Welcome to Episode #9 of The Whisky Guy Podcast, featuring George Grant of the Glenfarclas Distillery!
It’s Whisky Wednesday – Time for a dram!
Published January 6, 2016
In this episode of The Whisky Guy Podcast:
Happy New Year!
Welcome to the first episode of The Whisky Guy Podcast of 2016! Just as 2015 wrapped up we crossed a major landmark together – 10,000 downloads of The Whisky Guy podcast! A huge Thank You to all of the guests for taking time out of their schedules to be on the show, and most of all to you – the listeners – for being part of this community. To subscribe to The Whisky Guy podcast click here!
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Part II of a tasting with George Grant from the Glenfarclas Distillery
If you haven’t listened to episode 7 of The Whisky Guy Podcast, that’s a great place to start before getting in to this episode. It features a quick interview with George, and Part I of the tasting. With both episodes, I’d recommend listening with headphones as some of the questions from the audience were a little quiet. If you’re on Twitter, first follow @WhiskyGuy and @Glenfarclas, then do a search for #GlenfarclasWA – I live tweeted during the entire tasting and you can follow along.
On to the tasting!
- Glenfarclas has been doing well, even through the financial crisis that started in 2008.
- Tho the distillery was poised for their first layoffs in history, the opposite happened and the distillery saw their best year ever.
- 2009 doubled 2008 sales.
- By 2013, sales in just the first month were higher than the whole of 2009.
- Growth is not sustainable, tho, for several reasons.
- The whisky industry as a whole is running out of 3 resources that are essential to whisky-making:
- Wood (aka casks to mature the whisky)
- Warehouse Space. Glenfarclas has increased capacity from 55,000-65,000 casks/year partly due to building 4 new warehouses, but that’s still not enough.
- Glenfarclas uses exclusively Dunnage warehouses – an earthen-floor warehouse where casks are stored no more than 3 high.
- These low warehouses makes sure all the whisky inside matures at the same rate, which helps with consistency.
- Glenfarclas suffers from Angels Share just like other distilleries – evaporation of liquid from the casks. While the code allows for up to 2% loss per year, because of the altitude and humidity around the distillery Glenfarclas only looses 0.3% annually. Compared to maturation on Islay, where evaporation can be near 5% annually.
- Question: How close is Glenfarclas to capacity?
- Glenfarclas is at capacity for production now. Last year, the distillery produced 3.42M liters of alcohol, of a 3.5M liter capacity. This year because of slight modifications, capacity is 4M liters. A single 750mL bottle of Glenfarclas 10 year in the US contains .3 liters of alcohol.
- Glenfarclas sells whisky to other bottlers for blended whiskies. In 2007-2008, Glenfarclas sold 95% of their volume to blenders. Today that’s closer to 40% with goals of reducing further, but there’s value in selling to blenders as well.
- Question: What blends are taking in Glenfarclas?
- Distilleries rarely sell to other distilleries – they swap casks.
- Some blends that contain Glenfarclas include Chivas, William Grant portfolio, Inver House, Whyte and Mackay and Beam Suntory.
- Tasting Glenfarclas 21
- George’s favorite until recently (replaced by 15)
- Like a balloon – well rounded and balanced
- Ian, distillery manager at Laphroaig, kept a bottle of Glenfarclas 21 to share with people that had never had whisky before so they weren’t too offended by Laphroaig and scared away from whisky.
- Most expensive to produce
- Flavors change as the liquid sits in the glass
- Finish – Chocolate, caramel, vanilla
- Question: Where does the chocolate come from? From George, who thought it was the sherry casks, tasted a cognac cask exclusive matured whisky and found the same character and now attributes it to age.
- Glenfarclas newmake is sweet and floral.
- What’s the right way to drink whisky? “So long as you’re paying for it, I don’t much care how you drink it.”
- Experiment: Instead of adding water to whisky to dilute it, hold a sip in your mouth and add water directly, but be careful not to spray on those around you.
- Question: What ABV does Glenfarclas come off the stills
- New make runs off at a 68% ABV average, and is diluted to 63.5% to go into cask
- Tasting Glenfarclas 25
- Different in that it tastes ‘old’
- Big wood/tannin flavors
- Pairs well with chocolate dessert or a cigar
- Glenfarclas 25 sells better in the US than the 21
- George’s least favorite of the line for personal choice
- A ‘Christmas’ whisky
- Many of the employees have significant tenure with some families having passed jobs down the family for 125+ years
- Members of the Glenfarclas production team, along with other benefits and salary, receive a house and free whisky
- “We find it very difficult to actually get rid of any members of staff”
- Tasting Glenfarclas 105
- 105 British Proof – which equates to 120 proof (60% ABV) in the US
- Proof derived from ‘proving’ that gunpowder soaked in whisky would explode.
- This proof happens at 57.9% ABV, or 100 proof
- Original bottles of Glenfarclas 105 would say 5 O.P., or ‘5 Over Proof’
- Original bottles of Glenfarclas 10 would say 30 U.P., or ’30 Under Proof’; 70 proof, or 40% ABV
- Glenfarclas 105 is the most difficult to make, as much of the whisky matured isn’t strong enough to create this expression
- Glenfarclas 105 is bottle at cask strength
- Glenfarclas 105 was George’s grandfather’s favorite
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Upcoming Spring Whisky Events
The spring whisky event season is just around the corner! Here’s a quick run down on some of the larger ones:
- January 14-17 – Victoria Whisky Festival in Victoria, BC (http://www.victoriawhiskyfestival.com/)
- February 24 – WhiskyLive NYC (http://www.whiskylive.com/shows)
- March 2 – WhiskyFest DC (http://whiskyadvocate.com/events/)
- March 8 – Whisky Jubilee Seattle (https://www.facebook.com/events/1661866610753729/)
- March 16 – WhiskyLive DC (http://www.whiskylive.com/shows)
- March 18 – WhiskyFest Chicago (http://whiskyadvocate.com/events/)
- March 18-19 – WhiskyLive London (http://www.whiskylive.com/shows)
- March 23 – Whisky Extravaganza New York (http://www.thewhiskyextravaganza.com/schedule/)
- March 26 – Whiskies of the World San Francisco (https://whiskiesoftheworld.com/events/)
- March 31 – Whisky Guild New Jersey Whisky Classic (http://www.whiskyguild.com/)
- April 28 – Whisky Extravaganza Denver (http://www.thewhiskyextravaganza.com/schedule/)
- May 5 – Whisky Extravaganza Houston (http://www.thewhiskyextravaganza.com/schedule/)
- May 6 – Whisky Extravaganza Dallas (http://www.thewhiskyextravaganza.com/schedule/)
- May 21 – World Whisky Day (http://www.worldwhiskyday.com/)
Tasting Notes: Talisker Storm
It’s unfortunate that a number on a bottle has become one of the defining characteristics that some assume equates to the quality of a whisky. Really, the number alone tells you very little about a whiskey. Non-age statement whisky is nothing new to the industry. It was less than 100 years ago that age statements even started appearing on whisky bottles, and to this day whiskies from Canada and the US, along with the biggest brands from Ireland don’t carry age statements. When a distillery releases a new bottling, no matter the label, I’m excited to see what the distillers, blenders and bottlers have come up with – and I was excited to taste Talisker Storm. Disclosure, again, that Talisker is one of the distilleries owned by Diageo, who I’ve worked for as a paid ambassador, tho Storm was released in 2013 after I finished my time with them.
- Package/Appearance: The box and label on the bottle are a bit silly to me – it’s whisky, not the backdrop to a Broadway play. The picture does nothing for me in ‘setting the mood.’ I do really enjoy the color of the liquid, a very rich gold tone.
- Nose: Similar DNA but sweeter than Talisker 10 – Reduced vanilla oil, damp forest, honey, with some peat
- Taste: Flavor builds if you let it rest on your palate. Finding unique flavors is difficult because of the heat, salt and smoke. Texture is oily
- Finish: Long, spicy and bitter
- Diluted: Nice visual of the oil and water mixing. Nose tends closer to Talisker 10, but flavors are all enhanced all the way through the finish.
- $60, 45.8% ABV
- Overall rating: Fourth Shelf
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Next time on The Whisky Guy Podcast…
Episode #10 of the Whisky Guy Podcast, on January 20, will feature a conversation with the team at Longman & Eagle (@LongmanAndEagle) in Chicago – a Michelin star restaurant with a tremendous whiskey selection.