Reason enough on its own to visit Scotland, Scotch whisky is deeply rooted in the country’s past and is very much present in its culture today. There are whisky tours galore scattered about the country, from the capital city of Edinburgh to the islands and much of the highlands. However, we have a favorite in Speyside: the Glenfarclas Distillery tour. We were fortunate enough to experience our very own personal tour (the benefit of visiting in January!) and now we have a new favorite whisky.
In this post, we talk a little bit about the distillery and its history but most importantly, we share our review of the Glenfarclas whisky tour and tasting itself. Hint: you should visit and take a tour!
Glenfarclas isn’t the top Scotch whisky producer or major label like Glenfiddich or Glenliver, but it isn’t the smallest either. In our opinion, it’s right in that sweet spot of big and small: still unique enough of an operation to not feel too commercial but large enough to provide visitors with an awesome tour and tasting.
If you’ve done any amount of research on whisky in Speyside then you’ve probably run across the Malt Whisky Trail. This is a really fun idea for whisky lovers who are visiting the area. However, you will not find Glenfarclas listed on the trail. That’s a shame! So, if you’d like to take a different trail that the main route, try Glenfarclas or one of the many other distilleries that aren’t listed.
Seeing more than just the Scottish Highlands on your trip to Scotland? Be sure and stop in Edinburgh for a general whisky tasting experience. This will teach you how to appreciate and understand everything Scotch and you’ll hear some pretty cool tales too!
What and Where is Glenfarclas Distillery?
Glenfarclas Distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland which borders the northern side of Cairngorms National Park. It’s been said that around half of all Scotland’s whisky comes from this region. That’s a lot! So, Glenfarclas is not alone in this area.
It’s all about that water and Speyside has some of the best thanks to the River Spey. If you’re not a fan of smoky whiskies (like the Islay region) then you’re going to love what Speyside and Glenfarclas have to offer.
The name Glenfarclas means “Valley of the Green Grassland” and the distillery prides itself on being family owned. They’re now on the 5th and 6th generations of Grant owners so there’s a lot of rich history to be had here. The first Grant to stake his claim in this valley was John Grant, who purchased the land in 1865. Needless to say, these folks have been making amazing single malt whisky for a long time.
How to Get There and Rules of the Road
Getting to Glenfarclas is pretty straightforward. Glenfarclas is just off of A95, just 50 minutes from Aviemore, a popular ski town in the Cairngorms National Park.
But while getting to and fro is simple, it’s vitally important to adhere to the drinking and driving laws of the UK. Like most of Europe, the alcohol limit while driving is 0%. This is very different from the United States so please take note.
Glenfarclas knows the rules so they’ll gladly give the driver a small bottle for later or phone a taxi for you.
When to Visit Glenfarclas Distillery
Glenfarclas is open all year, Monday to Friday, and there are several tours every day. However, during the months of July, August, and September, tours are running on Saturdays due to increased summer tourism.
When do we recommend visiting?
The distillery experiences some down time during the latter summer so a visit around that time will be a little quieter. However, if visiting during other times of the year, you’ll probably meet some of the workers and see them in action. It was quite loud at times but very interesting to see the process of whisky making in action.
What’s the tour like?
Like most whisky tours, it begins with the history of Glenfarclas, leads you through the distillery and warehouse and then ends with a tasting. But honestly, the Glenfarclas tour was very personal and educational. Again, we visited in January and had the entire tour to ourselves. We got to ask every question we could think of and see it all first hand. It was awesome!
If you’re visiting during the more touristy months then expect some people to tag along with you. However, Glenfarclas is a smaller operation than the most well known distilleries so it’s a good choice if you like less crowds!
We were able to see the entire process from beginning to end and we got to take a peek inside the warehouse where some casks are as old as the 1950s.
The tasting, of course, is the most exciting part of the tour. There are several tour packages available.
The Classic Tour, which is what we did, cost £7.50 which lasted around 1.5 hours and involved a tasting of the 10 year and 15 year whisky.
The Connoisseur’s Tour is the real deal. For £40, this tour lasts at least 2 hours and includes four tastings from specialty casks. However, this tour only runs on Fridays from April-October.
Then there’s the 5 Decades Tasting and Tour. This one is pretty pricey, costing £125 but you will sample a whisky from each of the last five decades which is pretty special!
As budget travelers, we highly recommend the classic tour. It allows you to see a good-sized distillery in action plus you get to sample a bit of the goods. Hard to beat for £7.50!
What’s the Whisky like?
For the classic tour, you’ll be tasting the 10 year and 15 year whisky. To be blunt, the whisky is amazing. We’re fans of all types of Scotch, more or less, (one of us really loves the smoky kind from Islay) but we truly thought Glenfarclas was great whisky. A Glenfarclas worker has said there’s not much to talk about. “There’s good whisky and nay good whisky.” That about sums it up. But we’ll share our thoughts anyway!
Glenfarclas’ whisky is aged in Spanish sherry casks so that has a lot to do with what you’re tasting out of the bottle.
The 10 year is so smooth and light in color and quite sweet. There’s definitely some vanilla at work. This was our favorite out of the two we tried.
The 15 year brought out some more sherry flavors and had some hints of fruit as well. It was darker in color and higher in alcohol content.
Summary of Glenfarclas Distillery Tour: Whisky in Speyside
We would have loved to hang around all day and hear some more interesting stories about the family and the history while tasting so many whiskies but we had more of Speyside to explore! Scotland is full of natural wonders and whisky, made from Scotland’s pure water, is part of that wonder. We hope you can make a trip to Speyside and tour Glenfarclas and gain a new favorite whisky like we did!