Recommendation: Consider it
Type: Single malt Scotch whisky
Origin: Speyside, Scotland
The Glenlivet Founders Reserve was first launched in March 2014 and in Australia on 1 July 2015, and it is poised to become the new permanent benchmark expression in The Glenlivet’s core range as rumors abound that it will replace the much loved Glenlivet 12 year old. This is a bold move indeed reflecting on comments of Pernod Ricard’s Marketing Director, Anne Martin, that The Glenlivet has a whopping 26% of the Australian single malt market. Clearly ignoring the odd adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, The Glenlivet seems to be rolling the proverbial dice by tampering with its incredibly successful core range. Only time will tell if the gamble will pay off.
The Glenlivet Founders Reserve will be available in approximately 60 of Pernod Ricard’s key markets around the world, but notable exceptions include South Africa, India, Russia, Taiwan, China, and, Global Travel Retail/Duty Free. Some markets, it seems, will stock both the Glenlivet 12 year old and the Founders Reserve but unfortunately Australia will not be one of those markets. The Glenlivet 12 year old will only be available in Australia until December 2015, so for Australian readers be sure to stock up on the product if it is your poison of choice.
In terms of the product itself, the Glenlivet Founders Reserve comprises of malts that have been matured in traditional and first fill American oak casks. It is a “no age statement” expression, which means that all we can be certain about is that the whisky in the bottle is at least 4 years old. Of course, in mature whisky markets consumers should be aware that in relation to whisky age does not always correlate with quality; a good whisky usually has a good balance between the whisky’s distillery character (from the distilled spirit) and the oak (from the flavours and aromas the spirit soaks up from the oak casks in which the spirit ages). Too long in the casks, and the distillery character may fade away and be dominated by wood. Too little time in the casks, and the distillery character may be too prominent and the whisky may smell and taste “immature”. It is about taking the whisky out of the oak casks when it is “ready”; just like knowing when to take a cake out of an oven or a steak off the barbecue. Steak is probably a better analogy because just as different people like their steak rare or well done (a travesty, I know), some people may like whisky young, old or base a preference on their mood or the occasion. It is not correct to dismiss “no age statement” whisky, without trying the whisky first and assessing where it might fit in the Scotch flavour spectrum; because if my cravings are anything to go by, sometimes I want a young bitey or simple malt and other times I want an old complex malt. Other times I might want sweet navy style rum or a drier English style pot still rum, an old elegant Cognac or a fiery young grappa. You get the point.
Fortunately, a bottle of The Glenlivet Founders Reserve has been warming my cold winter nights over the past couple of weeks and I am now in a good position to share my thoughts about this whisky in the below tasting notes.
The whisky is a pale gold with a tinge of amber and a mild reddish hue. When swirled around in the glass the liquid forms a thin film around the inside of the glass which recedes into thin, but short lived, legs.
Creamy vanilla dominates this whisky’s bouquet; not very surprising really, as vanilla is one of the main notes derived from maturing whisky in American oak. We know that The Glenlivet matures this malt in first fill American oak casks. “First fill”, as the name suggests, indicates a cask that has been filled with whisky for the first time. As you can probably guess, these casks have a lot of flavour to give whisky because they have not been used very much before, except perhaps for maturing bourbon or sherry in most cases.
Beneath the sumptuous layer of vanilla there is green apple, hay, spearmint gum, shavings of dark chocolate and sweet alcohol, scratching the nostrils with glued cardboard.
Somewhat dull at first, but it gets tasty. Dried apple, juicy pear and raisins meet spiced loaf, with hard red candy. Layers of honey begin to form on the palate as the initial bite of alcohol fades, and the mid-palate is warming and spicy; quite gingery and jaggered with licorice. After the smooth entry the whisky seems to become a little rough, with lashes of alcohol and spice. As the notes whiz around the palate, I cannot help but feel a bit confused about what The Glenlivet hopes to achieve with this malt. Some flavours clash, but for the most part it works… just.
Honey remains on the palate, with apple and pear. There is some vanilla, with lightly buttered sultana pastry. Soy sauce emerges on the finish, more umami than salty, with shades of Vegemite and sake – in short, the malt tastes estery and yeasty.
Consider it. The Glenlivet’s Founder’s Reserve is a tasty single malt malt that has a reasonable price tag, but the nagging bite of what seems to be young whisky disrupts my enjoyment of this malt. It tastes a little rough to bear The Glenlivet name, but at its price you could do worse.