Another week presents us with another new review and this one is a Speysider with a French connection!
The Glenlivet is a well known brand, having been toe to toe with Glenfiddich for supremacy over the past 5 years until midway through 2015, when it finally overtook its fierce rival to become the best selling single malt whisky brand in the world and selling more than 1 million cases (or 12 million bottles) during the year.
While this is a tremendous achievement, it must be said that even the best selling single malt whisky brand’s sales pale in comparison to that of the blended whisky market, where Johnnie Walker’s range of blended whiskies sell at least 240 million bottles on an annual basis.
Today’s review focuses on the 15 Years Old French Oak Reserve expression from The Glenlivet distillery, which forms part of the core range of offerings and is generally seen as the most interesting expression in the range.
Before we proceed to the review, let’s delve into the pages of history to learn more about the distillery itself.
The Glenlivet distillery was founded in 1824 by George Smith, but has a rather interesting history. George inherited the Upper Drummin farm distillery in 1817 from his father, Andrew Smith, who had been distilling on site since 1774.
George ran the Upper Drummin distillery until 1840, when he purchased the Delnabo farm near Tomintoul and leased the nearby Cairngorm distillery. These new acquisitions took up most of George’s time and so he passed on the running of Upper Drummin to his son, William.
George leased a further three farms in 1845 and one of them was situated on the banks of the river Livet and was called Minmore. He then purchased Minmore farm in 1858 and applied for permission from the Duke of Gordon to build a distillery on the site.
The distillery was completed in 1859 and was renamed The Glenlivet distillery, with Upper Drummin and Cairngorm distilleries closing and their equipment being transferred to the new entity.
The distillery remained under the ownership of the Smith Family until 1953, when the parent company merged with that of the Glen Grant distillery to form the Glenlivet & Glen Grant Company.
A succession of other mergers and partnerships took place over the following 25 years, when Seagrams (the parent company of Chivas Brothers) purchased The Glenlivet Distillers Ltd and opened a visitor centre at the distillery.
Seagrams itself was purchased by both Pernod Ricard and Diageo in 2001, with the former gaining control of Chivas Brothers and its distilleries. Over the years, the distillery has been expanded several times and now has the capacity to produce up to 10.5 million litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis.
The 15 Years Old French Oak Reserve was launched in 2004 in order to replace the previous 12 Years Old expression and this coincided with a lavish relaunch of the brand by Pernod Ricard in order to capitalise on its popularity.
So, let’s get to the review, shall we?
The Glenlivet 15 Years Old French Oak Reserve (40% abv)
Nose: Green apples, peaches, lemons and some heathery honey on initial entry. Crisp and fresh on the nose with hints of mint, cinnamon and icing sugar. There is a vanilla sweetness which intermingles very nicely with the fruit notes. Good level of maltiness and the french oak influence is quite apparent.
Just a hint of ginger and the alcohol creeps up the nose. Quite robust even at 40% which speaks volumes of the base spirit’s character. Quite enticing. (22/25)
Palate: Sweet, malty and fruity in equal measure with the citrus undertones especially satisfying. There is a spicy element which does seem like cinnamon but with something else that is reminiscent of allspice.
Icing sugar, some light and estery notes, pears, green apples and some plum. Reminiscent of a fruit orchard in summertime and very easily drinkable. (22/25)
Finish: Medium in length with a drying mouthfeel. The cinnamon, orchard fruits and mint are particularly dominant and give this a refreshing feel. Very drinkable (to the point where it is even dangerously so) and a very good expression from the distillery. Some green apple lollies at the very end. (22/25)
Balance: This is a good whisky but balance-wise it is probably skewed more towards the orchard fruits rather than the french oak influence (which is definitely there but rather understated).
15 years of maturation has mellowed the spirit well and the 40% abv is somewhat suitable considering the rather full flavour profile. It would be a shame to see this expression get phased out. (20/25)
This expression is pretty enjoyable and it is a great representation of what the distillery is capable of. I would definitely recommend this to most drinkers as it is very drinkable and very approachable.
Until the next review, have a great week ahead.
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