Posts Tagged With: 15 Years Old

Distillery Visit: Glenfarclas

When the WU guys were putting together a trip to visit Speyside, needless to say that we were spoilt for choice. With over half of Scotland’s distilleries being based in the area surrounding the meandering River Spey, and none of our 4-strong troop having been to the region before, we were living and breathing the grown-up equivalent of being kids in a sweet shop.

Between us, we had found a great looking cottage in the village of Archiestown for a long weekend in March (yes, that’s how long it’s taken to write this up) which we then used to triangulate a Speyside visitor centre hit list. With the cottage being roughly equidistant from Cardhu, Aberlour and the region’s giant, Glenfiddich, that had pretty much settled it without having to look much further, but as the title suggests, we couldn’t visit the region without also going to Glenfarclas.

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Double Thumbs Up for Glenfarclas

What had particularly attracted us to the distillery – other than having enjoyed their whiskies on numerous occasions throughout the years – was the fact that it was still a family run distillery and hadn’t succumb to the big money ownership that many distilleries have (and that many have had to). What that meant to us was that we were expecting a smaller distillery with more humble staff than your standard big-budget-backed whisky-maker, and it certainly delivered.

Located just off the A95, the roadsign to the distillery was almost too easy to miss, but luckily enough the classic red font of the Glenfarclas logo stood out from the snow-covered roads and fields, directing us up a narrow farm lane to the car park. As we shimmied and skidded our way along the icy track we noticed a giant tour coach parked just outside the visitor centre (which we narrowly missed) and as we drove around an old and ornamental still, we managed to find one of a few dug-out parking spaces.

Glenfarclas Visitor Centre

Having taken some 9 hours of travelling from our southern England starting point, we bundled out of our car and looked on in awe at the picture perfect distillery. Covered in snow and with the warmly-lit interior beckoning us inside, we entered the visitor centre to welcoming smiles and hellos from the staff – and this was with just 45 minutes left on the clock of their working day.

The visitor centre is of course, first and foremost, a gift shop and upon walking in you are instantly drawn to the remains of another still and the multitude of glass cabinets adorning the room’s walls. Each cabinet was themed with past releases and current offerings all nestled amongst the rare and ancient drams from the distillery’s past. These were also accompanied by price tags that ranged from reasonable to eye-watering. Our attention was particularly drawn to the distillery’s “Family Cask” section, filled with bottles in chronological order from the date that they were first distilled from 1952 onwards. We each sought out the bottle from our respective years of birth, and were content with just looking through the cabinet doors, rather than shelling out the £3,500 each!

Family Cask Display

Given the timeframe, we were not in time to undertake any tour, but we had plenty of time to enter the tasting room, and join up with the coach trippers (who were probably all 40-50 years our senior) now at the fun end of their tour: the tasting. The room itself was like a Victorian dining hall, with a set of long tables down the middle, with a few smaller tables dotted around and more wooden cladding than Ron Burgundy could ever have wished for. The whole room was covered with old advertising posters and newspaper clippings from yesteryear. There was a real sense of history and nostalgia here, with a clear emphasis on family.

Tasting Room

To the matter at hand, our troop found ourselves a seat and were presented with a sample of their opening gambit, the Glenfarclas 10 year old. Our new host then reeled out a well-rehearsed but still well-delivered spiel about the history of the distillery and we were all ears. As we listened, we savoured our first dram of the day, picking out the flavours that stem from the family’s longstanding use of sherry casks. The 10yo proved to be a fairly light dram, enjoyed in no time at all with its Pear drop sweetness and pretty quick finish getting our tastebuds going.

‘Farc-ing Bliss

Our temporary curator then plied us with a serving of the Glenfarclas 15yo and that’s when the sherry influence really hit home. This whisky had a much fuller, fruitier nose, and the 46% alcohol gave for a fuller taste and body too. It wasn’t all sherry flavourings though as a little bit of time and water released sweet vanilla and a little citrus into the mix. An excellent whisky that seemed to knock its younger sibling out of the park.

Please!!!

As the history lesson turned into more of a flowing Q&A session, we were presented with the third of the distillery’s post-tour offerings, the mighty Glenfarclas 105 (Unfortunately not 105 years old – can you imagine?) Whilst I had experienced and loved this whisky before, my senses still took a battering, as did the other guys’, as it’s 60% ABV natural strength delivers a real punch. It has a BIG nose leaving you fighting the alcohol but some fruitiness (raisins?) and sweetness still manage to poke their way through. Without the aid of water, the 105 pretty much attacks the palate but not the throat strangely enough. After some taming though that fruitiness really comes through with faint sherry this time.

It was at this point that the coach group were being hustled up by their weary-looking driver, and a little bit of minesweeping was afoot. As the congregation filtered out though, we keen-beans had pretty much settled on acquiring a bottle of the 15yo but our host didn’t seem to want to rush us out and after a little cajoling he went to the backrooms to bring us samples of their 21yo! Despite its years, this dram was still surprisingly light and whilst it had a good nose and those sherry-like fruity and sweet flavours were still present, it didn’t quite meet the standard that the 15yo had set. With our conversation starting to wind down and the 25yo or older expressions remaining firmly locked away for the evening (we tried) we were fully sated and couldn’t leave without making a purchase or four…

Whatcha Doin’?

By the time it came for us to leave, we realised that the staff had actually kept us indoors well after their closing time and were still happy to talk (mostly). Their head honcho however was starting to purposefully look at his watch and with our purchases having already been made before they had to close the till, we were also ready to head off and set ourselves up for the long weekend at the cottage. With some parting pleasantries and a few snaps, so ended a brief but memorable trip to Glenfarclas. If you get the chance to go, then you should definitely do it! We certainly will. Again. And again.

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Tasting Notes: Dalwhinnie – 15 Years Old

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Dalwhinnie 15

Dalwhinnie is based in the Highlands and sits within the core Diageo family of scotch whiskies. What the distillery seeks to master with this tipple is the art of the balanced dram. Not too peaty or too rich, and it sits comfortably within the centre space of the Diageo flavour map. At 15 years old, making it one of their more mature entry-level drams, this whisky is delivered in a short, squat bottle and is available in most U.K. stores and bars.

ABV: 43%


Nose

M: Sherbet tingle with honey notes.

S: Fairly sweet, with apples and vanilla. The spirit is still a bit too present for me.


Taste

M: Really easy going with honey/caramel sweetness and smoothness.

S: Surprisingky sharp for what is meant to be an easy-drinker. Cake-like flavours, including marzipan. Lychee too.


Finish

M: Fairly quick with a Victoria sponge taste and a softness on the throat.

S: Fuller than I expected, given the above. Nutty.


Verdict

M: A refreshing midweeker. Gentle, sweet and vanilla smooth. For something that’s 15 years old, there’s distinctly no “woody” features, which is not all bad. Definitely something that I would recommend to someone who has never enjoyed a single malt before.

S: Don’t be fooled by the “15” on the bottle, this is a bit underwhelming. Not complex enough for me to rate it highly. Feels like spirit hasn’t been balanced out.

 

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Burns Night 2017

I don’t usually blog about food, but tonight seems like an appropriate time to break that rule. It’s 25th Jan and I’ve had an entire English city to play with and a haggis to hunt down… and it proved to be harder than you’d think.

After having enquired in multiple establishments, I was faced with several youthful faces being contorted into numerous expressions of bafflement as no-one seemed to know what “a Burns Night” was. After a bit more asking around however and bracing the cold, I stumbled across one of the Loch Fyne chain of restaurants and the penny dropped! A Scottish-based establishment that can be found in most U.K. cities. Perfect!

[Incidentally I have since discovered that the local Wetherspoons was hosting a “Burns Week” but had sold out of haggis before Burns Night itself had actually kicked off – a bullet dodged on many levels there.]

Having managed to be seated with just a five minute wait, fair play to Loch Fyne because they put on one decent Burns Night Supper! The restaurant offered a range of Scottish-sourced three course menu options and a Glenfiddich 15 to boot! All for £25, which is bit of a treat for a school night and turned out to be with every penny!

First up, I opted for the obligatory haggis, neeps and tatties, and they were very much served in that exact fashion.

Haggis, Neeps & Tatties

How they got the haggis to be that creamy I don’t know but the three were served with a whisky sauce and were excellent. It does seem odd to eat a meal that could be easily ate by someone without teeth in their gums, but the flavours together did all of the leg work with the peppery meaty goodness being tempered by the creamy mashed parsnips and potatoes.

For the main course, I had the panfried duck breast with “rumbledethump” (yes, I had to google it), kale and red wine sauce. Another superb dish. Maybe the best duck I’ve ate and I wasn’t short of a portion either. Hearty in both taste and volume and the charred rind took it over the edge into pure indulgence.

Ducking Excellence

Finally, a “Cranachan” creme brûlée with honey oatcakes brought the meal to a gleeful – and gut-stretching – conclusion.  Whilst I’m not exactly sure what the cranachan element was here (though it was in inverted commas to be fair) this was definitely a ‘cracking’ dessert. It could easily have been too sweet but it was well balanced and had plenty of that more-ish vanilla custard that soon saw me polish it off and sweep up the remains with the accompanying biscuit…

“Cranachan” Bit of Pudding

…and it went perfectly with the dram!

I couldn’t really pick a highlight from the meal but it was definitely enhanced with the occasional sip and savourings of the Glenfiddich 15 Solera Vat. I’ve rarely had this dram on its own and it does hold its weight. It’s got that sweet, sherbet-like nose that you would come to expect from Glenfiddich’s best-selling 12yo younger brother but it serves bit more of a malty hit. The sweetness continues through the taste with a hint of the barrel’s wood at the end. Perfect with the final creme brûlée finale. With the meal it was definitely checking all the boxes!

A Smidge of Glenfiddich 15

I know that people are divided on whether or not you should make an event out of Burns Night but for something that was impromptu, it was a successful evening and bit of a gastronomic treat. There was even a bagpiper giving it some wellie, although I did feel a bit sad for him when he seemed to be wheeled out to play through happy birthday…

All in all though a fun and indulgent night and here’s wishing everyone well and good dramming on your Burns Night 2017!

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