Posts Tagged With: Glenfiddich

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.


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.


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.

Categories: Glenfarclas, Tasting Notes, Venues | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tweet Tasting: An Introduction (Glenfiddich IPA)

Being a whisky enthusiast, I’ve signed up to many blogs and many, many more twitter accounts to share thoughts, experiences and notes. One aspect that I’ve been itching to participate in is a live tweet tasting and luckily enough in April, a message came through from Steve at The Whisky Wire to say that the WU name had been pulled out of the hat! The dram in question was the new expression in Glenfiddich’s burgeoning Experimental Series: Glenfiddich IPA.

The long story short is that this expression has been matured in used beer casks that had previously contained an IPA brewed nearby to the Speyside giant. Interestingly the beer itself is not actually commercially available for consumption but this tweet tasting did also include a bottle of the brew in question: their enigmatically entitled “Brew Two”. The package also came with a vacuum-sealed slice of blood orange peel – this was to form part of the third drinking element for the tweet tasting, namely a Glenfiddich IPA “serve” (see video here)

So how did it all play out? Well, all participants needed to be ready for 7pm, with their packages ready for serving up the whisky neat (I had a Glencairn glass at the ready like I am led to believe that a true whisky sampling boss should do), the beer (tulip glass charged) and then the serve (housed in a tumbler with ice waiting in the wings).


Tweet Tasting Line-Up

Being my first tweet tasting, I checked in with the chosen few early doors using the hashtag “#GlenfiddichIPA” just before 7pm. Steve (@TheWhiskyWire) then provided the preamble and also introduced the Glenfiddich Rep Mark Thomson (@SingleMaltMark) who would be fielding the tweeters’ queries throughout the hour long session.

Sure enough with 7pm the nosing notes started to fill up my hashtag-specific feed. I’ve put my tasting notes below to separate this blog out but I was also pitching in with what I could smell. Whilst predominantly orangey/zesty to my nose, it was interesting to see what everyone else was sensing and sure enough the power of suggestion meant that I started picking up suggestions of apples, malt biscuits etc. Someone did note along the way that it seemed like it was becoming an elaborate tasting note competition, which, to be fair, it did start to feel like. I did want to believe though that there were probably some more refined noses and palates involved in the session, and, as I noted, one of the beauties of whisky tasting is that it is always subjective and you are always correct with your own opinion and experiences.


Glenfiddich IPA

The other thing I noted – maybe just being a bit too keen – is that it seemed to take quite a while before anyone started to actually taste the whisky! I appreciate the need to “let it breathe” etc but I was getting twitchy – especially after a full working day. When we did move onto the tasting, the notes started to fly in with some more and more loquacious notes. I actually got wrapped up in it too and was guilty of letting the dram start to do some of the talking – especially when I noted that the slight spice transformed the Jaffa cake tastes to Jamaica cake ones! If that’s what I thought though, then surely I was right too?! Well, it was fun anyway.

Some notes then followed about the aftertaste and finish before we then moved onto the beer. Not surprisingly for a whisky tasting, the notes on the beer were fewer in number and variety, but we were plied with more information about the teaming up of the distillery and brewery guys involved in making this ‘experiment’. For instance, we were informed that it was a deliberately bitter IPA to try and get those notes into the barrels for the whisky to pick up.

What became noticeable about the tweet tasting was the benefit of the MC duties by the pros. Being curated by both the tweet tasting rep and the distillery rep meant that you were constantly being fed legit info in addition to the melee of everyone’s thoughts. What’s more was that our queries were almost instantly answered and sparked mini conversations were available to all readers. In fact, it turns out that a lot can be told in just 140 characters. For example, when I enquired as to why it was called “Brew Two”, Mark from Glenfiddich quickly responded to note that several brews were made by the brewery and the experiment team (Brian and Seb) with the second being the batch of choice.


Glenfiddich Brew Two

Maybe because it was a whisky-focussed group, the rate at which people were tweeting their notes started to vary with time (especially when beer was grabbing the limelight). Some still seemed to be really lingering on the first dram, but to be fair, everyone did seem to diligently wait for the proper instruction to move on, rather than plough ahead.

When it came to the third drink, the opinions really started to become more diverse. Being a first timer, I couldn’t tell if it was just because of the drink taking hold in the contributors or because it was down to the fact that the drink was to involve ice. Before the session, when talking to a friend about the upcoming tasting, we pondered if serving a whisky with ice and slice was going to ruffle the feathers of some single malt purists amongst the readership but the comments were (largely) favourable. Whilst it did make for a really refreshing drink/cocktail, it did seem however that the final drink seemed to get fewer comments again. Or maybe I was just getting more inebriated and just missed them.


Glenfiddich IPA Serve

One useful thing that I did manage to remember and practice was to fight the urge to finish each drink and leave a little bit for a quick side-by-side comparison towards the end, which did serve me well (so to speak) from a “tasting session” perspective.

By the time that 8pm arrived, the session seemed to have shot by and all participants parted ways with pleasantries and praise, and I’ll take the opportunity again here to thank Steve at The Whisky Wire for allowing me to partake.

Overall, I felt that it was a great first experience. It was informative yet informal; nicely tempered; and ultimately, very satisfying. Definitely something that I’d want to do again. I was a little apprehensive about effectively just sitting and drinking at home, but the use of social media really did make it feel like social drinking.


Tasting Notes

Glenfiddich IPA

N: Really sweet nose – light rounded and citrusy with a strong smell of barley sugar sucking sweets (after the nose prickle)

T: Zesty flavours burst out and the orange flavour really delivers leaving a biscuity/cake – like a Jaffa cake.

F: Zest disappears fairly quickly and the remnants leave some gentle spice and ginger and a little oaky dry finish

V: This is a really tasty and moreish dram. Not actually sure how much the IPA Cask influences it though there is a little oaky maybe hoppy aftertaste (power of suggestion?) unless it is extra fruit because there is a big explosion of zest that leaves a battle between citrusy Jaffa cake and spicy Jamaica cake. What I’d love to be able to do is taste the same whisky without the IPA maturation as a comparator to see what the real effect was.

At £45 per bottle, I’m not sure that it’s good enough for me to part with my cash but given that this whisky is very clearly being branded as “Experiment #1” then this is definitely one to watch and very interesting to see Glenfiddich breaking out of the mould.


Brew Two
Overall, it was a pretty crisp, and traditional British-style IPA (challenger hopped) rather than the current hipster-hooking New Zealand or American West Coast hop bomb IPAs. It get better by the mouthful and had a proper “old pub” taste to it.


Glenfiddich IPA Serve
The chilled shock of sipping the ice cold dram really pushes the orange citrus flavour through and the blood orange peel totally rounds it off. So much so that it actually tastes like a cocktail without having any other liquids in it. Like a boozy Capri Sun! On a hot day, this would be a superb, refreshing drink, and quite far from being your standard single malt tasting experience.

Categories: Glenfiddich, Tasting Notes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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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