Glenfarclas 17 Year Old – Like French-Kissing Angels

lzdxsIf the saints in heaven drink water, I suspect it tastes like Glenfarclas. Every dram I’ve drunk at every age I could find it – 10, 12, 17, 21, 25 years old – is a fluid variation on profundity and lucid wonder. Pour a sweet measure of Glenfarclas on your tongue and you’ll be convinced you just French-kissed an angel!

Is that exaggeration? No! Is it absurd? Maybe!

In my opinion, Glenfarclas, as a full range, provides the most tenaciously dependable and the most richly sensual, sensuous experience offered by the world of sherried Scotch single malt whiskey. Drinking a Glenfarclas of advanced age, say anything 17 years or beyond, is like drinking poetry, like drinking the voice of Maria Callas or Jussi Bjorling. The 10 and 12 year olds are Billie Holiday in a glass.

Here’s what Sir Thomas R. Dewar – who, with his brother John, built the Dewar’s Blended Scotch label to international renown – had to say of Glenfarclas back in 1912:

“Glenfarclas [is] the King of Whiskies and the Whisky of Kings. In its superiority it is something to drive the skeleton from the feast and paint landscapes in the brain of man. In it is to be found the sunshine and shadow that chased each other over the billowy cornfield, the hum of the bee, the hope of Spring, the breath of May, the carol of the lark, the distant purple heather in the mountain mist, and the wealth of autumn’s rich content, all golden with imprisoned light.”

I agree, to the extent my experience allows, with every word mister Dewar says.

Well, you might argue, the Glenfarclas Tom Dewar was drinking back in 1912 is surely not the same Glenfarclas that is now available to us.

And I would reply: That, friend, is the difference between the carol of the lark and French-kissing angels – which is to say, there is no difference at all!

Seriously, though, Glenfarclas has been a family business – in the same Grant family – for 177 years, and they are known as very traditional distillers. While there have certainly been variations in the sherry casks, say, or weather extremes, or in the moods of the master distillers over the years, Glenfarclas is one single malt that very probably does taste at least quite similar to the way it did 101 years ago: In other words, I feel confident that, if Tommy Dewar were here with me tonight, he would thoroughly enjoy, and recognize, the distillery character of the Glenfarclas I pour into his glass.

It has taken me 10 or more sessions over three weeks or so, and nearly an entire 750ml bottle, to feel the least bit of confidence in describing this artfully contained mastery of nature. Everything in this whisky is so well integrated, so closely and firmly knit, that parsing it almost doesn’t feel like the proper thing to do, as if I were crassly to strip a good lady bare to catalogue her charms in public.

But, for you, dear reader, I shall overcome this reluctance…

The color is pale copper, a summer evening’s gold.

The nose is honey thinned with watery almond oil exuding unhurried wafts of fine sherry. With roasted herbs and charred hazelnuts, perhaps. A bit of citrus oil and just the slightest percolation of smoke. From the far distance, a breeze blows in through a cluster of sappy young pine trees.

The palate flows elegantly forward with ginger-spiced honey balanced perfectly with a drying sherried maltiness. There is a very slight, but sure, pine-needley, resinous, herbal trace, as if a tiny drop of the Carthusian liqueur Chartreuse had discreetly snuck onto the palate. On top of that, and nearly as slight, is an iota or two of peppermint. And just the faintest memory trace of smoke.

Some darker fruits emerge in the finish – dates and figs – but that balance of savory sweet honey and sherried malt predominates, drying slowly with scintillating richness and sure elegance.

The overall impression is one of balance – of weight and light, of crispness and pungent depth, of structure and lusty richness, as if Verdi had completely re-written a Wagnerian finale and secreted it into fine sherry oak and ex-bourbon casks for seventeen long and gentle years.

Here’s my suggestion: Buy yourself a bottle, pour yourself a dram, let it cascade neat over the rim of your glass onto your eager and excited tongue, close your eyes, lean your head back, wiggle your tongue and let your imagination do the rest…

Subaru isn’t love – this is!

One thought on “Glenfarclas 17 Year Old – Like French-Kissing Angels

  1. Excellent stuff indeed. Your review is spot on.
    I rather enjoyed this one. I was very surprised tasting this side by side with the 12 how this one was much less sweet and spicy than the 12. The first sip I thought was good but not great. It took several minutes for this whisky to open up and show its true colors. This is definitely one of those whiskies that changes as it sits in the glass and as you continue drinking you begin unraveling it’s flavors and complexity.

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