The Spirit of Independence
Glenfarclas meaning – The Valley of the Green Grass. After tasting this fine dram in the Mash Tun public house in Aberlour, Catherine and I decided that this was a visit that had to be made while on this trip. So we went, up the long straight avenue towards the visitors centre and distillery. The view comprised of rolling hills and farmland. This proximity to the fields conjures up thoughts of years gone by when it was a working farm, the barley would have come from these fields straight to the maltings shed. The local water would have been added from the Green Burn and – Hey Presto Whisky on tap – but I am getting carried away here.
We approached the visitors centre which Catherine said looked quite an oriental photo with its Pagoda style roof which in fact was a cupola from the old maltings shed. Inside was pretty impressive too, with plenty of eye-catching displays and some good, fairly priced souvenirs. This was where we met our lovely tour guide by the name of Donna McIntosh. Donna impressed us with her knowledge of this 6th generation family-run distillery and her enthusiastic descriptions of how Glenfarclas would have been in the past in comparison to the modern process nowadays. Donna outlined that the distillery was bought by the Grant family for the sum of £500 as a farm with a small distillery and now it is a large complex today with most of the original buildings still in use. The original farmhouse still stands in the middle with its old stone cheese press at the gable end.
As we had arrived on a Saturday, a non-working day, we had the opportunity to see operations not normally available, the stone removing apparatus was static and we could see where the heavier stones rose up the plates to be collected at the top while the lighter barley tricked down to the grinding rollers of the mill (stones getting between the finely adjusted rollers would destroy them) The grist coming from those rollers on a working day would have ended up in the huge mash tun but as it was Saturday the tun was empty and spotlessly clean giving us the opportunity to see the finely sieved floor plates in gleaming stainless steel which helped us to understand how the 15 tons of grist processes the wort simply by being rinsed through with hot water.
Donna led us from the tun/washback room through to the still room to show us the 3 pairs of stills, 1 pair kept in reserve. These stills are amongst the largest in Speyside, the Wash Still alone capable of housing almost 30,000 litres. We then left the stills behind to walk back to the visitors centre passing the Filling Room and Warehouses where Glenfarclas still mature their own spirit in first fill or refill Olorosso Sherry casks where they lie before being bottled at 10 years old or at 12, 15, 17, 21, 25, 30, 40 and a staggering 50 years old. Also a cask strength “105” at 10 years (sounds like a breath taker).
We returned through the visitors centre for a taste of the Glenfarclas 10-year-old in what is known as The Ships Room, a lavishly designed panelled room (what would have been known in days gone by as a first-class smoking saloon) on the SS Empress of Australia. The panels, furniture and chandeliers were rescued by the Chairman some years ago when he spotted them in the Legion Hall in Rosyth and had them beautifully restored and installed at Glenfarclas. Having our tasting in such opulence added to the enjoyment of this fine dram with its lightly sweet, malty nose and the medium-bodied creamy sherried fruit and spice flavour. This has made quite an impact on Catherine, and I am pleasantly surprised as well. I know I have a bottle of 12-year-old in the cabinet at home so I feel a right good tasting coming on with Jim when he returns from the Whisky & Music Festival on Islay.
ps. I tasted one for you too Jim !!