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

Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve (48%, OB)

Glen Garioch, pronounced Glen Geerie, used to be a powerhouse of a whisky and several legendary bottlings, like some “vintage” 1968’s or the Samaroli’s from the 70’s. It’s this tasters feeling, and I could be very wrong here, after that, Glen Garioch felt a little bit silent. Not production-wise of course. It just seems to have slipped into anonymity. I haven’t written a review of a Glen Garioch up untill now, since I don’t come across a lot of samples of Glen Garioch, nor do I buy a lot of more recent Glen Gariochs. A classic case of being biased? Thus the curtain rises and taking center stage is this bottle of Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve.

Four years ago Glen Garioch revamped the looks of their bottles. Exit the standard scotch liquor bottle with the stag label, and enter this elegant ánd dumpy (metro man) bottle. In the new range of Glen Garioch are some NAS (No Age Statement) bottles, Like this ‘Founder’s Reserve’ and the ‘Virgin Oak’. There is also a 12yo and the rest is all ‘Vintage’, where the younger ones are all cask strength and the older ones are bottled at the new preferred strength of 48% ABV. After 40%, 43% and 46% ABV, now an even higher proof becomes standard.

Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Very young and malty, spicy wood and it smells almost like new make spirit (this wears off with lots of breathing, so a half full bottle will smell better than a full one). Funky. Very spicy. Oriental. Nosed blind I would have gone for an Indian Whisky. Hints of sulphur. It fits the fashion of issuing younger and younger whiskies. This probably is not older than five or six years old with maybe some partial ageing in virgin oak. Grassy, vegetal (hints of lavas) and latex paint. Indian spices mixed in with butter and vanilla. Not quite what I expected. It starts out young and anonymous, almost lacking character, but give it room to breathe and this becomes a different puppy altogether. The character it has on the nose comes form the oak, nice cask management.

Taste: Punchy (hot) oak carried by the higher than usual ABV. Bitter wood, Indian spices again and an edge of silky bitterness. Also, I’m guessing here, this does need the higher ABV. Half-sweet and light with the slightest hint of bitterness from virgin oak, fresh walnut skins, cardboard and some licorice (and tar). This is a young woody whisky. The wood pushes the fruity notes a bit to the background. Anonymous at first, but also nothing actually wrong. But after some breathing… Warming finish with quite some staying-power. For a short while a creamy aftertaste.

Tomatin Legacy is also a Whisky that is not older than 5 years old. But for me a better and cheaper choice if you compare it to a freshly opened Glen Garioch. However the Tomatin doesn’t change much over time, whereas this Glen Garioch evolves quicker than anything Charles Darwin encountered. Just smell it after a while. Wonderful. Consider my interest in Glen Garioch rekindled.

These new kinds of NAS Whiskies are definitely tailored for a new type of Whisky-drinker. I’d like to know how this new Whisky-drinker is described…

Points: 83

(When I tasted it right after opening I gave it 76 points, go figure)

Thanks go out to Laura!

The Balvenie 10yo “Founder’s Reserve” (40%, OB, Circa 2003)

And here is another entry-level whisky by the same owners as Glenfiddich. I guess Glenfiddich was (not anymore) the poor man’s Single Malt Whisky and The Balvenie is the more posh one. Even Glenfiddich started to churn out Vintage Releases from the seventies, that have a heft price tag. Balvenie makes about half the amount of Whisky Glenfiddich makes and with that still is a top ten seller. So William Grant & Sons have two golden goose’s on hand.

When looking around. and being new to Single Malts I almost fell in love by the shape of the bottle and really liked the way their labels looked. Not a lot to choose then. There was this 10yo (Founders Reserve), a 12yo (Double Wood), a 15yo (Single Cask), a 21yo (Port Wood) and a 25yo (Single Cask). And there was one limited oddity, the 17yo (Islay Cask). Nothing more. Today like with others there is more choice than ever. Lets have a look at the cheapest Balvenie, the 10yo “Founders Reserve”…

Color: Gold

Nose: Perfumy and powdery. Almonds and lemons. Apple pie. Hint of wood. Creamy. banana and cookie dough. Syrupy. Sweet and light.

Taste: Sweet and very fruity. Cardboard. Very short finish. Sweet but very light. Hints of smoke? Hints of wood and wood-shavings that give it just a little bit of character. Vanilla ice-cream.

First of all I have to admit it was a very long time since I’ve had those standards like this one and Glenfiddich 12yo. I almost never have a whisky that’s 40% ABV, or it has to be a very old Gordon & MacPhail bottling. So I’ve become very much detached of these standards. With that I may become a bit decadent and in memory unappreciative of these whiskies. Having said that I have to admit that these two whiskies surprised me a lot with their quality and taste. Nice stuff. There is one big if. These type of malts seems to me are so easily drinkable, that you would drink them the way you drank lemonade when you were a kid. These types of malts make alcoholics out of us 😉

Compared to Glenfiddich 12yo “Special Reserve”, both are different styles. This is sweet and fruity. Nothing more. Glenfiddich is more honest in style, more of a Lowlander I would say. I thought Glenfiddich was better.

Points: 77