The Glenlivet 13yo “Zenith” (57.9%, OB, Single Cask Edition, Cask #8024, 2013)

It was that other well-known Speyside distillery which between 1999 and 2004 released a few Exceptional Single Cask bottlings. Some of which I tasted and were very…exceptional indeed. Alas the bottles were a mere 500ml. The Glenlivet liked that idea and somewhere around 2005, started bottling their own exceptional single cask bottlings. For the first decade, releases were kind of sparce, but more recently, many more bottlings have seen the light of day. I’ve tasted quite a few by now, and some are really exceptional and some are less so. Still good, but nevertheless, not all that exceptional in my book. Proceed with caution I would say, especially when most of them are pretty costly even the young ones.

Another remark. Although it seems quite some information is put on the label I still miss a lot. Although the label does show a cask number (here: #8024), not stated is what kind of cask it came from. And what a about distillation year? pretty basic information most other single cask bottlings show. By the way, since most of these bottlings are quite expensive to boot, where is the wooden coffin? Even the Glenlivet 21yo has that and costs less than half. Sure you can’t drink the wooden box, but it would look nice wouldn’t it. Just look at the picture below. The bottle looks great, but the cardboard box next to it… not so much (at this price point).

Color: Gold.

Nose: Fresh with nice citrus notes countered by some smooth vanilla and soft oak. Very pleasant right from the start. Some distant fruit. Dusty mocha, aspirin powder and spicy oak. Yes the oak definitely asserts itself. Typical notes for a Whisky from a refill hogshead made from American oak, and as such, reminds of many fairly young Cadenheads bottlings from ex-Bourbon casks (remember those tall green bottles?). However, this one is not that hot. Again, there is some dried yellow fruit in the back. Well hidden but definitely noticeable. Hints of salt and pepper. By now the citrus notes have gone.

Taste: Here the fruit is more upfront, but the oak is as well. Not an instant-pleasure fruit-bomb you’ll like right away. After the initial fruity aroma, it has a sharp and slightly bitter attack of oak. Slightly soapy as well. Floral without ruining it. Just like the Glen Elgin I just reviewed, this seems to be one of those Whiskies you’ll have to work with. Definitely not a casual Whisky. It needs your full attention. So don’t distract yourself with loud music or some reading, since you would miss the essence of this Whisky. Spicy and bitter wood definitely take over from the initial aroma. Nutty as well. Fresh soft almonds. If you are patient and let the Whisky breath a while in your glass, the spicy oak, and especially the bitterness get softer, leaving more fruit to develop and reach a better balance. Still, the more this breathes the better it gets. Surprisingly it only has a medium finish, with a tad of  bitterness. Peanut butter and walnut skins in the aftertaste.

If you have a collection of these Single Cask bottlings, this one can serve as a contrast to some others, but if you buy just the one, I don’t think this is exceptional enough. What might be exceptional is that this is a non-Sherried, cask strength Whisky, which stays soft almost all the way through.

This one was bottled in 2013 and resurfaced in The Netherlands in 2016 with quite a discount. No wonder it sold out rather quickly. I guess it might be worth the price I paid (less than a 100 euro’s), but I would be very unhappy if I bought this, without tasting it first, for the initial price. Recent single casks, age notwithstanding, cost more than the very good XXV bottling. Something worth to consider.

When comparing similar bottlings I have open, sure the Lochside and the Caperdonich are better but also older and more rare. Compared to readily available Malts with a similar profile that I have, I would rather go for the Glen Keith, but this Glenlivet is nothing to scoff at though.

Points: 85

The Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB, 2012)

About a year ago I already reviewed The Glenlivet 12yo, but that one was bottled around 2005. Now I stumbled upon an example of the same stuff, this time bottled in 2012. We all know the big boys want consistency, so now we have a chance to find out. For those of you who don’t know already. Due to the enormous rise in popularity of Single Malt Whiskies, a distillery can’t afford anymore, to wait 12 years to make an entry-level Malt. This 12yo will be replaced in most markets, apart from Asia and the USA, where I’m informed, the consumers like “numbers” more than the consumers in other markets. The replacement is The Glenlivet “Founders Reserve”. Yes, a Whisky described by only letters, no numbers anymore for us Europeans.

The Glenlivet 12yo (40%, OB, 2012)Color: Gold.

Nose: Malty with sweet fruit and quite some wax. Nice aroma. One thing if for sure. The aroma of the 12yo never holds back, its vibrant and wants you to drink it. Definitely not a closed spirit. Vanilla and oak, parts of it even new oak, since the wood smell is a little bit sharper. Sweet and candied. Fruity. No pineapple this time, but I do get some apricots. Powdered coffee creamer (the initial smell of it, not the fatty part). At least this nose lives up to its earlier brothers (or sisters if you like).

Taste: Strange enough, this starts with wood, partially bitter and partially burnt. Then a quick passing by of some (sugared) fruit and some soapy (ear) wax, which is quickly overtaken by paper. Diluted red fruits and the bitterness never moves an inch. Not as sweet as the older versions. Quite a difference from the 2005, 12yo, I mentioned above. Not a long finish and the aftertaste isn’t all that pleasant as well.

When reviewing the 2005 version and comparing that to the new “Founders Reserve” I was quite shocked by the difference in taste. The “Founders Reserve” tastes as a very young and immature Whisky, almost as if it wasn’t ready, but the marketing department wanted it out anyway. Now that I have tasted this 12yo from 2012, and do remind yourself how much the Whisky world has changed between 2005 and 2012, the difference in quality isn’t all that great, although the taste is quite different. My advise would be, get yourself an old 12yo, but do not pay too much for it, and be surprised how nice it was.

Points: 76

The Glenlivet “Nàdurra Oloroso Matured” (60.7%, OB, First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks, Batch OL0614)

Back in the lion’s den. Purely by coincidence, I recently reviewed some independent bottlings of Whiskies produced by distilleries of Pernod Ricard, like Braeval and Glenallachie, but also some official bottlings like Strathisla 12yo, Aberlour 16yo and The NAS Glenlivet “Founders Reserve”, but also the nice AS Glenlivet from 1983. Now another Glenlivet, and yet another new NAS bottling. I promise you, I’m not sponsored!

The Glenlivet Founders’ Reserve is the new entry-level Glenlivet that replaces the 12yo in Western European and some other markets except Asia and the US. This NAS Oloroso Nàdurra replaces the nice AS 16yo Nàdurra. I know, that one came from Bourbon casks only. However, the 16yo Nàdurra will be replaced by three new versions that will be called…Nàdurra. The first one of these is this NAS Oloroso version, soon to be followed by a NAS Bourbon version and later a NAS Peated version. Since both Aberlour and The Glenlivet have the same owner, everybody will be comparing this one to the Aberlour A’bunadh.

Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso Matured (60.7%, OB, First Fill Oloroso Sherry Casks, Batch OL0614)Color: Dark gold, copper gold. Quite light for first fill Oloroso.

Nose: Lots of vanilla, new wood and a bit sharp on first sniff. A breath of fresh air. Spicy wood and pencil shavings. I get a lot of pencil shavings recently, maybe its me. I don’t get a lot of A’bunadh like first fill Sherry though. Considering the color and also the way this smells, my guess would be that this Oloroso Nàdurra is younger than its sister from Aberlour. A’bunadh is pretty up front dark first fill Oloroso, and this Nàdurra is not. It really does smell like a young whisky with nice notes of wood without being overpowered. Nice, but not complex. The wood also gives off light chocolaty notes and some sweetish vegetal bits. Old bar of soap (from the eighties) and some licorice. For me a lot of these aroma’s come from wood and obviously from the Sherry used, but for me they aren’t typical Oloroso aroma’s you get from an A’bunadh. Wood it is then.

Taste: Sweetish and a bit hot. New wood, tree sap with its light bitterness. Coffee and licorice, a nice combination. Hints of glue. Prior to swallowing a hint of, and here it comes again, pencil shavings. We all have chewed on a pencil some time during our lives haven’t we? Italian laurel licorice. When the wood, a slight hint of bitterness, and the high strength pass, not a very big finish remains. Youth?

A young Whisky that by itself is a study of wood and not of Sherry. It isn’t complex, slightly underdeveloped, and it surely does have its moments. I guess the choice is right to think of this Whisky a bit as a Whisky for…well, not entry-level, by bottling this with a high ABV. Another good decision is probably that it is made to another profile from the A’bunadh which is more about the Sherry itself, whereas this is more about the wooden cask itself. Nice stuff, helped along by the high strength and spicy wood. Younger and really no match for A’bunadh in my opinion, but those who like higher strength Whisky, but found the A’bunadh too much, will disagree. (maybe a comparison to Benromach 10yo 100 proof would have been a better angle…)

Points: 83

The Glenlivet 1983/2003 (46%, OB, Cellar Collection, French Oak Finish, 2L7F901)

The Glenlivet “Founder’s Reserve” I just reviewed, was actually quite simple and a bit disappointing. It is a very, very young Whisky, which in my opinion doesn’t show how good a Glenlivet can be. I rummaged a bit through my personal archive and unearthed another Glenlivet to review. So lets forget about the new one for a moment and let’s see how an old Glenlivet will do. Here we have a Glenlivet that has some 20 years behind its belt. 17 years in Bourbon and Sherry casks and a further 3 years in lightly toasted French Limousin oak casks. Not all casks were used for this bottling (quality control), so only 8.000 bottles were produced. A true limited edition! This review will probably show that this was 20 years well spent, time nobody seems to have these days since demand skyrocketed. We are told not to judge a bottle by its NAS, but in the old days the same people told us we hád to judge the Whisky by its AS (Age Statement) or Vintage. So without further ado, I give you a Glenlivet from their Cellar Collection, a 1983 French Oak Finish bottled in 2003, when age was still a benchmark.

The Glenlivet 1983/2003 (46%, OB, Cellar Collection, French Oak Finish, 2L7F901)Color: Amber gold.

Nose: Surprisingly fresh but also Sherried and certainly dusty. Elegant with silky wood notes, and some added depth of toasted wood and (partly burnt) caramel and slightly too sweet toffee. Lots of aroma. Flour. Funny enough, and I’m most probably not objective here, there is a silky wood note that seems to lie on top of the nose, not as much integrated as the deeper woody notes. Very nice to nose a Whisky that has several kinds of different wood aroma’s. With the toast comes candied fruits, adding to the depth of the Whisky. Vanilla and Ice-cream notes from American oak, so most definitely a mixture of Bourbon and Sherry casks.

Taste: Creamy Sherry and yes, lots of vanilla. Distant sweet Moscatel Wine. Very smooth. Even though this has seen two or three kinds of wood it is not overpowered by it. Sometimes the wood is hardy noticeable. In the back of your mouth some nice and sweet aroma’s form, but only if the Whisky is tasted with big gulps. Dusty on the palate as well, and alas, alas, a rather short finish.

I’m not sure what the French oak finish brings to the blend of Bourbon and Sherry casked Whisky. Sometimes you do get an un-integrated silky wooden note that lies on top. So maybe it is obvious what the finish did for this Whisky. I’m amazed this turns out to be 46% ABV. It seems more like 40 or 43% ABV. Maybe this should have been bottled with a higher ABV? Good stuff nevertheless. On paper one of the more complex Glenlivet’s from the Cellar Collection, but my mouth tells me otherwise. The aroma’s of this bottling are silky and deep and for some may lack a bit of fruity zest. Highly drinkable though and something you can enjoy properly.

For reasons only science can wholly explain, I followed the Glenlivet up with the Blackadder Lochside I reviewed earlier, and although the Glenlivet is also good, the Lochside blows it right out of the water, so when spending money at auctions I would know what to do!

Points: 86

The Glenlivet “Founder’s Reserve” (40%, OB, 2015)

Just like the Berlin wall, old, well-known Whiskies that have been around for ages are coming down. We already see the manifestation of NAS Whiskies, you know the ones without the pretty numbers on the label: 10yo, 12 yo et cetera. It has recently been announced, by Pernod Ricard, that not only the Glenlivet 12yo will be discontinued, but also Aberlour 10yo. George Smith Founder of GlenlivetThis is moving in the wrong direction people! The Glenlivet 12yo has already been replaced with the new Founder’s Reserve, a highly original name taken from the old 10yo expression of The Balvenie. The Glenlivet already dropped the age statement for their highly popular Nadurra range, and are wooing the consumer to stay with Nadurra, by adding new versions. Bourbon, Oloroso and the next step will probably be a peated version. Other recent experiments were the NAS Alpha, and the NAS Guardian’s Chapter. We all know where this is going, don’t we. Lot’s of distillate will be put out as young NAS Whiskies, and the rest will be aged a prolonged amount of time to be bottled as (highly expensive) Whiskies which will still have an age statement. Yes, we should judge a Whisky by its taste and we will, and not by its age statement. Still, the super premium Whiskies will have an age statement, because age sells, people. Another experiment done by The Glenlivet is the release of an 11yo single cask for 300 Euro’s in the Netherlands, called Bochel (Hill). How far can you go? Let’s get back to the beginning, shall we? I already reviewed The Glenlivet 12yo, so we have a clue what that was all about. Now let’s have a look at its replacement. The NAS Founder’s Reserve…

The Glenlivet Founders ReserveColor: Light citrus gold.

Nose: Barley and aged spirit. Raw and yeasty. A big part of the beginning of the nose is made up of new make spirit. Apart from…new make spirit, I have never come across a Whisky that is so upfront and young. Obviously young. The new make note disperses and makes room for plain white oak. Does have some traits of Bourbon casks, but also of virgin oak casks. I hope this is still aged in casks, could be stainless steel with bits of wood thrown in. Sweet barley, yeast and oak. That’s more or less it with this Glenlivet. On top salty and estery. Well this is your wormhole that offers a peek of NAS Whisky. I guess a lot of entry-level, inexpensive Whisky of the future (and you know, the future starts now), will be like this. Perfumy and floral, latex paint with hints of mocha and still a promise of sweetness.

Taste: Sweet water. Sugary. Very, very, un-complex. Not even a lot of wood now. More (oak and pencil) wood in the nose. This is sweet balanced sugar-water with vanilla pudding and…yes, what else? Weak green, vegetal notes. In the background again the specific taste of new make spirit. This is an aged Poiteen! Short finish (obviously) and in my opinion too young, but still interesting…well, not really actually.

A long time ago, this would have been used internally to give the marketing people an insight into production methods and especially how Whisky ages. Who would have thought that today something like this would be actually bottled, and better even, replace the standard 12yo. Do I mean The Founder’s Reserve is bad? No, not at all. I love Single Malt Whisky and this is still is well made modern Single Malt Whisky. It’s just so obviously young and simple. They should have named it Baby Glenlivet. Benromach actually have replaced one of their NAS Whiskies with one with an age statement and calls it their 5yo. I’m curious how that one will compare to this one. I’m curious how these will compare to old 5yo’s (Tomatin, black label) and 8yo (Aberlour, cube bottle), but I’m also curious to see how the public will choose between NAS Whiskies and Whiskies with a low age statement. Interesting times ahead!

Points: 75

The Glenlivet 18yo (43%, OB, Circa 2003)

When thinking of the middle of the Whisky road, for me, two distilleries somehow stick out. Glenfiddich as the daddy of Single Malt and Glenlivet. There may be others. Both have a big reputation, huge sales and lots and lots of versions. Most encounters with Malts from the standard range of these distilleries will be in hotel bars and such. Here we’ll have a look at (The) Glenlivet 18yo. This is already the fifth Glenlivet bottled by Glenlivet themselves on these pages, but only the third from the standard range. Earlier we had a look at the 12yo and the 15yo “French Oak Reserve”. The 18yo is another step up from both predecessors. By the way, just recently it was announced that Glenlivet are discontinuing the highly popular sales hit: the 12yo. A decision Diageo say they could’t make when everybody is fearing the discontinuation of their Talisker 10yo. Diageo think that would be stupid…

The Glenlivet 18Color: Amber gold.

Nose: Waxy and fruity. Quite nice, but also pretty simple. Can’t imagine the recent version of this 18yo smelling this “old”. Burnt paper and a slight hint of Sherry. Some vanilla mixed with a more organic note. Quite dusty, but it somehow seems to be a sweet dust. Fruity Sherry with hints of meaty Sherry. Also some hints of Bourbon casks, especially the vanillin and creamy pudding.

Taste: Quite sweet, but when that dissipates more fruity notes appear. Also the slightest hint of tar and a burnt note similar, but not the same as the burning paper note I got in the nose. Sweet Sherry and cookie dough. Very likeable and highly drinkable. Great fruitiness. I even have some cooked banana in here but also some maracuja and dried apricot.

This tastes way nicer than the Macallan 1986 Sherry I reviewed last. This tastes more like an old Whisky, with a bigger body and kind of sweetness that is acceptable due to its balancing with the burnt notes. Quite nice, but slightly too sweet to be a daily drinker, although maybe it is. Good standard bottling from a decade ago. Now I’m curious how a more recent 18yo will taste.

Points: 85

Glenlivet 21yo (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, Licenced Bottling, 2009, JI/JFEF)

After all those official bottlings on these pages, here is a sort of semi-official Glenlivet (without the “the”). This is a nice 21yo Glenlivet, bottled by Gordon & MacPhail in 2009. Please check out the codes printed on the glass, since these licensed bottlings are bottled quite often, and bottling years are interesting since there always is some batch variation. The code on this bottle is JI/JFEF, where JI stands for 2009. More recent bottles have even a bottling date printed on them, so now it’s even easier to know which version you have.

Glenlivet 21yo G&M, 2009Color: Lively orange gold

Nose: Yeasty, waxy, dusty and smells like old Whisky, which is nice. Very fruity. Toned down sugared fruits, mostly yellow, apricots for certain, with a touch of very ripe and sweet tangerine skins (the soft ones oozing with juice). Creamy vanilla and very likeable, not a lot of wood after 21 years. I have never smelled a Glenlivet from Glenlivet themselves, unless it was an old bottling, but this one is from late eighties distillate. (I did the math). I like it very much, although you can smell that this has been reduced, which usually is not so good. Light. Still, the liveliness and fruitiness and the smell of years long gone, makes this an excellent Whisky. Wait a minute, what about how it tastes?

Taste: Waxy and fruity, yes! A little bit of sweet vanilla ice cream with fresh papaya sauce over it. This time around there is most definitely some wood, and maybe some toast or smoke. In this case that’s a good thing because otherwise it just would be too light through reduction. The lightness is also noticeable by the rather short finish, which has a bitter edge from oak.

I don’t know why exactly, because it has been watered down to much and usually I don’t care a lot for woody bitterness in the finish, but for me this one works! I like it, I have one, and if that one would be empty, I would go for another one. This makes me happy, and I’m going to drink the whole sample. Nice! It is twenty-one years old, and considering the price it costs, this seems to me to be a must have. Alas these licensed bottlings from Gordon & MacPhail are getting rather rare these days, with the last version bottled in 2012. Go and find one.

Points: 87