheaper-but-not-for-long Aberlour A’Bunadh. Against those odds, the 105 falls apart. If you find a bottle on closeout for under $60 it’s not a bad dram, and if you find yourself stuck with a bottle, it would be very useful as a component in house blending. Add oomph and sherry to any house blend. Otherwise, I can’t recommend it.
This whisky has been that price for as long as I can remember (about ten years).
And there should be an age statement on the bottle on the back. Ten years old.
Aaron: That steady price sounds right to me too.
But the age statement has indeed been dropped (yes, from the back!).
You can’t really evaluate this whisky with 45 ml. You need to buy a bottle, have a few drams spread out over 2-3 months, then put it in the back of the cabinet for at least 6 months. The same is true for Dalmore 15. These sherried whiskies need significant air time to reach their wonderful peak. And don’t get me going on Macallan Cask Strength. Wow! A’bunadh can’t hold a candle to these three.
This is a very fair review. I picked up a bottle in London for about USD60, but then saw it in the Amsterdam airport for $45(!) a few months later. In the US it remains at the $80-90 price point. I’ve been informed the distiller is finding it more and more difficult to maintain the 60% ABV and as a result the mix of ages has been getting progressively younger. Price aside, it tastes pretty good for the sherry-bomb category. I’m not fond of the nutty note, however, that jumps out (also prominent in Bruichladdich Classic Laddie and some Springbanks). A’bunadh is better. Glendronach 15 is better. Balvenie 15 sherry cask is way better. Mccallan, as much as I despise the over-branding, is likely better as well. Glenfarclas, while admirable in its following long-dated tradition and remaining privately owned, simply is not keeping up in terms of the richness of nose and taste relative to its competitors.
“You all know how much I love paying $80 for 8 year-old whisky.” – No, I don’t; if you don’t care enough to really even know the age of what you’re paying for (various internet rumours/guesses don’t really count there) while you otherwise support NAS marketing, there’s no way to guess, if age is so irrelevant anyway, what you think, or why, about paying some theoretical $10/year. Age (and age/price ratio) matters with some whiskies here, but doesn’t with others, which is the industry POV in microcosm. I do wish, however, that the same people who tell me age “doesn’t matter” to whisky would stop making up the very information that they insist is so “irrelevant” in the first place anyway.
This week I had the pleasure of blind tasting the following sherry-matured pleasures:
1. GF 105
2. ‘Dronach 15
3. Balvenie 15 sherry cask
4. Benriach 12 sherry wood
6. Signatory Glenlivet 8yr cask strength 1st fill sherry butt ($60 at Binny’s Chicago)
I added appropriate amounts of water to get each ABV% consistent. To my surprise, the IB Glenlivet won the day, by a nose (pun intended!) over the AA. It features a remarkable honeysuckle note that sets it apart. The 105 (nutty notes) and GD 15 (bitterness on the palate) did not fair as well as expected. The Riach 12, at a $45 price point, deserves more respect that it gets.
Cool tasting, thanks for the notes!
Hi! I am in the process of reviewing Glenfarclas 105. I like it. Dry spicy sherry monster. In EU is aprox 50$ for a 1(one) liter bottle, which is 38$ for 0,75 bottle. Really nice value. 😉
I just bought 3 1L bottles of this at an airport duty free store for $37 each. I thought for sure that they made a labelling mistake and it was going to actually be $137 each, I had to pinch myself when it actually rang up as $37. Maybe they forgot to update their cost database since 1993 or so! Haha
I’m haven’t opened one yet, but I’m expecting I will enjoy it for the price!
That’s a fantastic price. Nice pull!
World you recommend it if the price would be 35 USD?
World is ..would ..sorry:)
That is an excellent price and yes, I would. That would bring it in line with budget drams like Speyburn 10 and the cheaper Glenmorangies.
Hello ChiefNoob:). I had a comment regarding the fact that this price gap is even bigger taking into consideration that we have significant VAT levels here in Europe vs. small sale taxes in US…. probably did not save. I bought and tasted the GFC105. Incredible sherry nose. Initially in the taste was something that I did not like…. very similar with double distilled fruits palinka from Transylvania. Second day I tried with water…. and this disappeared. So 35 USD for 1l of cask strength sherry bomb was a good deal. Off topic question: Ardbeg 10yo. colour… so pale…..almost white…is normal?!
Almost transparent I meant….
Hi Razvan, peated malts are often pale in color. I think this is just how the malts are historically perceived – refill oak casks lend very little color, so often whiskies that are supposed to be “sweet” have added coloring to make them darker. For some reason, peated whiskies never acquired this stigma, and are typically left at their natural color.
I prefer Glenfarclas 105 over A’Bunadh by a narrow margin, and I prefer every Glenfarclas expression to any Macallan expression I’ve ever tried. I really don’t “get it” where Macallan is concerned. Their offerings taste thin, watery, and one-dimensional to me. Whenever I say this, people respond with “oh, you need to try a 25 year old that was bottled pre-1989”. Yeah, ok. I’ll get right on that. Here in the real world, modern Macallans are anemic and overpriced.
You may want to update your notes. It is now available in the USA. I just bought a bottle for $89 in Santa Rosa CA at Bottle Barn.