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Since 1865 Glenfarclas has been owned and managed by just one family, the Grants of Glenfarclas. On the 8th of June 1865 John Grant acquired the tenancy for the Rechlerich Farm and as part of the transaction purchased the Glenfarclas Distillery for £511.19S.0d. To this day Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland to remain family owned and managed. Now in the hands of the fifth and sixth generation of the family, the Grants remain committed to the vision of creating the best quality Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, in the traditional Speyside style.
The Grants of Glenfarclas - One family, six generations
John Grant 1805-1889
The story of the Glenfarclas Grants, started in 1805, when John Grant, the present Chairman’s great-great grandfather, was born on the farm of Lynbeg, in Glenlivet, the heart of Speyside. He lived at Blairfindy Farm, just two miles from his birthplace, and married Barbara Grant in 1827. They had six children, including a son called George, born in 1830.
John Grant became a highly successful farmer, owning several farms in the area and breeding champion Aberdeen Angus cattle. So it was only natural for him to be interested in the Rechlerich Farm, on the Ballindalloch Estate, when it became vacant in 1865. Rechlerich Farm was also renowned in the area for the Glenfarclas Distillery, established in 1836 by the previous tenant farmer Robert Hay. When John Grant signed the tenancy agreement in 1865, he purchased Glenfarclas distillery for £511.19s.0d.
George Grant 1830-1890
John Grant sent his son George, to look after Rechlerich Farm, whist he stayed at Blairfindy. Meanwhile he sub-let the Glenfarclas distillery to a distant cousin, John Smith.
Nestled in fertile grassland, the farm proved an ideal halfway staging post for cattle being driven between the family’s farms in Glenlivet, and the market in Elgin. The drovers would stop and water their cattle at the farm, rest their weary feet and enjoy the restorative powers of a dram or two of Glenfarclas Single Malt Whisky.
In 1870, John Smith left to build Cragganmore distillery and John Grant took his son into partnership. This was also the year that George married Elsie Gordon, and they went on to have five children, including two sons called John and George.
In 1889, John Grant passed away, leaving George to run both the distillery and the farm. Sadly, a year later George also passed away, leaving the license to his widow and his two eldest sons, John and George.
George Grant 1874-1949
Looking to expand the distillery, during the whisky boom of the 1890s, George, and his brother John, decided to go into partnership with Leith based Pattison, Elder & Co. Together they formed the Glenfarclas-Glenlivet Distillery Company. Unfortunately, it proved to be a troublesome partnership, and eventually collapsed. This left John and George at the brink of financial ruin. It took 15 years of hard work, family commitment and shrewd accounting to resolve the situation, but by 1914 the future of Glenfarclas was secure in hands of the brother’s own company; J. & G. Grant. The brothers efforts had not been without pain, John took early retirement due to ill health. George continued alone, but he resolved never to rely on outside investors again; The Spirit of Independence was born. The family are committed to this principle, and are proud that Glenfarclas continues to prosper as an independent family owned and managed company.
In 1921, George married Jessie Stuart Scott and they had two sons, George Scott Grant, and John Peter Grant.
George’s tenure at Glenfarclas was not the easiest in the distillery’s history, however on a positive note when the lease from Ballindalloch Estate expired in 1930 he purchased the freehold for Glenfarclas outright, thus the family ceased to be tenants.
George S. Grant 1923-2002
During the Second World War George served in the RNVR, while his brother John served with the Gordon Highlanders and First African Rifles. After they were de-mobbed, their father held a party in Elgin, in 1948, to celebrate the distillery’s supposed centenary, his Silver Wedding Anniversary and his sons 21st Birthdays, all of which had taken place during the War. At this time, it was thought that Glenfarclas was established in 1845, subsequently it was discovered that it was first licensed in 1836.
The early years of George’s tenure as custodian at the distillery were a period of rapid growth and expansion. In the early 1950s the 1860s Spirit Act, which had prohibited simultaneous mashing and distilling, was repealed, effectively doubling capacity of the distillery. By the early 1960s, demand was so intense that George had to ration the sale of new make to the blenders.
However every boom is followed by a slow down. In 1968 some of the major filling customers announced that they would not be ordering in the following year. Not one to be disheartened, George decided to lay down more stock for the distillery’s own bottlings, rather than rely so heavily on the blenders. It is thanks to this foresight that today the distillery has such good stocks of old casks, and is able to offer such a wide range of bottlings as part of The Family Casks collection.
George S. Grant, the fourth generation, and Chairman for 52 years, sadly passed away in 2002.
John L. S. Grant - Chairman
John L.S. Grant, joined the company in 1973, and succeeded his father as Chairman in 2002. John Grant is the 5th generation of the Grant family to own and manage the Glenfarclas Distillery. Prior to joining the family business in 1974, John worked for three years with the Bank of Scotland, and three years with Teachers Distillers Ltd.
On joining, John focused on building sales of Glenfarclas by the bottle, rather than in bulk to blenders. John has since appointed distributors in more than 30 markets around the world.
Based at the distillery John is ideally placed to ensure each batch of Glenfarclas is as special as that produced by his forefathers. This includes personally sourcing the malted barley and travelling each year to Spain to select the very best sherry casks.
Not being aware of another distillery with stock from so many consistent years, John decided to bottle a single cask from each year that the distillery holds stock aged 12 years or over. The result is The Family Casks, a unique collection of 43 single cask bottlings, with one cask for every year from 1952 to 1994.
George S. Grant - Brand Ambassador
George, son of John, is the sixth generation of the family and the company's Brand Ambassador. George joined the family business in 2000 after working for another Scotch Whisky Distiller, and the Glenfarclas distributor in Hong Kong; Fine Vintages (Far East) Ltd. George is passionate about Glenfarclas and particularly enjoys introducing whisky lovers to the older expressions of Glenfarclas, those distilled by his grandfather and watched over by his father.
Being a relatively small company you won’t find Glenfarclas in every supermarket, however the family were delighted when their commitment to quality and the traditions of the whisky trade were honoured in 2006 when Whisky Magazine named Glenfarclas 'Distiller of the Year', for 'being consistently good and staying true to its core values'.