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Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Independently Minded: Glenfarclas 1981 31 Year Old Port Cask

I always admire an independent spirit. Coming from a music business background, there are examples upon examples of people having a passion, starting a business and watching it grow and flourish, mainly through taking risks which major companies simply could not take.

Examples abound in the world of recorded music, from Berry Gordy’s post-Tamla project of Motown (whose logo I had the distinct pleasure of having on the back of my business cards for a while, opposite) through to Richard Branson’s signing of a young group called the Sex Pistols, who had been thrown on the scrapheap not once, but twice by both EMI and A&M. Onwards into the 1990’s, would Britpop have ever happened if Creation hadn’t taken a punt on a band from Manchester that no one else wanted to sign...?

Today, indie labels still do a fantastic job of bringing us albums from the likes of the Arctic Monkeys (Domino) and Adele (XL Records), to name but a few.

This isn’t to say that being a ‘major’ is a bad thing. Heck, I worked for a major record company for a long time and, contrary to popular belief, we signed a lot of acts which wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise, with varying degrees of success, it has to be said!

Taking a risk was what it was all about for me and sometimes you have to wear the scars of failure with pride. In fact, scars just show experience and experience shows learning. And we should never stop learning. So get used to having scars.

But as for Scotch, one of the greatest ‘indies’ of all time is Glenfarclas. Forget Dufftown, this is Motown with Glenfarclas’ production values more a ‘wall of flavour’ than a ‘wall of sound’.

Throwing out releases as they please, from ancient Family Casks, to small quarter-cask release (tbc), these guys have been at it for years, gaining respect from every quarter for their ‘because we can’ approach. 

And the latest release from these little giants is a port cask offering, just for the UK and France. Only 480 bottles were taken from a cask laid down in 1981 and bottled in July 2012 and it is about to hit the shops now, with an RRP of £280.

Glenfarclas – Port Cask - 31 Years Old – 480 bottles – 42.8% ABV

Nose: Treacle toffee and hazelnuts are mixed in with the aroma of toasted pine nuts and olive oil. Over time in the glass (and this needs time) it opens up to reveal ginger ale, ginger snaps and sultanas.

Palate: Rich at first, with crème brulee topping of caramelised sugars, which finds its feet quickly, settling down to a creamy yet robust palate of ginger and lemon grass, with hints of red apples, summer fruits and, latterly, figs.

Finish: Spices abound with cinnamon and nutmeg the most prominent. White pepper springs forward to give a long and lingering finish to this warming dram.

Overall: Spices crash all around you in this dram, with ginger on the mid-tones and a creamy top end. A whisky which is at the same time both rich in flavour but not big and oily; more relaxed than that. A real drinker, not a sipper. Think Glenfarclas, but with added spice.

It’s great to see a distillery in the heart of Speyside (despite correctly having ‘Highland’ on their label) producing whisky of excellent quality yet at a price point which, quite frankly, puts others to shame. With a 30 year old at £123 here (yes, really) and a 40 year old at £274, here (honestly!) why would you not consider Glenfarclas to be the quintessential independent spirit.