A Week of Whisky: An Aggressively Underpriced Gem

The Glenfarclas 17 is underpriced by 1/3—maybe more.

Let’s start with what I think is an unassailable truth: this whisky, which currently sells for $135 at the BCLDB, should by any reasonable measure sell for over $200. Probably well over that, given that going rate for a whisky this old is $300+.

So why doesn’t it? Well, the simplest reason is that Glenfarclas, the last major single malt distillery in Scotland, is still family-owned, and doesn’t have the same enormous marketing budget that it’s competitors do. I’m not putting the boots to the big boys—the reality is that almost all of my fave malts are made by some conglomerate or the other. That’s just how the whisky industry is these days. And one more little blast of truth—smaller is rarely better when it comes to whisky. I can’t recall the number of upstart distilleries who’s product falls far short of the standard set by Diageo.

But Glenfarclas is the exception to all that. For starters, it’s no upstart. It’s been in the Grant family since 1865, and they’re Speyside neighbours with heavyweights The Macallan and The Balvenie. And it’s The Macallan that this malt has more than a connection (some might say a debt) to, given its use of sherry casks to impart a signature nose of caramelized brown sugar and toffee and a palate equally rich in brandied fruit and baking spice. This is a rich, welcoming take on a Speyside whisky, and one—again thanks to The Macallan—consumers have been increasingly willing to pay dearly for (the soon-to-arrive The Macallan 18 will land at around $450).

But for now, Glenfarclas remains a bit of a hidden gem. I have no doubt that if the Grants ever sell, the distillery will undergo a huge makeover and emerge still producing great whisky—but charging considerably more for it.