Malt Resistance

Narrating the Rise and Fall of Single Malt Scotch.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Dram of the Day

Glenfarclas, Single Cask, First Fill Distilled 1990, Bottled 2002.


A sumptuous malt from one of the few remaining family-run and owned Single Malt distilleries in Scotland. Talk about Malt Resistance, these fellows embody it!

The Glenfarclas is one of the very best Speyside SMS, but you might not know it because of the modest size of their advertising budget. But a less deserving distillery, such as Aberlour for example, is very well known and constantly advertised and praised in the whisky glossies. This is due in no small part to the tremendous financial punch of the parent company of Aberlour --French Liquor industry powerhouse Pernod Ricard. Regardless of their financially enhanced reputation, I don’t think either Aberlour or the Glenmorangie could produce a first fill single Port cask vintage bottling: it is my contention that their respective spirit would lose themselves completely in the Port.

The Glenfarclas’ spirit has broader shoulders however, and carries the Port well. Both the traditional whisky and Port flavours flow harmoniously in the nose and the mouth. One experiences a flurry of red fruits with a hint of wine at the finish which make this a winner. 94.

The whisky was purchased for a moderate price at the Maison du Whisky in Paris, which it is believed, regularly bottles delightful expressions of Glenfarclas exclusively. Check them out on the web or in person if you can.

By the way, this great sensory experience was almost announced by the information given on the bottle: dates of distillation and bottling, type and age of cask used, and no verbiage! When did you last get so much information on a moderately priced bottle of SMS.? Its been a while I know, which leads us straight to...

The Drama of the Day. When will the distillery owners understand that pertinent information on the bottle can only enhance the prestige and value of their product? The Macallan used to do it on their standard 18 year old (Last one to sport the bottling date was the 1983 vintage). Now only their limited editions bottling --reserved for the very wealthy collectors, or even wealthier drinkers--disclose these essential facts.

Will there one day be an accurate voluntary description of the type of cask used? (whether it is from a first, second of third fill cask; the date of disilling and bottling) I doubt it, for this would obligate the distillery owners to forego practises inherited from their experience as whisky blenders.

For example, a 12 year old is rarely composed of only 12 year old whisky. They may have a bunch of 16 year old 3rd fill cask that they want to get rid of, so the guys plonk it in the vat, and the stuff is still legally a 12 year old... The fine print says it has to be at least 12 years old...

Those practises are common in most every Single Malt distillery: and this explains why we are not going to get full disclosure. This is the curse of Single Malt, for it inherited the legal standards and business practises of a lesser, more widely produced drink, which depended on heavy advertising rather than quality to drive its sales. You guessed it, I am reffering to blended whisky. That's why the folks at the Macallan are killing their product, because they want it to take the place of Chivas or Johnny Walker in terms of sales on the world market. Make no mistake about it, fellow amateur, their eventual succes is predicated on the death of the Macallan as we know it.

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