Whisky Showdown! MacAllan Cask Strength vs. Glenfarclas 105

It’s a Christmas miracle! Another Whiskey Showdown just in time for the holidays.

On this festive occasion, I pit the MacAllan Cask Strength against the Glenfarclas 105.

My regular readers, if any, will remember from my initial review of the Glenfarclas 105 that, in 1968 George S. Grant, the grandfather of the current chairman, bottled a cask at 105 degrees British Proof for Christmas and thus gave birth to the product.  Thus, this Whiskey Showdown is as timely as it is special.

The MacAllan is aged in its famous sherry oak casks from Jerez, Spain and is a benchmark of quality in the world of whiskies.

The MacAllan is bottled at 60.1% abv and appears a beautiful mahogany red bordering on copper. The Glenfarclas is similarly bottled at 60% abv and is closer to a golden copper tone in appearance.

The nose of the MacAllan is ripe with dried fruits, vanilla, orange, and hints of fig. The nose of the Glenfarclas is more sweet, sharing some of the citrus in the form of orange peel, but mixing in apple, pear, caramel, and honey. This is starting off as an exercise in contrasts as the two whiskies put on entirely different experiences on the nose.

On the palate, the MacAllan is juicy and filled with dried fruits and figs, hinting of vanilla throughout. The Glenfarclas starts with spices and fruits, apples, figs, and honey. Surprisingly, it’s quite dry on the back end. Much like the nose, there’s a big difference in the tasting experience.

The finish on the MacAllan is long and spicy, filled with orange and oak. Some smoke fills in the gaps. The Glenfarclas is warm and gritty, with fruits making a final stand to a nicely balanced whisky.

Overall, these whiskies are both good and worth a taste. They aren’t what I would call every day drams, however. I hesitate to make a call, these are so different and will appeal differently depending on individual tastes. Personally, I find the MacAllan smoother and more agreeable, but the big bold impression of the Glenfarclas does have its merits. Whichever you choose, I hope the holidays find you well and wish a wonderful new year.


Product Review: Vinturi Spirit Aerator

A while back, I ran across a neat little contraption used to aerate wine. It was a nice looking glass device equipped with a funnel for the wine to run through and into the receiving glass. Earlier this year, I noticed a spirit aerator was launched specifically designed to decant undiluted spirits and, according to the claims of the manufacturer, enhance the drinking experience.

The product, the Vinturi Spirit Aerator, is now in my possession and I took it for a spin this evening in an effort to determine its effectiveness.

The box is designed to portray a high end product and the design of the aerator itself is eye catching. The whole is an elegant, transparent device whose sleek appearance, shiny metal parts, and crystal-like reflection of light make for a nice showpiece. The top part is shaped like a shot glass and comes with markers indicating the volume poured from 1 to 2 ounces. This leads into a funnel through which your drink passes into your glass when a button is pushed on the side of the device.

I decided to test the product on a single malt whisky, the Glenfarclas 105 (initial review here). This particular whisky was chosen as my experience has lead me to believe that this whisky responds quite well to airing out for approximately 20-30 minutes prior to drinking. In fact it is quite coarse without the proper preparation (some water should also be added prior to consumption).

Using the measurement indicator on the Vinturi Spirit, I added an ounce to each glass but added no water to ensure a proper comparison could be made. The glasses were marked beforehand underneath in order to be able to identify them. I then switched their places a few times such that I could no longer tell which was which. The tasting could now take place.

The first glass contained the harsh product I was familiar with. My hopes for the Vinturi Spirit thus resided in the second glass. My first sip was a revelation. Gone was almost all of the grittiness, replaced with the silky and smooth flavour of honey. My tongue was warmly enveloped with apple and caramel, and then oak and fruits. I looked for the marker under the glass and sure enough, this glass contained the aerated product.  Not that the first glass didn’t showcase the qualities of the Glenfarclas 105, the big difference was how much more smooth the product that passed through the Vinturi Spirit became.  The removal of the grit made the flavours clearer and more easily identifiable.  The Glenfarclas was easier to drink and a more pleasant experience right from the get go, no need to let it sit and aerate.  I do recommend adding some water to this particular drink regardless.

You can see how the product is used here.

Also, a link to the website from Vinturi.

The Vinturi Spirit claims to do wonders for other spirits as well, namely cognac, port, tequila, bourbon, vodka, gin, rum, brandy, sake, and liqueurs.

One thing I must mention, the aerator does an admirable job speeding up a process that occurs naturally over the course of about a half hour anyway.  You may notice sometimes a drink becomes better as you are consuming it or after sitting for a while, the Vinturi Spirit is speeding up that process and making the drink accessible immediately.   Therefore, it is entirely up to you if you think the $30 to $40 you will spend on this is worth the time.



Glenfarclas 105

This whisky review has been a long time in the making.  I have had a soft spot for cask strength editions for quite some time, and having greatly enjoyed Glenfarclas’ 17 year old edition, I have longed for a taste of their cask strength product.  I have patiently waited until now to try a dram though I have held it in my stock for some time now.  The product is called Glenfarclas 105.  The story behind the name is explained on the box by John Grant, chairman of Glenfarclas.  As the story goes, in 1968 George S. Grant, the grandfather of the current chairman, bottled a cask at 105 degrees British Proof for Christmas and thus gave birth to the product.  The current edition is bottled at 60% abv after 10 years of aging in some of the finest casks in Glenfarclas’ warehouses.

Now that we’re done with the history lesson, time to taste the product and determine whether it was a gift well received in Christmas of 1968.

An amber colour greets the eyes and a good swirl produces thick, slow running legs.  Quite nice.

The nose is caramel and apple, some pear, spice, pie crust, honey,  a hint of cinnamon, and orange peel .  Maybe a bit of vanilla at the back end of that.  It is soft and sweet, but deeply satisfying.

The palate is just as satisfying with a rush of sweet fruits, caramel, apple, honey, and oak in the background.  The texture is a bit gritty though.

The finish is long and warm, yielding more honey, sweet fruits, oak, and vanilla.

Adding a healthy dose of water changes the texture and lightens the intensity of it all.

The nose maintains its initial charms and adds a bit of melon and nut.

The palate adds banana and nut, apricot, sherry, raisins and a hint of tangerine.

The finish stays long, but smoother than before.

Overall, this is quite a revelation in the world of cask strength whiskies that tend to come on a bit too strong.  Though the whisky warms the mouth, it does not burn.  Though I am not a fan of gritty whiskies, the overall experience on this one is pleasant and casually invites the drinker to continue experiencing all that it has to offer.  A complex whisky, it can be purchased at the SAQ for about $73 or $74 whereas the LCBO is retailing it for about $80 so go figure.

Enjoy this one neat at first to address it in its raw state, then go ahead and take it with water to take out some of the grit and expose the hidden qualities of this whisky.

Oh, and by the way I’ve already got this bottle if you’re thinking of Christmas gifts, but feel free to give it to another worthy soul on your Christmas list.  They will not be disappointed.