Like every big distillery ever, The Glenlivet’s core range consists of 12, 15, 18, 21 and 25-year-old expressions, each exponentially increasing in price, ornate packaging and exotic and/or creative cask selection.
However, in their never-ending quest to claw back the top spot from Glenfiddich, they’ve recently made an attempt to shake up the predictable core lineup… and not only with a few expensive, narrative-driven (i.e. bullshit-laden) limited editions. From the unpopular decision to replace the venerable 12-year-old in some regions with the (admittedly, more interesting) NAS Founder’s Reserve, to the very popular launch of an entire range of affordable, whisky-snob approved single cask beauties (their Nadúrra lineup), The Glenlivet seems hell bent on winning over both the Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve douchebags and the obese, red nosed whisky critics alike.
Alarmingly, while I’ve glugged plenty of the 12, the Founder’s Reserve and even a fair helping of the Nadúrra range, I’ve never made my way up the Glenlivet age-statement ladder. Time to remedy this – clutching a couple of minis snagged from a long-haul flight, I started with the French Oak boasting 15-year-old. Bottom’s up!
Aah, what a smell. Maraschino cherries, orange zest, soft sherry, even an ultra gentle peat. Rose water. Rosemary. Cream. On the nose I’m already getting “dessert whisky” vibes – something to have while everyone else dives into whatever delicious sugary filth happens to be served.
An excellently integrated sherry/wine cask, creamy, smooth as silk. Christmas cake, but lightly so – you can still taste the malt, and the vanilla and wood of the traditional base casks. Not wildly complex, but there’s enough layers to keep me interested. A somewhat funky aftertaste, but it pops up alongside a pleasant floral note that renders it less of a problem. Highly drinkable, but perhaps not quite reaching the heights of its archnemesis equivalent.
Nope on the water, but yerp on the ice. That is, a big block of slow melting ice – the mild dilution and pleasant chill makes it just a little more oily, giving it a syrupy viscosity that really makes it feel like you’re drinking a lovely glass of pudding. Er, cold pudding.
A no-brainer from The Glenlivet at the right price, and (for some reason) like most 15-year-old whiskies (that aren’t Highland Park) marks a massive step up from the entry level 12. That being said, it would tough to justify getting a bottle of this when HP 12, Talisker 10, Auchentoshan 12, Clynelish and Cragganmore are cheaper… not to mention that the price is bordering on Compass Box territory.
Nevertheless it remains a rich Speyside dram for slow sippin’, perfect to impress whisky novices without breaking the bank or scaring them off with peat. Great for fans of the simpler, “smoother” styles and to whom the sexiness of the bottle is an important factor. Nice!