Glenfarclas 105 20 year old, 60%
Monster sherry whiskies don’t come much bigger than Glenfarclas 105 – but when the version in question has been aged for a whopping 20 years, it moves up the gears even more.
Glenfarclas 105 is one of Scotland’s most iconic malts. If you’re ever asked by an aggressive Glaswegian what your choice of drink is, you could do a lot worse than say 105. Just as you’re advised to say 101 in the American South, recognising Wild Turkey 101, loved by rockers and rednecks below the Mason Dixie line.
But I digress.
So why 105?
It refers to the strength under the British proof system, which differs to the American proof one, and the more commonly used British Alcohol By Volume one – and here’s how.
The Alcohol By Volume system – the ABV – simple refers to the proportion of a liquid which is pure alcohol. So a bottle of whisky at 43% ABV is made up of 43 per cent pure alcohol and 57 per cent water.
Simple, and so is the explanation for American proof – it’s double the ABV – so 101 is 50.5% ABV.
British proof is something else again, though. 100 Proof corresponds to 57.1% and 105 Proof – the strength of Glenfarclas 105 – is 60% ABV. Amazingly, the reason for this is that 57.1% is the amount of pure alcohol in a set volume of water needed for gunpowder soaked in it to ignite when exposed to an open flame. This measurement stretches back to the great days of the British Navy, where sailors were given a daily grog ration – a measure of rum. Rum was stored on ships in large quantities but had to be kept under lock and key deep in the bowels of the ship to prevent crew members helping themselves. And the armoury – with large stores of gun powder – also had to be secure to prevent mutiny. Often the two stores were close together, so an inflammable rum presented a huge risk to the well being of the Navy.
It’s perhaps fitting that Glenfarclas spotlights such a historic measuring system, because the Grant family behind the malt has a whisky history just as long, and over the decades and centuries the Speyside distiller has become internationally recognised for the finest quality spirit.
And the new version of Gelnfarclas 105 is no exception. It is aged for an impressive 20 years old and I had the pleasure of tasting it this week. Here are my notes on it:
The nose is a classic dry sherry one, with an initial wave of orange rind, intense citrus rumtopf, toffeee nut crisp, waves of tangerine and dusty smoky dry sherry notes.
The palate is highly sherried and quite astringent, drier than the standard 105, with burnt raisin, stewed red berries and a hefty waft of tannin from the oak and some late hot pepper notes. There’s a trace of green apple in there too, keeping the overall texture fresh, but it’s the spice that lingers longest, coating the mouth.
All in all an impressive oak and aged Glenfarclas with an interesting counterbalance between dry and sweet notes, and between stately age and fresh fruitiness.