The Glenfarclas distillery is a family-owned business that has been producing whisky since 1865.
The Grant family has been involved in the distillery from the beginning, and they continue to produce some of the best single malt whiskies in the world.
In this article, we will take a look at the history and legacy of the Grant family, and we will also explore their link to the world of whisky production. So sit back and enjoy a dram of Glenfarclas Single Malt Scotch Whisky – it’s sure to put you in a good mood!
A short history of the Glenfarclas distillery
First licensed in 1836, operations at Glenfarclas distillery date back as far as 1791, but its current lease on life begins when the Grant family bought the distillery in 1865.
The Glenfarclas translates from Gaelic as meaning “valley of the green grass” and the distillery still has a distinctly bucolic atmosphere to it, nestled in the Speyside valley on land originally belonging to the Recherlich Farm.
Initially, it was the farm that John Grant was most interested in, with the distillery itself being valued at just £511. For the first two decades after buying the land, John Grant even outsourced the whisky-making to a local distiller, John Smith.
Over the next century, the Grant family slowly came round to the idea of distilling whisky on-site and, by the time George Grant took over in 1948, Glenfarclas was a well-established name in the industry.
George immediately began to make his mark on the distillery, increasing production and expanding markets both at home and abroad. It was also during this period that Glenfarclas transitioned from mostly selling whisky to blenders, into establishing itself as a single malt brand.
The expansion was initially powered by a partnership with Pattison Brothers of Leith, who received a 50% stake in the business, but when Pattison went bust in 1898 it nearly took Glenfarclas with it and caused a chain reaction that toppled some of the biggest whisky names at the time.
Since then, the Grant family has been committed to keeping Glenfarclas independent, and it remains one of the last family-owned and operated Highland whisky distilleries.
This commitment to independence actually significantly helped to establish Glenfarclas as one of the leading names in Scottish single malt whisky production.
During the infamous Whisky Loch of the mid-1980s, when the market was saturated with sub-par whisky, Glenfarclas was one of the few distilleries that refused to lower its standards and who had the necessary independence and financial reserves to continue to produce high-quality whisky.
Because of this, as interest in single malt whisky experienced a resurgence in the 1990s and 2000s, Glenfarclas was one of the first distilleries to benefit from this renewed interest.
In addition to its commitment to quality, the Grant family has also always been innovative in its whisky production.
For example, it was one of the first distilleries to release a cask strength whisky and was also an early adopter of sherry cask maturation.
The real point of differentiation, however, came with John Grant (the most recent one, not the founder) and his focus on rebranding Glenfarclas as a speciality single malt producer.
By his own admission, there wasn’t a lot of interest in this idea during the mid-1970s and the Grant family had to work hard to create a distribution network and market for a product that could take a generation to see results from.
The family’s gamble paid off, and today Glenfarclas is one of the most respected single malt producers in Scotland.
Glenfarclas was also one of the first distilleries to push the concept of whisky tourism, starting in the early 1970s with the opening of their visitor centre, which now plays host to around 5,000 visitors per week.
These days, whisky tourism is a multi-million-pound industry in Scotland and attracts visitors from all over the world. However, in the mid-1970s, distillers such as Glenfarclas Glenfiddich, Strathisla, Glenlivet, and Tamdhu had to work exceptionally hard to convince the local Scottish tourism authority that there would be any value in setting up the Malt Whisky Trail.
The Malt Whisky Trail is now a popular tourist destination, and Glenfarclas is one of the most visited distilleries on the trail.
The Grant family’s commitment to quality and innovation has helped make Glenfarclas one of the most respected and well-known single malt whiskies in the world.
The distillery is one of the few independents left in Scotland and has been run by the Grants for six generations now, making it one of the longest family-owned distilleries in the world and it is currently managed by the sixth generation of Grants.
Glenfarclas whisky is made from 100% malted barley, which is mashed and distilled in copper pot stills. The spirit is then matured in oak casks for a minimum of ten years.
This gives Glenfarclas whisky its distinctive Highland character: a full-bodied flavour with notes of sherried fruit, malt, and spice.
As an indication of how far the Glenfarclas distillery has come, the Glenfarclas Family Cask Trunk, launched in 2019, contains whisky from every year from 1954 to 2003.
This is a remarkable achievement and a testimony to the skill of the Grant family in producing fine whisky and is also valued at around £100,000, which is around 200 times what John Grant originally paid for Glenfarclas!
Who are the Grant Family of Glenfarclas?
The Grant family has been making whisky at Glenfarclas Distillery for over 150 years, and during that time they’ve seen a lot of change in the industry.
The first Grants were farmers who turned to distilling as a way to make money on the side, and they produced their whisky using traditional methods that were common at the time.
The distillery was officially founded in 1836 by John Grant, and it’s remained in the family ever since. In fact, Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining independent distilleries in Scotland, and it’s now run by the sixth generation of Grants.
This commitment to independence and family ownership has helped Glenfarclas build a reputation for producing some of the best whisky in the world.
During this time, the Grant family has shown extraordinary foresight in times of adversity. In the early 1900s, they bought additional land to increase their production capacity.
Additionally, despite granting the ill-fated Pattison Brothers of Leith a 50% stake in the business, the Grant family were able to retain full control of Glenfarclas when the Pattisons went bankrupt.
The Grants have also been able to weather more recent storms, such as the collapse of the whisky market in the early 1990s.
And more recently, they were one of the first distilleries to release a no-age-statement whisky, which has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Their focus on creating single malt whiskies has also paid off, with Glenfarclas winning a string of awards over the years.
The Grant family has been running Glenfarclas distillery for six generations now, and their passion for whisky-making shows no signs of waning.
Today, Glenfarclas is a thriving business, and its whiskies are highly sought-after by collectors and connoisseurs
The Grants are a true whisky dynasty, and their commitment to quality and independence is evident in every bottle of Glenfarclas.
Was John Grant a Smuggler?
One of the more persistent rumours about the grant family is that their progenitor, John Grant was originally a whisky smuggler. However, as romantic as this whisky legend is, it’s based on an unfortunate mix up.
Unsurprisingly, the second name Grant is as widespread in Scotland as the first name John, and John Grant of Glenfarclas is often, and understandably confused with John Grant of Glen Grant, and occasionally with the Grants of Glenfiddich (you can see how it can become confusing.)
John Grant of Glen Grant was famously a whisky smuggler, who transitioned into legitimate distilling in 1823. However, John Grant of Glenfarclas had nothing to do with whisky smuggling – he was born in 1798, long after the event.
The story goes that a local grocer named George Cowie allowed John Grant to buy grain from him at a lower price than the going rate, as he was a friend of the family.
John Grant bought then distilled the grain himself into whisky in his farm highland steading (a type of outbuilding found on many farms in Scotland), which he then smuggled back to the lowlands and sold to Cowie at a higher price than what he had originally paid for it.
This went on for some time, until one day John Grant was caught by the Excise men. He was fined, but not before he managed to sell all of his whisky to Cowie so that it would not be confiscated. From then on, the two men worked together in a more legitimate manner, with Cowie selling Grant’s whisky while Grant continued to produce it.
It should also be noted that James Grant, brother of John Grant of Glen Grant, famously rode at the head of the last clan uprising in Scottish history and chased down and beat up two robbers after nearly being strangled to death for his valuables while visiting London.
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) John Grant of Glenfarclas seems to have made his living in honest farming and legitimate distilling (as far as we know).
Despite an absence of recorded clan battles or robberies, the Grants of Glenfarclas have still created a whisky that is well worth fighting for and their early adoption of both single malts and whisky tourism has kept them relevant and well respected in the contemporary whisky world.
What Makes Glenfarclas Whisky Unique?
Glenfarclas whisky is unique for a few reasons. Firstly, the distillery uses traditional methods that have been passed down through the generations.
This includes using only the finest ingredients and maturing the whisky in oak casks for many years.
Secondly, Glenfarclas is one of the few remaining independent family-owned distilleries in Scotland.
The Grants have been making whisky at Glenfarclas for over 150 years, and they are passionate about producing the best possible product.
Finally, Glenfarclas has a very distinctive flavour profile that is loved by many whisky enthusiasts. As with many Scottish whiskies, the flavour profile is dominated by peat and smoke.
However, Glenfarclas also has a very fruity character, with notes of citrus and green apples. This makes it a very well-balanced whisky that is perfect for sipping on its own or enjoying in a cocktail.
A Scottish Whisky Dynasty
The Grant Family of Glenfarclas has carved out a place in the history of Scottish whisky production through their commitment to quality and innovation and the Glenfarclas distillery is now in its sixth generation of family ownership and management.