Glenlivet Cipher

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48% | Colour: Gold
Nose: 6.2 | Palate: 6.0 | Finish: 6.1 | Overall Score: 6.1

Review
I laugh at whiskies like these.

Correction.

I laugh at marketing tactics like these.

All well and good for the casual drinker hurrying through Travel Retail looking to bring home a story. But grumpy bloggers like me, who have a point to prove, can only roll their eyes as far back into their sockets as they’ll go and emit distasteful snorts.

First up, let me tell you how I feel about Glenlivet.

They are the reason I drink whisky today. If I hadn’t accidentally picked up a bottle of the 15 year old French Oak Reserve I might still be stocking my bar with two litre bottles of Grey Goose. That whisky taught me about flavours, balance and above all a delicious subtlety that I could never have related to a spirit like whisky. It’s not the best whisky in the world, far from it, but I have a special soft spot for it.

I then fell in love with the 16 year old Nadurra Cask Strength. The old school release. I challenge anyone to defy this perfectly matured and wonderfully crisp expression that has my heart racing every time I take a sip. It is the reason why I’m such a sucker for high strength whiskies today. Once again the flavours and balance are spot on.

While the majority of their whiskies may be borderline boring (read classic Speyside) I give them their due for championing their easy-going brand of liquid among the masses. Alongside Glenfiddich they deserve a ton of credit for putting dependable single malt whiskies in the hands of the new generation.

Which brings me to the second time they’ve pulled this little trick. The first one was called the Alpha. A whisky with absolutely no information. In an era where consumers are increasingly asking for more information Glenlivet decided it would be a fun idea to do exactly the opposite. No age, no cask, no notes; absolutely nothing. Drink it and figure it out.

Sure, why not. I’ll come along. You have me intrigued. The fact that the spirit was barely average didn’t help but, hey, these things happen. I played along as did everyone else. Now if you could please go back and make some tasty whiskies that would be great.

Well, they didn’t. They started making some really bad whiskies. Discontinued the 12 year old and replaced it with the Founders Reserve; absolute piss. Bastardised my favourite Nadurra by taking away the age and corrupting it with over-oaked Oloroso. Generally taking everything they stood for and began running it into the ground.

And on top of that decided to re-hash the experiment that never worked in the first place and released yet another mystery malt. Come on! No one cares! Just because this time around it comes with a website where I have to guess the flavours doesn’t make this a good whisky. Because it’s not.

Had at a party, where my gracious host unveiled it for all of us to try it was greeted with clucks of disapprovals and shaking of heads. And that’s what my biggest peeve is. Customers who spend good money to buy marketing spiel in the hope of creating a positive experience by sharing it among friends. And imagine when it has the absolute opposite effect.

Sad.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 48%

Nose: Don’t have to tell me it’s sherry. Lots of it. Immediate on the nose. You know it’s Glenlivet thanks to the vanilla. The strong green apple. Red berries. Now more chocolate. Dark. The oak is quite distinct here. Doesn’t bode well for the palate, methinks. 6.2

Palate: Just as I suspected. That oak has taken over everything. Very drying. Pencil shavings. Some ginger spice. Vanilla. Quite tannic. Dark chocolate. Dark honey. Those red apples again. But the oak’s made everything too bitter for me to like it. 6.0

Finish: Medium. Very dry. Very oaky. 6.1

Overall Comments: I think I’ve said what I had to say. Cool bottle, though.

Overall Score: 6.1

Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48% | Colour: Young Sauterne
Nose: 22 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 83

Review
I’m not the only one who claims the original Nadurra 16 Cask Strength as one of their favorite whiskies of all time. I mean come on! That near perfect crisp green apple served at a deliciously high strength has made many an evening.

There’s a number of Nadurras in circulation. There is the first-fill bourbon aged for 16 years and then bottled at cask strength (which varies in the mid 50s ABV). Then there is the slightly watered down to 48% version of the same whisky. There is a 1991 vintage known as the Triumph.

And now this latest NAS offering matured in Oloroso casks found pretty much only in travel retail.
For those who read my reviews know that I am wary of Oloroso influencing good whisky and completely taking over it. I have seen it happen on many occasions. Perfectly reasonable whiskies get treated with Oloroso overkill and are reduced to muddy, sweet syrup which hide the true essence of the expression.

I’ve seen it happen too many times and I’m seeing it again!

This NAS Nadurra matured in Oloroso is bottled at 48% and my sample is from a brand new bottle (code 0L0614)

Nose: Manuka honey. Orange. Brown chocolate. Very earthy. Autumn leaves. Clove. Cherry. Licorice. Strawberry jam. Port or some other type of fortified wine. Soft dates. The nose is not too bad. Quite typical Oloroso influence.

Palate: Full mouthfeel. Mild cinnamon. Bitter chocolate. Dark honey. Plums. Coconut oil. Oak. Gets quite savory mid-palate. Gets more muddy. More confused. Starts off nice but loses grip towards the end.

Finish: Barely there. Maybe some oak. Maybe some cinnamon.

Why try and fix something which is not only not broken but quite gloriously in one brilliant piece? Maybe the new Nadurra spirit coming out of Glenlivet is not as pristine as it’s predecessor and, hence, the Oloroso plays a masking game? Perhaps. I certainly hope not.

Regardless the result is slightly below average whisky which doesn’t even come close to it’s 16 year old namesake. Quite sad, indeed.

Rating: 83

Glenlivet 17 Chivas Brothers Cask Strength

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 55.7% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 87

Review
I like this concept. Chivas has come out with a range of cask strength single cask whiskies from it’s portfolio which are presented in interesting to look at generic 50cl bottles complete with hand written labels.

Well, they’re made to look hand written anyway.

Very interesting to look at and I like the concept behind them too. Quite affordable and at ages and strengths that can’t be purchased as part of standard bottlings.

They currently have quite a few in this collection ranging from a Tormore 15 to a Glen Keith 20 and quite a few in between. What I have in my hand is a 17 year old Glenlivet matured exclusively in bourbon barrels.

My sample is from a brand new bottle from Batch GL 17 013 and served at a cask strength of 55.7%

Nose: Reminded me of the Nadurra 16 and why not? More or less the same treatment to the same distillate. Malt butter. Peaches. Bourbon. Grist. Barley. Husk. Bright honey. Sharp citrus. Marzipan. Almonds. All spice. Floral. Pink Melon. Quite a fresh nose. I like it.

Palate: Honey. Barley. White pepper Melon. Chocolate. Garam masala. Oak. Vanilla. Not as great as the nose but still pretty good. Very nice texture though it has a touch of something bitter towards the end.

Finish: The bitterness is a touch stronger now. Coffee. Cinnamon. Oak.

I like the thinking behind this range even if I this particular expression did not blow me away. The something slightly bitter threw me off towards the end. Still quite nice and drinkable.

Rating: 87

Glenlivet Alpha

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 50% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
Glenlivet decided to play a little game with us whisky noobs last year. It released a whisky with absolutely no information. Nothing on the type of cask. Nothing on the age. Also it released only 3500 bottles worldwide. And decided it would be a good idea to let people come up with their own theories.

Not a bad stunt if you ask. Though certainly not a unique one. Jim Mcewan holds that distinction with the Bruichladdich Black Art and Blacker Still. A secret he’s yet to reveal.

Glenlivet, though, made everyone wait six weeks before revealing how this whisky was made through a video on their website. Though before you could get to the reveal you had to play a little game trying to identify flavors and aromas before the video could actually be played. A fun little game if you ask me.

The video then finally revealed that the Alpha was a No Age Statement (how disappointing) whisky and without any chill filtration or added color (no real surprises there).

What is really interesting is that the casks used for maturation were actually new wood casks that previously held single malt whisky! I don’t think anyone has ever done that before. It is still typically a Glenlivet, though, and I’m not sure I found anything really different about this.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 50%

Nose: Very sweet. Vanilla. Pudding. Citrus. Lemon. Hard boiled sweets. Wild flowers. Fresh grass. Pineapple. It has all the calling cards of the distillery but none of the complexity. I found it quite uncomplicated. Still not bad, though.

Palate: Spice. Pineapple. Honey. Apricots. Pear. Pudding. Sweets. Lemon. Citrus. Honey. Vanilla. Interesting palate. Feels young to me. Has quite a spicy zing to it. The fruits come out next. But once again not the most complex whisky I’ve drunk.

Finish: Medium. Spicy sweet. Hint of vanilla. Very strong oak.

This is a greatly presented whisky. I like all the marketing shenanigans that went behind putting it out there.

Did it blow me away? No.

Am I glad I have it sitting on my shelf? Why not?

Rating: 87

The Glenlivet Guardians Chapter

Glenlivet GuardiansChapter
Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48.7% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
About a year ago I was invited to a special Glenlivet evening. The idea was to get a bunch of whisky geeks in a room, present them with three different spirits and get a general consensus on which was the most popular.

This is how The Glenlivet decided to launch their newest expression – The Guardians Chapter. Pretty neat, I must admit.

So first we were given a whisky called The Classic. Typical Glenlivet flavors. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just the 12 year old at a slightly higher strength. Anyway, it did not impress.

The second dram was called The Revival. Better than the first but still not good enough, in my opinion. Lacked personality basically.

The final installment of the evening was The Exotic. The best of the lot. Much more assertive than the first two. Strong flavors and an aggressive sherry attack.

This was the one that the majority (including my self) voted for at the end of the evening. And much to our smug satisfaction ended up on shelves as The Glenlivets’ latest expression – The Guardians Chapter.

A collection of hogsheads, Spanish sherry butts and American oak this is quite a tasty little whisky.

Nose: Warm chocolate and dark oranges with spicy clove. Natural caramel. Almond husks with a dry cinnamon rub. Dried fruits including dark raisins. Quite a strong vanilla and banana molasses layer to the proceedings.

Palate: Instant spice. Black peppers and dark fruits. Dark berries too. Strong cinnamon twist on an almond creme brulee.

Finish: Quite possibly the strongest coffee / mochachino and cinnamon finish I have ever experienced.

This is an above average spirit and I’d like to think I had a little something to do with it.

Rating: 89

Glenlivet 18 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Pale Straw

Nose: 22
Taste: 23
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
Glenlivet are not known for their brilliance, I will admit. However, their malts are carefully crafted to cater to the ever growing mass of whisky drinkers in a bid to keep them satisfied.

And this continued satisfaction ensures that the single malt industry keeps growing and allows us snobs to keep enjoying the fruits of everyone else’s labor.

So thank you for that.

And thank you for this 18 year old. I like it. It’s not overly complex, mind you, but it is sufficiently interesting. Matured in second fill European and first fill American Oak there is a nice spicy tropical balance to this.

Nose: Quite woody with an earthy sherry overtone. Salty almonds drizzled with cinnamon amid a basket of dark oranges. You can’t help but like this nose.

Palate: Interesting with a cocoa / spice rub mixture dissolved in dark honey followed by roasted nuts and citrus drops.

Finish: Almond long with a hint of mocha.

Solid. Dependable.

Rating: 89

Glenlivet Mackillop’s Choice Single Cask 1990

MackillopsChoice Glenlivet

Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet
Region: Speyside
ABV: 52.7%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 23
Balance: 22

Review
I’m wary of independent bottlings, to be honest. I never know what to expect. There’s not a lot of information on most of them. And they can go horribly wrong. So when I happened to taste this with a friend I had no expectations.

Which I think is the best way to taste a whisky because if it’s not good you’re not let down and if it is then you’ve scored! And, luckily for me, this expression falls into the latter category.

This one was distilled on October 4 1990 and bottled from cask 22393 in April 2011 and is bottle #141 taken from a single cask.

Nose: Sweet, classic Speyside. Lots of vanilla, pudding and toffee. Sugared barley amid crumbly biscuits. Sprinkled with a touch of white spice and a garnish of mint.

Palate: Silky with a wonderful delivery. There is honey mixed in with the same butterscotch drizzled on green pears and a hint of oak with a touch of fennel shavings.

Finish: Spicy with sugared pears. A memorable end to this treat.

A lovely dram.

Rating: 90