Glenfarclas. Family ownership & tradition going strong in Speyside.
I was excited to visit Glenfarclas. Not because I particularly love their whisky, but because they are in the heart of the Speyside Malt Whisky Trail and have continued to be a family owned business. I know this is similar to Glenfiddich, but they are significantly smaller than that facility and they still hold their own not only in Speyside, but in their industry. The 6th generation of the family that is currently running the business, actually live on site. Not only are they on site, but all marketing, sales, distribution etc. are located right at the distillery. You can tell immediately by some of their bottlings and previous decades of investment that they operate a little differently than the big boys. For example; throughout the ups and downs of the whisky market from the 50’s through to the 2000’s they not only never decreased production, but continued to produce as much as possible. This has allowed them to now have a healthy line of bottlings call “Family Casks Range”. There are a lot of distilleries that have large gaps of product age ranges for when production was either slowed or mothballed all together.
Within this family business there are currently 34 employees and six of those are involved in actual production. They work 8 hour shifts and production runs 24 hours per day. This is allowing them to produce about 90,000 liters of new make spirit per week. The goal is to always use Scottish barley, but they will buy from multiple suppliers to ensure they get low moisture and nitrogen contents in their malt. The mashtun and washbacks were all stainless steel. Three waters are run through each mash to get their desired wort and a mash runs for about 11-12 hours. In total there were 12 washbacks. I was asking the guide what yeast is being used for the fermentation and apparently a new distillery manager began about 4 years ago. Since then, they have been experimenting with a few different yeasts. We will see what this means for some of their future product! You can tell they are going for a lighter, fruitier, Speyside spirit. The stills were quite large and tall with significant reflux bowls in the both the wash and spirit still. Apparently these stills are some of the largest in the area. There are 34 warehouses on site and most are dunnage. This averages out to about 66,000 casks in total at the distillery. The casks are filed on site and then sent to Edinburgh for bottling.
The day I visited was the last day of their silent season. They took 9 weeks total this year due to a significant amount of maintenance and expansion. As of today about 50% of their production goes to blends and the rest is for their single malt. Although, recently the demand for the single malt has continued to increase and there has been talk of ending some of their blend contracts. This would be instead of increasing production. They would in turn choose to be more selective with their partnerships. This could leave a few unhappy blenders! Their distribution reach is at about 25 countries globally.
Here are my tasting notes for their Glenfarclas 10 year and 15 year single malts.
Glenfarclas 10 Year
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Dried cherries, fig, grass, straw and green apples.
Palate: Fresh cut grass, sharp fruity perfume taste, hay, spice finish.
Not bad for a 10 year old. A little sharp on the palate.
Glenfarclas 15 Year
Holly’s Tasting Note..
Nose: Raisins, granola, honey, some floral, butterscotch.
Palate: Raisins, oak, some leather/tobacco finish.
They say smoke. I didn’t get much of that.
Up next is Cardhu..