It’s not a secret Israel is undergoing a renaissance period when it comes to whisky in recent months, all due to the (timely) change of Taxation laws on Spirits that took place 6 months ago, and changed taxation for the better for High end whiskies at the expense of local cheapo drinks. Before the reform a bottle would have been taxed at 90% and then some VAT. Now, the tax is only on the alcohol contents (meaning a certain amount of $$$ per litre o pure alcohol) which makes whiskies about 30-50% cheaper. A year ago we could only dream of brands such as Glenfarclas being imported as the price of say their 15 year old which is mid way in terms of pricing, would have been well over 100 quid. But this is no more, and More and more brands (not enough, but it’s getting there) are coming to Israel being able to sell bottles at “ok” prices (not quite as cheap as EU or UK and US but almost). Glenfarclas is one of my all time Fav. distilleries, and that is no secret. They have excellent malts,which are priced wonderfully (where can you find a 40 yo single malt under 300 EUR – hint: probably very few, if any), so you can imagine how thrilled i was when i heard GF is going to get importer regularly, and even more thrilled when I heard through my good whisky friends Rusty Nail (his nickname on a whisky forum here) that Robert Ransom from GF is coming here (in the flesh!) to conduct a few tastings for the GF range. Brilliant. Initially you can find the 8, 10, 12 , 15 , 25, 30and 105 expressions in leading whisky shops (more to come later) and we were about to taste all those. Nice.
A few words about Glenfarclas (I won’t trouble you with a detailed history etc). Glenfarclas started distilling whisky (legally) in 1836. Its name means “Valley of green grassland” , and was purchased in 1865 by John Grant, who was a farmer, and gave control of the distillery to his two sons. Led by his son George it has become since a family business, and been so ever since. the distillery Ages all casks on location (about 52,000 barrels on site) which should grow to around 60K in the near future. It’s a very traditional distillery , the stills use direct fire rather than boiling water coils to heat the liquid, and the whisky is aged in mostly ex-sherry and ex-bourbon (they call it : plain wood) without all sorts of finishes one can find in many other distilleries. The whisky is all natural coloured, and as you may well know : GF does not allow indie bottlers to bottle its whisky under the GF brand.
When you think about Glenfarclas you first think about sherry casks, but the distillery does use a certain amount of “plain casks” which previously held scotch from other distilleries. for some reason they are not very keen on using the “B” word. They also have a lot of older stock, from almost every vintage since the 1950’s and they release those yearly as part of their “family casks”, a single cask collection by vintage.
So here we were with the lovely and very polite Mr. Ransom who started the tasting from younger to the older. I was very keen on trying the 8 and 10 year old I’ve not tried (I had the 15 and up previously). And what’s better to start with than the Farclas new make. I am not going to write tasting notes, but man, this was indeed one of my favourite New makes of all time. sweet, and delicious, really excellent stuff, No wonder the older whiskies are that good. Then it was time for whisky. Let’s review the 3 youngest expressions first, then a second post will cover the older range. I’ve indicated prices in New Israeli Shekels (NIS) which are RRP, but most shops will sell them for even cheaper by 10-15%.
This is the youngest of their offering with age statement, and from what I understood it’s mainly sold in Australia. I know it’s not a very common expression in the EU/UK, and never seen it on shelves there. Aged in 1/3 sherry, 2/3 ‘plain’ wood casks.
Nose: Very light at first with a hint of sherry, cut grass, malt and vanilla. Really not a lot of sherry here, which is weird for a GF.
Palate: Feels a bit rough and alcoholic at first, then get’s mellower with malty sweet notes, hint of sherry maybe. Some Caramel.
Finish : Caramel, Chocolate, Cereal.
For such a young malt this is indeed of fine quality, and give you a hint how a Farclas tastes without a lot of sherry. It’s not their finest, but under 200 NIS (around 30 quid) It is a good value for money. Far beyond what I expected. Remember these are Israeli prices after all, and are not as cheap as EU… yet.
This whisky packs more sherry oomph as it was aged in 2/3 sherry casks and 1/3 ‘Plain’ casks.
Nose: Lovely sherry nose with spices, sugar , vanilla and a bit of pear drops. It’s nicer and feels more Farclas then the 8 yo.
Palate: A lot of vanilla , white pepper, and sherry with hints of dried fruit and cinnamon. A nice mouth feel.
Finish : Sweet, some Caramel, sultana and a hint of smoke.
This is better, we’re in GF country, and the sherry and dried fruit start to kick in.
Nose:This one is bottled at 43% and not 40% which makes a bit of a change, the nose feels thicker, with more dried fruit, sherry, spice and vanilla, it’s also spicier.
Palate: Ah, peat is here as well as pepper, and quite a bit of sherry too, dried fruit and vanilla pods.
Finish: Rich vanilla, peat, nuts and a dried fruit.
This is a very good whisky. 12 year old, but feels thicker, nicer, with more presence. A fair price in the UK, a bit more expensive here, but well worh the money for starting your journey in the GF world.
Nose: This is one of my fav GF’s and now i remember why. A lovely nose with peat (yes it’s very noticeable, but the earthy kind of, not medicinal kind) , dried fruit, smoke, rich sherry, spice and honey. It’s lovely. good stuff.
Palate: Big. Lots of luscious sherry, dried fruit, smoke, malt and vanilla, you can find everything here, and at 46% it’s a treat.
Finish: Sherry, hints of peat, and dried fruit.
Can’t get much better 15 year old sherry style than this stuff (under cask strength).
More about the older expressions to follow in the next post.