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Independent Family 175 Not Out!

It was a great pleasure back in May to be able to attend the ceilidh and dinner that marked Glenfarclas’ 175th anniversary as an independent distillery.

It’s unusual for any distillery to survive so long, and really remarkable that it should remain independent, in family ownership and concentrating solely on single malt whisky. In an age of consolidation, globalisation and portfolio management, Glenfarclas’ determinedly old-fashioned approach is to be commended and celebrated.

The whisky, of course, is a classic Speyside style, with heavy reliance on the use of sherry casks. Because of the private ownership it’s been possible for the owners to build up a remarkable stock of old whisky – going back, in fact, to 1952. This has now been released as the Family Cask series and, generally speaking, very fine they are too.

What is even better is that they don’t dress the whisky up in fancy designer packaging or start to mark up the prices disproportionately as the whisky gets older. It’s not cheap, but it is affordable (as an occasional treat) and it’s a welcome chance for malt enthusiasts to get hold of some older whisky for drinking, not collecting.

The resolutely independent Glenfarclas recently released their single malt at 40 years old, retailing (in the UK) at under £300 – amazing value by today’s standards and almost a bargain. But it’s very simply packaged in a modest presentation. I asked John Grant, son of the current Chairman, about this.

“Our aim is to offer affordable whisky that people will drink and enjoy, not just collect,” he told me. “By packaging the 40 year old in our standard tube and bottle we kept the price down and reckon to provide the best value in the market.”

They’ve taken a similar, entirely commendable attitude, to the two anniversary releases which celebrate the 175th birthday. Glenfarclas 175 (43% abv; around £75) is a vatting of casks from six decades dating back to the 1950s. It’s a great introduction to the style, which opens up delightfully with a little drop of water.

Rather harder to find, but well worth the effort, will be one of the 1,296 bottles of the Chairman’s Reserve (46% abv; £350). This is a vatting of just four casks, the youngest being 42 years old, and with a combined age of 175 years.

I love them both; I love this distillery and I whole-heartedly commend it to you.

As my picture shows, they even invited some other whisky writers!

Whisky writers at the Glenfarclas ceilidh