Monday, 1 August 2011

Out with the old, in with the new? Glenfarclas 1961 Family Cask and Great King Street: Artist’s Blend

My monoprint of my
ever suffering girlfriend.
Last weekend I braved the caterpillar slow trawl along the Southbank in the Thameside heat, dressed in shirt and tie, to experience the extravaganza that is the Vintage Show at the Royal Festival Hall; a hotpot of style, fashion and bad hair. After braving a queue for my determined girlfriend to get made up 1950s stylee (we managed two hours before she gave up), we experienced a myriad of decades under one roof. From 40s Lindy Hop to a 80s warehouse rave with dry ice and strobe lighting in ecstatic abundance. From Emin inspired monoprinting to ration-era upcycling. However amongst this fashion show come jumble sale, ‘we’re in a recession lets turn this jacket into a bag’ excitement, I began to question myself. Is there too much concentration on the retro, the old school and the past, and does this apply to whisky?

We all find comfort in the certainty of the past and revel in nostalgia. That’s what makes old whisky great. It isn’t just the depth of flavour that a 30, 40 year whisky can have, it’s the knowledge that it has sat slowly minding its own business whilst the world has changed and rocketed about it. One such whisky I had the pleasure of tasting, courtesy of the ever entertaining and interesting George Grant of Glenfarclas, is the 1961 Glenfarclas Family Cask. Bottled in 2010 this 49 year old whisky was immense, and all the better for knowing it had seen out the Cold War, the Winter of Discontent and 90s breakdown rap. Here’s what I thought:

Glenfarclas 1961 Family Cask:
46% - Bottled 2010
Nose: Rich dried fruit notes balanced with the presence of sherry wood with overtones of varnish and a cherry/oak hybrid.
Palate: Full and oaky, but perhaps a tad tired from the time spent in the barrel.
Finish: Long with that classic sherry presence emerging again, but also a little shorter than I expected for such an aged whisky.
Overall: Despite being ever so slightly over oaked, this is an incredible whisky. Big in flavour, beautiful mahogany in colour and steeped in history, this is a whisky that deserves respect for its age alone if not for it massive punchy flavour.

However. This is not to say that there isn’t too much emphasis placed on highly aged whisky, and too much on the old and pure. Compass Box have released their inaugural blend of their new Artisan Range: Great King Street, named after the location of their Edinburgh premises. It aims to provide something that will attract new people to whisky and having tried it I can see why.

Great King Street: Artist’s Blend:
43% - No Age Statement - Bottled by Compass Box
Nose: Banana and marshmallows create a soft aroma that is borne upwards with a citric twang of lemon that insures that this whisky has plenty to offer.
Palate: Very light with bananas doused in single cream with a touch of lemon zest.
Finish: Unsurprisingly with its soft attributes and lightness on the tongue it has a fairly short but not abrupt finish but in no way is this a criticism.
Overall: Light remaining the word here, this is a whisky that has potential to entice new people into the haven of whiskydom, but regardless of this I may still get a bottle as it has something pleasantly enjoyable about it that is unpretentious and new. A whisky that looks forward can only be a good thing for fans of the spirit, and Compass Box, as always, are blazing a trail for us all to follow.

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