The Glenfarclas distillery stands on Rechlerich Farm in a valley close by the river Spey. The Rechlerich Farm lies on the slope of the mountain Ben Rinnes west of Dufftown and south of Rothes. Glenfarclas means ‘glen of the green grassland’. Officially Glenfarclas was founded in 1836 by Robert Hay, although some people claim it was founded already in 1797. In fact, a painting of the distillery hangs in one of the office rooms which is dated 1797.
In 1965 the distillery was bought by John Grant for £511.19, a tidy sum at the time. John Grant was a successful man who owned several farms and was known for his prize cattle. He saw the potential in the booming whisky industry, and acquired Glenfarclas. Five years later he formed the J & G Grant Company together with his son George. The distillery remains in the Grant family to this day.
Glenfarclas was ideally placed between the market at Elgin and the many farms in Glenlivet. The distillery therefore became a natural stop where the farmers fed their cattle and ‘quenched their thirst’ with Glenfarclas whisky. As a result the Glenfarclas whisky quickly became widely popular. The success also depended on the marketing both John and George did on their many salejourneys.
In 1898 the distillery was renovated and expanded after they went into partnership with the large blending firm Pattison of Leith a few years earlier. However, that venture proved to be unsuccessful and the creditors filed a bankruptcy petition against the company. Eight hard years followed for the Grant Family but they prevailed and managed to pay off all their debts and keep the Glenfarclas distillery in the family.
The distillery’s capacity was expanded in 1960 when the number of stills was increased from two to four. In 1974 two more stills were installed which meant that the production capacity had tripled in only fifteen years. A large and modern visitor centre was opened in 1973. The distillery currently has 30 employees.
Production at Glenfarclas
The distillery uses water from local springs. The springs are fed by water from the slopes of Ben Rinnes. Snowmelt flows through heather and peat and across granite and emerges clear, soft and slightly acid. Glenfarclas used to malt their barley themselves until 1972. Since then, the malt is bought from several malting companies. The barley used is called Hordeum Distichon and is grown in Moray, a place well known for its fine barley.
Some peat is used during the kilning, which results in the smoky flavour that is common to most of Glenfarclas’ whiskies. Five mills grind the barley to grist which is then sent to the mash house. The mash tun is made from stainless steel. With its impressive diameter of 10 metres and a capacity of 16.5 tons it is the biggest on Speyside and one of the largest in Scotland. One mashing at Glenfarclas takes between eleven and twelve hours. The distillery has twelve washbacks made from stainless steel which each holds 45 000 litres. The wash stills are among the largest on Speyside with a capacity of 30 000 litres each.
Glenfarclas has six Boiling Ball Stills. They are heated by an open gas flame, which means that there is a constant risk of burning yeast particles that sink to the bottom of the still. If that should happen, it could create an unpleasant taint which could be carried through to the finished whisky. To solve this problem, the wash stills are fitted with rummagers. A rummager is a kind of copper chain which rotates inside the still and prevents any yeast from staying at the bottom long enough to be burned.
20 minutes into the second and final distillation the heart of the run start to come through. This so called ‘heart’ is the only part of the distillation that is used. The process of collecting the ‘heart’ takes 3-4 hours. The alcohol concentration of the heart is between 60 and 72 percent, and has an average concentration of 68 percent. This raw spirit is cut with water to 63.5 percent, which is considered to be the optimal strength for the spirit to interact with the casks during storage. Glenfarclas whisky is stored primarily in American oak casks holding 250 litres and in Spanish sherry casks holding 500 litres. The Grant family has always selected the casks themselves to ensure a high quality.
Glenfarclas have 30 warehouses on-site. Several of them were built as early as in the 1880s. The warehouses have thick stone walls and earthen floors where the whisky is left to age undisturbed for at least eight years. A common Glenfarclas bottling consists of a vatting from whisky matured in sherry casks and refilled American oak casks. Younger Glenfarclas bottlings usually have a smaller amount of sherry-matured whisky in them than older bottlings. Bottling is done at the Broxburn Bottlers outside of Edinburgh.
The production capacity at Glenfarclas is 3 million litres per year.
Banffshire, AB37 9BD
Phone: +44 (0) 1807 500257
Fax: +44 (0) 1807 500234
Manager: John Miller
Visitors: Opening hours, April –September: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 10am-4pmOctober-March: Monday-Friday 10am-4pm. Daily guided tours, admission is £3.50. The last tour starts one hour before closing time. Glenfarclas has a large gift shop with a wide selection of products.
Glenfarclas has over 20 000 visitors every year. During the tour the guests are invited to enjoy a ‘dram’ in The ships Room. The room is beautifully decorated with the original interior from the SS Empress of Australia which sailed between America and the Middle East between 1913.1952.
Owner: Grant, J & G Ltd