Glenfarclas Family Cask Trunk And The 1971 Vintage Whisky
by Ken Gargett
Most of us, when traveling, might sneak a guilty pleasure into the luggage for the trip. A good cigar or two, a fine wine, or a bottle of malt perhaps.
If you have a lazy £100,000 (or in Australia, an estimated $230,000), the highly regarded whisky producer Glenfarclas has done your packing for you by releasing the Glenfarclas Family Cask Trunk.
Inside the trunk are fifty 200 ml bottles of Glenfarclas malt whisky, vintage dated, representing every year from 1954 to 2003. Only 60 trunks are available worldwide, though future releases are anticipated.
But that, as the steak-knife ads say, is not all. It also comes with four tumblers, four nosing glasses, and a water jug – all Glencairn Crystal – with four slate coasters and three leather-bound books. One of these books is a history of the distillery; another contains George Grant’s tasting notes (George is the sixth generation of the Grant family, which has owned Glenfarclas since 1865, originally purchased for a price, apparently, of £511, a fraction of the cost of some of these bottles, though of course a significant amount back then); and the final book is for your own notes.
Finally, it includes a replica from a 1791 painting of the distillery, the original of which hangs in the private dining room in Ballindalloch. It is the oldest known painting of the distillery.
An earlier George Grant, who spent an amazing 52 years in charge of the company, made the decision to lay down more vintage casks. Sales of whisky had declined in the 1960s, and the distillery had lost a major client for blending operations, so it was the ideal time for a producer looking to the long term.
There was a previous release in 2007 of 43 whiskies (including the 1952 and 1953, now depleted), but the Family Cask Trunk is even more ambitious. The price back then for the collection was a mere £6,500.
Apparently, this George Grant (the Grant history is littered with Georges) was so convinced that his idea would never succeed that he reportedly went on holidays rather than attend the launch.
Almost immediately, his Japanese distributor faxed, ordering 178 bottles. When they spoke, George asked if such a large order was to cover the next couple of years. He was told that the order was simply from one bar alone. That changed his perspective.
The Glenfarclas range of whisky
It has been possible to purchase individual bottlings, which are ideal for anniversaries or birth years. The 1954, for example, is currently available for AUD$15,000 per bottle. The 1971, which I had the chance to sample recently, is a more modest AUD$5,500. More recent bottlings will reflect even more modest prices.
These releases are from a range of bottlings – not everything went into bottles at once. So far, there have been around 400 bottlings across the vintages. For reasons they are not sure of, reputedly, the most popular is 1979 – perhaps as it is seen as the lightest of the range.
It has already seen around 14 bottlings.
Some buy these whiskies as investments, and they have been well rewarded, but it seems most buy to enjoy the whiskies (as it should be).
Notes on the Glenfarclas 1971
Although I would love to provide you with notes on the entire range, I can only comment on the 1971.
A dark amber/teak color with browns and orange notes, the rim is slightly lighter as one would expect.
The palate was powerful and reasonably spirity (different bottlings do vary but the alcohol level seems to sit between 50 and 57 percent – this one certainly feels as though it is from the higher end of the spectrum), with notes of honey, raisins, spices, plum pudding, cinnamon, and a smoky honeycomb character.
Incredibly complex with a delightfully supple texture and amazing length. Notes of white chocolate and walnuts developed towards the end of the palate. Definitely quite spirity, but a fantastic Speyside whisky aged in a sherry butt.
Information suggests that 445 bottles were made – or 459, from yet another source. Suffice it to say, quantities are extremely limited.
Glenfarclas does a range of aged malts, for those looking for more regular yet equally exciting bottlings. There really is something for everyone here.
For more information, please visit www.glenfarclas.com/whisky/the-family-casks.