In the whisky world, single casks are great because they offer the opportunity to try a unique and rare version of an otherwise familiar spirit. Glenfarclas’ Family Casks go one step further and let you pick across vintages spanning five decades. Since 2007, this Speyside distillery owned by the Grant family has produced more than 380 bottlings of vintage single malts from the early 1950s to the early 2000s. Of course no one bottle year is like the next, and cask aging and finishing varies from year to year and release to release, so you never quite know what you’re going to get. There’s also a lot of history in these bottles, as each year’s complete release showcases multiple generations of the Grant family’s approach to whisky-making. Pricing varies accordingly from a few hundred dollars a bottle to thousands for those from the 1950s.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a bottle of The Family Casks 1989 bottling selected exclusively for Astor Wines & Spirits in New York City. This cask was bottled at the end of 2013, putting it at almost 25 years old. That’s somewhat on the younger side for that year’s releases but still a healthy, old age. Glenfarclas is typically associated with sherry-aged whiskies, but this bottling was aged in an ex-bourbon cask, making it all the more unique.
The nose on this whisky is full of buttered pastry and orange blossom honey with a little clove, melon, and black pepper. On the palate, an initial burst of heat gives way to a malty, biscuity quality. As a fan of this distillery’s core range, I’m always looking for the dark fruit notes from the traditional Oloroso sherry cask, but I find in their place vibrant flavors of vanilla bean, oak, ginger, and an almost caramel apple quality. The finish is spicy with more honey and ginger root. Adding water creates a musty, leathery note on the nose, restrains some of the spice on the palate, and really amplifies the honeyed sweetness overall. I’m honestly not sure which way I prefer to drink this one, but I can confidently say I’m looking forward to the opportunity to try my next Glenfarclas Family Cask.
114.8 proof. Reviewed: Cask #7299.
A / $250 / glenfarclas.com