Friday, November 19, 2010

SMWS 1:152 - Glenfarclas 12 Years Old

I am always excited to sample an offering by an independent bottler. I love the variety and differences between independent bottlings and their OB counterparts. Plus, many of them are cask strength, unchillfiltered, and/or no caramel added. Please forgive the Forest Gump allusion, but you never know what you're gonna get when you open one. This is why The Scotch Malt Whisky Society does not tell you what distillery the whisky is from on their label. They are all coded, so you do not have a preconceived notion of what to expect when you open the bottle - other than a name they give the whisky and their tasting notes. Of course, being the spoil sport I am, I cheated and looked up the code before I tried this one out. As I previously mentioned, you never know what to expect from and independent bottler, but I can tell you that from the first whiff I had of this sample this is NOT what I expected at all, in fact I was quite perplexed!

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society differs from other independent bottlers by being a membership only organization. Membership allows you to purchase bottles of whisky, gain entrance to their Members' Rooms, and members receive a nice quarterly magazine. The drawback to this scenario is that the whisky is sent via mail. Shipping alcohol is not legal in all states. In 2004, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society was purchased by Glenmorangie. Personally, I would like to see Glenmorangie expand this brand and eliminate the whole shipping of bottles. It can be done - I see bottlings by Signatory quite regularly in local shops.

Glenfarclas is one of my favorite distilleries. They are a Speyside distillery known for producing very good heavily Sherried whiskies. The OB 12 is nicely Sherried with waxed fruit (jelly beans, strawberry Twizzlers) with a hint of peat and a nice smokey finish - which I really enjoy in a sherried whisky.

The name on the label of 1:152 is Jelly Belly Beans Galore. As I mentioned, waxed fruit is a flavor I get from the original Glenfarclas 12, so I did not think I was in for a big surprise with this expression - maybe just a bit more waxed fruit than normal? What should have given me a hint is the color of this whisky - very light. On to the official tasting notes, which I did not really pay much attention to until after I nearly passed out from shock: "The nose is sweet, jelly beans (toffee popcorn, peach, liquorice and melon), water brings charcouterie meats, grapes and pineapple. The palate is substantial - cinnamon, chilli and chocolate; then tarragon and lime on reduction"

Ok so, I pour a dram, let it breathe for a while, pick it up give it a quick nose, expecting something familiar, and POW - Peat! A peatiness that I have never experienced in a Glenfarclas before. Ladies and Gentleman, what we have here is an unsherried, moderately peated Glenfarclas. This is more Islay than Speyside. Peaty, but not much actual smokiness. Fruitier and sweeter than an Islay, but more Islay than Speyside.

I'm not even going to get into my exact tasting notes here - that is not the important story here. I did find some scents and flavors not listed, and vice versa, and it is not the way I would have described it, but the real story is the difference between this and the OB bottling - total opposites!

Overall: Excellent whisky - and not just from a novelty factor either, this is truly good quality Scotch. Availability is terrible - you have to join a club, and have it shipped to you just to be able to obtain a bottle, and of course, each individual bottling is very limited - apparently they split each cask up between continents. The Price of their 12 year old bottlings is $110. Is it worth it? Considering that this is 56.7%, and very unique whisky, I say yes, if you have the extra coin to spend - especially if you are a Glenfarclas fan.

Also, check out my review of SMWS 3.160 - Bowmore 10 here.

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