The Glenlivet 15yo “French Oak Reserve” (40%, OB, 09.11.2009)

After the oldie from 1975 and the two recent “special” releases, Alpha and Guardians Chapter, here we look into a more “normal” release by The Glenlivet. This is a 15yo standard release Glenlivet, where the tipple came in contact with some French oak. French oak is known for impairing a slightly more tannic flavour to Whisky, whereas American oak usually gives off a more Vanilla or Toffee note. I expect a very easy drinkable Whisky with maybe a little “bite”.

Glenlivet 15yo "French Oak Reserve" (40%, OB)Color: (Light) gold, slightly pink?

Nose: Altogether light and slightly malty. Nice hints of wood. A little bit of toffee, vanilla and sweet apple. Very middle of the road, but also decent and pleasant. It smells like a good daily drinker. A little bit of dust on wood and nuttiness. Picture dust floating in the air in the sunlight in a room with unpolished wooden furniture. Also a touch of oil from tangerine-skins. Nothing out of the ordinary for a decent Single Malt Whisky, yet nice nevertheless.

Taste: Sweet, creamy with toffee and vanilla. A little tannic bite from the wood. Otherwise again very pleasant and very middle of the road. Slighty malty and nutty. Daily drinker written on its forehead. Slightly bitter on the finish, like licking walnut skin for a moment. Obviously from this particular type of oak, French you know.

A very reasonably priced 15yo, which offers a middle-of-the-road experience, with a little bite from the French oak. Pleasant but hardly entertaining, good but nothing special. Especially since it has aged for 15 years, in a time where all Whiskies are released without an age statement. It probably sells a lot, and why not. There is nothing wrong with it and it isn’t a bad Whisky either. Bang-for-your buck material, or a starters Whisky at 40% ABV  if you are interested in the effect tannins can have from French oak. Good but a bit boring (for me).

Points: 82

The Glenlivet Guardians Chapter (48.7%, OB)

Once upon a timea few teams were sent out around the world by The Glenlivet Distillery with three potions made by Whisky wizard Alan Winchester. Wizard Alan wanted to know the taste of the world, or should I say, the tastes of the four corners world. Thus three potions were concocted and named as follows:

  • Revival, Exotic & ClassicClassic: The quality of timelessness and enduring excellence,
  • Exotic: The quality of rich diversity and enigmatic depth,
  • Revival: A regard and passion for past styles, reinterpreted with a contemporary twist.

With lots of patience the teams set out and traveled many, many miles to visit groups of Whisky geeks all ’round the world. I use the term “geek” lightly, because I’m a Whisky geek myself and probably a geek in many other respects too, but I digress…

37 countries were visited, and many different countries showed many different results. Some liked the Classic potion best and some liked the exotic potion better, but the next country liked the revival potion the best. Valuable information in its own right, since different places have different tastes. Alan WinchesterAs luck would have it Mr. Al-Kindi, an Iraqi mathematician from the ninth century A.D., planted a seed that would eventually become statistics, and with this statistical knowledge one of the potions was voted the best by all members of all countries that had the opportunity to try all of the potions. The expression called “Exotic” was chosen by 39% of the tasters. Which brings us to today. The exotic-expression mentioned above is now bottled as The Guardians Chapter, and here are my findings…

Color: Orange Gold

Nose: Lots of Sherry upfront with creamy butter. Very full and bold. Whiffs of citric acidity. This Whisky really wants to leap out of the glass, to be snorted up first, to asses its merits and make you want to take a sip, but lets not indulge ourselves just yet. Very heavy on the Sherry actually, thick and cloying and very sweet. A bit heavy and aromatic. It was first called “Exotic”, but the Alpha I reviewed earlier, was more exotic that this. Lots of sugared fruits come next. Apricots, lime, hints of banana, and finally also some oak comes to the front. All in all a very bold expression, no subtleties here. After the oak a breath of fresh air emerges from my glass. Well crafted and modern Whisky. It smells a bit ‘designed’. Bold aromas of fruit and sweetness. Perfect for a young public that wants to be introduced to Whisky. Extremely drinkable and I guess a bottle like this will be finished quite quickly. More citrus now, toned down orange skin. The wood gives off whiffs like it has some virgin oak in the mix.

The Glenlivet Guardians Chapter

Taste: Sweet yes, caramel and toffee first (American wood). Very syrupy, with some elegant wood and wax polish. A little bit of (Sherry) cask toast (with tannins) and tar (European wood). A vegetable and dry grassy note. Warming and a nice finish. Good balance. It’s all here, a new oak twist with thick cloying Sherry notes and nice clean Ex-Bourbon cask in the mix.

Just like the Alpha, a nicely crafted Whisky. Very likeable and drinkable. A modern and very bold NAS Whisky that wants you to know it’s here. I guess this is somehow aimed at a young public, but I can imagine this sitting in my collection of open bottles, this will be empty soon. Compared to Alpha, this is definitely bolder, heavier and more up front. This is a loud whisky where Alpha was more fresh and elegant. For me the Alpha was even more of an exotic whisky. Nice to see how different these two limited releases of The Glenlivet are, and they are finally moving into the 21th century.

Points: 85

Thanks go out to JJ “The Marathon man”, for again, this rather large sample.


The Glenlivet Alpha (50%, OB, First Fill Bourbon & Second Fill New Wood, 3350 bottles)

Returning from my vacation, a blank white box was waiting for me. Inside this rather large sample (70cl !), wrapped in a black velvety cloth, of the new Glenlivet Alpha or α (being the first letter of the greek alphabet). Alpha is also used as a synonym for first (of a series) or simply meaning “the beginning”. If this Glenlivet is the first of a series, then there are 23 more letters in the greek alphabet. Bring on The Glenlivet Iota and Omega! (The 9th and the 24th letter of the greek alphabet).

One thing is clear though, the (Single Malt) Whisky world is rapidly changing. For starters new Whisky countries (like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are quickly becoming a sort of black hole for Whisky. Not a lot went there before and demand is now soaring, so anything still available is flowing there. Most older whiskies are therefore quickly sold out or offered at a premium price, and maybe there are not enough casks lying around to meet the demand. It therefore has become more common practice to bottle Whisky without an age statement (or NAS), and give it a name. Just have a look at a lot of recent Ardbeg’s or some of the newest Macallan’s, but also Tomatin Legacy and Talisker Storm to name but a few, almost all with extensive add-campaigns to explain what kind of Whisky it is and what’s inside the bottle.

Now The Glenlivet have their own NAS bottling and an even more elaborate marketing campaign to boot! Al lot is happening on the internet with extensive use of social media to promote this new α. Just have a look at the “Master your Senses” campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, all to help you decide for yourself what Alpha really is. Well, aficionado’s already know that blind tasting is fun, and sometimes pretty revealing about our (or the tasters) abilities. We have to wait for June 6th when all will be revealed. By then I fear that all bottles will be long gone. It’s already almost sold out, and prices are getting higher and higher already on Ebay. I guess we can already call this one a success. It looks great and it got people to part with quite some hard-earned money, without even knowing what’s inside. How about that!

So what dó we know? Already we know that it has distillates from at least two different kinds of casks. First fill Bourbon casks and second fill new wood casks were used. But what is second fill new wood? If it has been filled a second time, is it still new wood? What has been in there the first time around then? How old are the different components of the Whisky? Questions, questions, questions, but is that all? Maybe besides the two different kinds of casks, a subtle finish was done? Well, again the campaign works, after all this, who isn’t curious what will be revealed on june the 6th! The most important question of them all cán be answered right now: Is it any good?

Color: Light gold with tiny hints of sediment.

Nose: Fresh and soft dusty wood. Grass from Grasse, malt, hay and small hints of green apple skin at first, but quickly turns into something more like sweet vanilla ice-cream, more toffee than caramel and hints of “Haagsche Hopjes” (Dutch sweet coffee bon-bon). Sweet vanilla. Definitely (in part) “new” wood was used, due to the light wooded or sawdusty smell. Also some kitchen herbs (basil) and anise (from the wood) were thrown in. Smallest hint of toast, licorice and moss. Fruity it is, but all in small amounts, all the things mentioned above is where it’s about. Hints of unripe pear skins, banana and pineapple can be found. The nose is very nice and quite complex.

Taste: Sweet and fruity. Slightly tarry and slightly bitter (new and/or toasted)wood. Quite a full body. Again with some toast. Sweet like burned sugar, sweet with an edge. Also quite floral. Mocha and caramel. In part some young alcohol. For me the finish is slightly unbalanced (less sweet, more woody), the best part  for me is the more sweeter full body (and the nose). The taste is definitely less complex and more youthful than the nose.

Although up untill now only Bourbon and New wood casks were mentioned, I have a feeling there maybe more happening than only this. Still I guess some older or boulder Bourbon casks were used and the second fill new wood are there to give the Whisky an edge and might be younger (or the other way around). Not sure if any finish was used though. If any, it was done sparsely.

Thanks go out to Jacob-Jan for providing the rather large sample!

Points: 86

Glenlivet 1975/2006 (54%, Berry Brothers & Rudd, Cask #10846)

Well here is an example of the mother of all Single Malts. No it’s not the oldest distillery in Scotland, nor is it the first in anything. The oldest being Ferintosh at Ryefield (from 1689). The oldest still working distillery is Glenturret (1775). But once there was a time a lot of others added the “Glenlivet” to their own name to benefit from the success, and the known quality of Glenlivet, and who doesn’t know Glenlivet? Started in 1817 and ‘founded’ in 1824 when George Smith was one of the first to obtain a licence for his distilling. All of his illicit distilling neighbours, wanted him dead for it. Traitor! In 1845 George leased Minmore farm, which he bought in 1858. Minmore was renamed Glenlivet a year later and is the site of the current distillery. Funnily enough, Cadenheads also state the name “Minmore” on their Glenlivet offerings. George died in 1871. Long live George and to his health we raise the glass with this Berry Brothers & Rudd Glenlivet. Slainthe George.

Color: Orange Brown.

Nose: Fresh and spicy. Lots to smell here. Sour oak and honey, very “Bourboney”. Later on more elegant, refined, not very bold, even though there is a lot coming out of the glass. Distant smoke with powdery dryness. Apples and cloves. And something meaty, steak, gravy.

Taste: Initially, thick and spicy, minty and sweet. Later some tar, acetone with cookies (dough and baked chocolate chip cookies together). Medium wood, with its bitterness in place. Fine and elegant. Applesauce, almonds and cherried rubber tyres. Finishes dry.

A grand old whisky with a lot of quality to it and with a woody punch. This is unique for me since it is bold and chewy at first but quickly transforms into something more fine, refined and elegant. Just a wee bit too bitter for me, hence no score into the 90’s. probably was aged for too long.

Points: 89