Distillery Tour: Glenfarclas

For this post, a departure: not a whisky review, but a distillery tour review, of Glenfarclas. This was my first tour of a distillery, so the whole thing was new and fascinating. That’s fortunate, as I had planned no less than nine tours for our two-week vacation in Scotland. Frankly, my wife was dubious, but she came to really enjoy them. As we progressed across the whisky-making regions of Scotland, we did six other tours and learned that no two tours are the same. We also discovered aspects of the distillery experience we did not expect, and fortunately, we both found compelling. Onward! (Note, most photos can be clicked for higher res images.)

Glenfarclas Lobby Shop. You can see the entrance to the tasting room at the far end.
Glenfarclas rare bottles. Can’t buy these, but…

Glenfarclas is about 20 minutes south of Dufftown. It’s set in a broad valley, which you can see in a flyover view here, at their website. The entrance is easy to miss driving south, so if you find yourself up among the piney hills, you’ve gone too far.

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Whisky and Words Number 14: Glenfarclas 17

As I wrote in the Glenfarclas 12 review, the J&G Grant company is singular in their transparency and focus on product, producing whisky and marketing materials which go light on glitz and heavy on information. I think their entry in scotchwhisky.com says it best:

The Grants’ philosophy is to present their single malts with minimum fuss in terms of packaging and at sensible prices. The aim is to get consumers drinking the whisky, even the really old bottlings, and then come back for more. Essentially, Glenfarclas is a whisky for drinkers rather than collectors.

Glenfarclas packaging. 'Just the facts, ma'am.'
Glenfarclas packaging. ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’

In that vein, the packaging for the 17 is quite similar to that for the 12, as you can see in the illustration at right. Different color, different number for the age statement, the collateral on the back is just about the same as the 12. “Many have wondered at the origins of the unique taste of Glenfarclas,” it reads. Well, with the 12, I was certain it was the water. The new-make spirit brings a lot of earthy, mineral notes into the nose of the 12. Would the 17 be the same?

Only one way to find out. Well, actually I already knew, as Santa managed to cram the 17-year expression into my stocking (!). I actually bought the 12-year afterwards to write up the review. Also, I liked the 17 so much, and considering the price, could not afford to indulge as much as I would have liked. Hence the 12 enters the rotation.

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Whisky and Words Number 13: Glenfarclas 12

Glenfarclas 12. Unassuming packaging, excellent whisky.
Glenfarclas 12. Unassuming packaging, excellent whisky.

I’m an engineer of sorts…I don’t hold an engineering degree but my entire post-military working life has been designing, writing, testing and explaining software and computer systems. There is a natural dynamic between the messaging folks (marketing) and the engineers. We techies like to know what’s what and make our own decisions. Marketing’s job is, as we see it, to spiff up, deflect, and entice. That might be fine for the hoi polloi, but we engineers like to think we’re immune to such blandishments.

Well, of course we aren’t, marketing is a powerful force and here to stay, but it sets my heart all aflutter to encounter a company like Glenfarclas. To say they are transparent about how they create their product would be an understatement. This starts at their website, which is professional but not the most visually stunning. It’s probably considered a couple years behind the times as far as design, yet I appreciate it for the amount of information they place at your fingertips. It is amazing. Furthermore, their brand ambassador manning the email trenches is similarly forthcoming (thank you, Myriam). This is a huge benefit to those of us who want to know just what it is we are drinking, how it is made, why it tastes as it does.

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