Dram Review: The Glenlivet 18 year old

This sample was part of a Glenlivet tweet tasting at which I was lucky enough to try The Glenlivet Alpha (read my review of that little beauty right here.

The 18 year old is Glenlivet brand ambassador Ian Logan’s all time favourite drink. The second everyone at the tasting put their noses in the glass, there were exclamations on how excellent it was. It is certainly more complex on the nose than the younger standard Glenlivet expressions.

Here are the dramstats:

Glenlivet18

 

  • Price around £50
  • ABV 43%
  • Age 18 years

Nose: Toffee and blackcurrant, black ripe cherry, pear simmered in wine, with vanilla. Water releases a peach cordial note.

Palate: Blackcurrant liquorice, cherry pie filling and custard with peach cordial.

Finish: Tingly pepper and oak and blackcurrant boiled sweets, orange peel, baked peach, fading fruit and vanilla with spices continuing in waves that alternate with the fruit. An excellent finish!

Verdict: The Glenlivet eh? What a range. I prefer the 12 year old nose and, for drinking purposes, the 15 year old palate and finish. However, for dissecting a dram, the finish on the 18 just won’t stop giving. Excellent! Only good things to say about Glenlivet on price and otherwise here.

 

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Dram Review: The Glenlivet 15 Year old

This sample was part of a Glenlivet tweet tasting at which I was lucky enough to try The Glenlivet Alpha (read my review of that little beauty right here.

The 15 year old spends a final maturation in French oak which is supposed to add spicy notes. Does it? Here are the dramstats:

Glenlivet15

 

  • Price around £39
  • ABV 40%
  • Age 15

Nose: Ripe banana, citrus honey, baked apple with cinnamon and sultana. Fudge and apricots. Adding water takes away some of the fruity notes.

Palate: Vanilla, fudge and apricot danish with fondant icing and a dusting of cinnamon. Excellent!

Finish: Dark chocolate, nutmeg and cinnamon oak. Both the palate and finish are more accentuated with the addition of water.

Verdict: This hasn’t been a Glenlivet I’ve paid much attention to in the past, but the palate is just wow! It has the nomnomfactor and is a really good price. I shall be buying a bottle! It’s currently £31 in sainsbury’s. bargain!

Dram Review: The Glenlivet 12 Year old

I am very familiar with The Glenlivet 12 year old. It was one of the first whiskies I ever took notes on (though that was well before my blogging days). At my stepsister’s wedding this was one of the very few drams on offer and what started as a full bottle, ended the night as an empty one!

Some have referred to this as one of the first single malts you try on your whisky journey. An accessible springboard into the world of single malt whisky. That it may be, but I don’t particularly like this description. It seems to imply that once you’ve got a bit of experience with single malt scotch whisky, drams like the Glenlivet 12 year old have little to offer. Perhaps that is not how it is meant, perhaps it is. All I know is that if you overlook this, you end up missing out. Here are the dramstats:

glenlivet12

  • Price around £25
  • ABV 40%
  • Age 12 years

Nose: Fresh apple and pineapple. Wine gums, vanilla and some floral notes. Fruit cocktail and freshly cut grass.

Palate: Bananas, vanilla and some mild cinnamon spice. Yellow wine gums, trifle, with pineapple flavoured jelly and banana custard.

Finish: Mild finish. Slight drying oak with some faint banana and pineapple juice.

Verdict: This is a really great “summer in a glass” type malt. I love it, it’s a bargain and there is a reason why this is the #2 best seller in the world!

 

 

 

Dram Review: The Glenlivet Alpha

I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a number of other bloggers to taste the new Glenlivet Alpha as part of a twitter tasting hosted by Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire and Ian Logan of Glenlivet. Thank you for inviting me and sending me a sample of Alpha.

Also part of the tasting were the 12, 15 and 18 year old expressions. I will save notes on these for separate posts because, firstly, they deserve their own spotlight, and secondly, I have things to get off of my chest with respect to Alpha (see the verdict at the bottom).

The Glenlivet Alpha is somewhat historic. 50% ABV Glenlivet…. and that’s all we know about it. It comes in a black bottle with minimal labelling. This is supposed to be a product that encourages consumers to “let taste and smell lead their experience” (quoting the press information that accompanied the sample). I say “all” we know about it, we know something else: it is a very limited worldwide release with only 600 bottles for the UK for example.

The release of Alpha has certainly caused a stir, particularly online. I have to say the general mood of this stir has been one of indignation. The Glenlivet are asking £100 for what is essentially a bottle of mystery whisky. Can this be value? Is this really aimed at whisky drinkers? Is all of the “let yourself be led by taste and smell” for real, or is this release really just one for collectors and investors? Can £100 possibly be value for mystery whisky? I will offer my take on this at the end in what is my longest verdict yet. Here are the dramstats:

glenlivetalpha

  • ABV 50%
  • Price ~£97

Nose: Desiccated coconut, big pineapple, Lilt, a biscuity pastry note, rhubarb and custard boiled sweets. With water this shines. Tangerines and satsumas with vanilla custard and sticky toffee sauce.

Palate: My first reaction was “this tastes like 50% ABV Lilt!” There is an undertone of creamy buttery hob nob biscuits whilst tart tropical citrus sings above it. Water makes this 46%, 44%, 40% (or whatever you reduce to) ABV LILT. It has, what a fellow blogger termed “the nomnomfactor”.

Finish: Pepper and oak with biting pineapple cubes, grapefruit juice and gooseberry fool. It leaves the same Lilt taste in my mouth I remember from childhood.

Verdict: I love it. I really do love it. One of the tasters on the night said, “it’s nice but is it really twice as nice as the 18 year old”? I think a more pertinent question is: would you rather have 2 bottles of the 18 year old or one bottle of this. For me, I’d take a bottle of the alpha every time (and I like the 18, but that’s a story for another review).

Part of me admires The Glenlivet for this move. The value of the liquid in a bottle of whisky seems, at the moment, almost entirely driven by it’s age and the distillery it came from. Old=expensive. Certain brands too, such as limited release Ardbegs and anything from The Macallan sell for higher prices. But why should we judge what a good price for whisky is solely based on its age (and provenance)? Surely it’s what is in the bottle that counts. How is the nose and taste? What is the experience like?

I’ve had quite a few drams in their late 20s and 30s recently and yet the Alpha is one of 2 that I would be happy to pay £100 for. I was in a conversation the other day where someone was raving about how cheap a certain 40 year old was at around £250. They hadn’t tasted it though, yet it was great value! How do we know what the age of the liquid in the bottle is? It could be a blend of 30-40 year old Glenlivet with some younger spirit added to wake it up. At the end of the day, the master blenders at the big distilleries are good. In fact very good. And maybe they know better than us how to get the most out of the casks that they have. When the secret is finally out, if it turned out that Alpha was 30 year old Glenlivet, the online whisky community would be singing about the great value of the product.

I don’t like this. The value should be judged on the experience offered by the nose and taste. Taken at face value, the marketing for Glenlivet alpha seems to agree with this sentiment. I also have to say they’ve produced a cracking whisky to illustrate their point. Thus the part of me that admires this marketing move. I also have to say they’ve produced a cracking whisky to illustrate their point

However, there is another part of me. A cynical part that understands the way the single malt whisky market works at the moment and that understands that PR machines know what they are doing. Let us be realistic. On average, what type of person is going to buy a mystery whisky from a well known distillery for £100 without any tasting notes being published anywhere, any knowledge of the quality of the whisky in the bottle or any other information other than there are very few bottles available?

Will a large proportion of the customers be the rank and file whisky drinkers who don’t have unlimited funds? The customers who enjoy Glenlivet and want something for a special occasion perhaps? Or has this product fed the investor beast? By making this so unique, advertising it as “making whisky history”, making the bottle black and mysterious, and setting a high price tag have they not just guaranteed making the whisky collectable?

What’s more, you’d have to be completely naive to believe that the marketing teams don’t understand the investment grade whisky market nor factored it in to their marketing strategy for Alpha. Put yourself into a marketing teams shoes. There is a whole market out there for collectors and investors. You can’t ignore them. A good business needs to sell to them. But how do you advertise? “Buy this product, we reckon it will treble in value in the next ten years”. Ha! No they have to sell to them without mentioning investment or collecting.

I love the sentiment behind encouraging drinkers to taste blind and judge a whisky on the quality of the liquid itself. However, if the goal was only to encourage as many drinkers as possible to undo the shackles of age labels and tasting notes and to explore new mystery whisky, they could have produced more bottles of something interesting at a lower price. I doubt at this price, with such a limited run, many people will be converted. I doubt a large percentage of the bottles bought will even be opened.

And that is the real shame of it. Because inside the black collectable exterior  is a wonderful whisky and nosing and tasting it blind was very exciting. I always comment on value, and very very few £100+ drams make it onto my “yes I would pay that for it” pile. The Glenlivet Alpha does. I would buy it (though it’s sold out in the UK), and if you have bought one and intend to open it, I’m jealous. I really loved it.

This experience has taught me a valuable lesson. Sometimes, with the right master blender, it can be worth taking a punt on relatively expensive whisky you havn’t tasted. These guys really do know how to put excellent whisky together. I’ve never, ever, had a disappointing Glenlivet, and I wish I’d have trusted their master blender whilst I still had the chance to buy a bottle. Because, I really loved the whisky and, at the end of the day, that is the only important thing for me.

Glenlivet Nadura: Whisky Review

I was lucky enough to be offered this during Whisky Live London 2013 by none other than International brand ambassador for Glenlivet, Ian Logan. Ian seemed a very nice man in the 15 or so minutes we chatted. Down to earth, not into “marketing speak”, but very friendly and really into his single malt. I’ll bet a master class with him is a lot of fun.

Anyway, when a whisky legend offers you a dram, to quote Winston Zeddemore, you say yes. But when they offer you a choice, things are even better, though slightly more complicated! Ian offered me (and fellow bloggers Tom Thomson and Steve Prentice) the choice of the Glenlivet range, and I chose the Nadurra.

Glenlivet Nadurra is the cask strength version of Glenlivet. In the spirit of “anything you can do”, Glenlivet followed their parent company’s enormous success with Aberlour A’bunadh and released a cask strength, reasonably priced, version of The Glenlivet. One thing I like about this dram is that it is unafraid of stating the age of the youngest whisky on the bottle.

Here are the dramstats:

glenlivetnadurra

  • Age 16 years
  • ABV 55.5%
  • Price £49.41 here

Nose: Grass, green apples, pears, pineapple, vanilla, cinnamon and a touch of wood.

Palate: Lots of drying oak, pepper, mild pear and a touch of pineapples.

Finish: Touch of pepper, pear, cinnamon and fading pepper.

Verdict: I really like this. The pineapple and pear really comes through and there are a lot of different profiles possible with the addition of water. One of those really enjoyable drams you can pick up straight from work. The price makes me wince a little, but at cask strength and 16 years, I can’t say it’s over priced. It’s not. Good stuff!

 

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 10

So, yesterday I voiced mutinous thoughts about the value of my advent calendar drams. Right on cue, MoM delivered day 10: The Glenlivet Archive 21 year old. Yay!

 

glenlivet21

 

Here are the dramstats:

  • Age 21
  • ABV 43%
  • Price ~£100

Nose: Fruity sherry, raisin, then fresh pine. This one is like a pine forest in the snow. Unbelievable for 21 years to seem so fresh. With time in the glass I get tea load.

Palate: Raisin, fruit cake, slight resin note and pine.

Finish: Raisin, slightly spicy oak and walnut oil. Very drinkable.

Verdict: It’s a lovely whisky. Great fresh pine nose. Almost cakey palate and very smooth. I want a bottle of it but I’m not paying £100 for it! It’s a shame it is so expensive, because I really want it. My faith in the advent calendar is restored!