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.