The Glenlivet is another one of those whisky brands that I have come across a fair few times and have managed to amass tasting notes on each occasion. So it makes sense to bring them all together and to also showcase its new expression Alpha. But first, who are The Glenlivet? *
Glenlivet is located within Speyside and when translated from Gaelic, means ‘valley of the smooth-flowing one’. At the beginning of the 19th century, when heavy taxation meant illegal distillation ran rife, the peaks and gorges provided perfect cover for smugglers who wanted to hide from the authorities. The word spread that the whisky distilled here was unsurpassed and whisky from Glenlivet was even requested by name by King George IV on a state visit to Scotland in 1822.
Raised on a farm and trained as a joiner, George Smith was a businessman and entrepreneur who didn’t follow the lead of the illegal still owners. In 1824, he obtained a distiller’s licence so he could produce and trade without attracting the attention of government excise men. The smugglers were furious that George could go about his business freely while they still had to conceal their activities. George Smith passed away in 1871, but his legacy lived on in his son and heir to the distillery John Gordon Smith.
John’s first task was to protect his inheritance from those who were taking advantage of the single malt from Speyside. Sailors on delivery boats were siphoning off the casks during transit, and competing distillers were labelling bottles of their whiskies as Glenlivet. In 1876, John filed a request to trademark the name Glenlivet to put an end to the activities of the impostors. After years of legal wrangling, the case was settled. John won the exclusive right to call his whisky ‘The Glenlivet’, definitively marking it as the single malt that started it all. When John’s second great-nephew Captain Bill Smith Grant inherited the distillery in 1921, action by the Distillers Company Ltd. led to season-long closures throughout Scotland. Thanks to Smith Grant’s perseverance, The Glenlivet distillery was one of just a few malt distilleries that remained open.
Prohibition was lifted in the United States in 1933, and trade channels re-opened the following year. Because The Glenlivet distillery had remained open for business, it was in an ideal position to capitalise on this lucrative transatlantic opportunity. The Pullman train company started serving The Glenlivet in miniature bottles. Commuters across the Midwest couldn’t get enough of this superb single malt, and word spread quicker than the trains could travel. By 1950, The Glenlivet accounted for half of all the Scottish malt whisky sold in the US.
The distillery draws water from Josie’s Well and other springs a short distance from the distillery and uses barley from Crisp Maltings, Portgordon. The spirit is distilled twice before being matured in ex bourbon casks, with some products being finished in casks previously used to store sherry and port.
As mentioned, I’ve been lucky enough to try some of The Glenlivet range, so below, I give to you my tasting notes –
A sweet, rich nose with vanilla and green apple coming through. Toffee and fudge present on the palate with plenty of oak flavours and hints of aniseed. A long finish with a slight warmth.
The Glenlivet 15yr French Oak Reserve – 40%
Matured in French Limousin Oak casks. Rich butter aromas on the nose with oak following. A combination of fruit and nut with spice and cinnamon making an appearance. Lingering finish of spice.
The Glenlivet Nadurra Cask Strength 16yr – 54.2%
Fresh, rich aromas of apple and vanilla on the nose. Slight spice on the palate, with vanilla and soft fruits bursting on a dry finish.
The Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso – 48%
Small batch crafted and matured within 100% ex-Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez in Spain. Lots of dried fruits combining on the nose including stalked cherries, sultanas and slight apricots. A developing spice on the palate, with lots of sweet orange, dark chocolate notes and plenty of cream that counters somewhat the dry finish.
The Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso Matured – 60.7%
Small batch crafted and matured within 100% ex-Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez in Spain. Dry sherry notes on the nose with rich honey aromas on the finish. Sharp beginning on the palate, very thin and light with honeycomb and sherry kicks, leading to a bold, spice and a lingering warmth on the finish.
The Glenlivet Founders Reserve – 40%
Created by selecting whisky from a variety of traditional aged oak casks and and American first-fill oak casks. Strong, sour green apple and cider notes on the nose, with a smooth offering on the palate with a developing fresh spice. Plenty of stewed apple and oak notes combining and leading to bold, rich kicks with a long, lively finish. Smooth, with red apple notes.
The Glenlivet 18yr – 43%
Rich toffee and fruit notes on the nose with honey and walnut flavours mixing with spice as it nears the long ending on the palate.
The Glenlivet 21yr – 43%
Cereal and honey aromas create a rich nose, whilst a sweet ginger and cinnamon offering on the palate developing towards a warm, long ending.
The Glenlivet Alpha – 50%
Surrounded by some fantastic marketing, The Glenlivet Alpha bottle is described as a “blank canvas”, a single malt designed to challenge consumers to develop their own perceptions of the whisky without being influenced by age, colour or cask. Just 3,500 bottles of the 50% abv expression have been released to 15 global markets, including the US, UK, Taiwan and France, targeted predominantly at existing The Glenlivet fans and single malt Scotch enthusiasts. A teaser campaign ran across social media and digital, aiding consumers to develop their own tasting notes and discover the elements that have formed Alpha. Here’s mine –
Light on the nose with some sweetness coming through. Aromas of sherry and dry oak linger a little soon after. Sharp beginning on the palate, with an almost corn like feel. Some notes of iodine blend with citrus and honey to create a very long finish.
The range is superb, with great marketing for their newest expression in The Glenlivet Alpha. Well worth a dram or two if you come across any, and a great addition to your drinks cabinet.
To check out the quest to find the newest The Glenlivet limited edition, check out The Glenlivet Guradians’ Chapter, where I had the chance to sample three, with only one going into production.
* History taken from The Glenlivet website. Subtle changes have been made for narrative purposes only.
© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.