Situated near the river Livet, Glenlivet [like Strathisla WLP] is currently owned by Chivas Regal [Pernod Ricard].
Originally called Upper Drumin [farm], George Smith’s Glenlivet was one of the first distilleries to receive a legal license after the excise act of 1823 – approved by George IV – was passed. It is said that the King only drunk Glenlivet whisky and that Smith was given/carried [stories differ] two pistols to protect him from [around 200] illicit distillers [farmers] and smugglers in the area. Soon enough, other distilleries began associating themselves with the [Glenlivet] estate’s name, piggy-backing on the success of George Smith’s legit operations and calling their whisky Glenlivet. It wasn’t until the 1880s that a court ruling allowed the use of Glenlivet as a suffix, one rarely used today. [Further reading: SW]
In 2010, the new wing of Glenlivet was opened, increasing production to 10.5 mlpa. Glenlivet’s target, we are told, is to produce 21 mlpa as efficiently as possible with no discernible effects to smell and taste of the whisky.
Since 2011, Glenlivet has been making whisky exclusively for single malt. All Glenlivet whisky is bottled in Paisley and 97% is exported. Glenlivet is still the largest selling single malt in America, a position it’s held since 1978 [SW].
We enter a mock dunnage warehouse that has a worm in a bucket [see pic below]. In one attempt to tackle illicit distilling, Customs & Excise offered a £5 reward for every worm tail seized. Very often, broken tails were handed in by distillers themselves and the money pocketed for re-investment.
Whilst in the mock warehouse, we get to try Glenlivet’s new make spirit.
Glenlivet New Make  Un=Ob. 63.5%
- N: Cereal-sweet < fruits over vegetal sugar barley water.
- T: Almost meaty, metal-y, and grainy-oily with a butterscotch flapjack thread.
- F: Raisins, vegetal liquorice, and a metallic sourness.
- C: Cracking stuff. No pineapples today.
The cage is opened. We get to try whisky from the ‘planted’ hoggie. In fact, I get to valinch it myself.
Glenlivet 1977/2016 39yo Un-Ob. bourbon cask sample [#15163] abv unknown
- N: Vibrant [CS] refill bourbon cask-matured, ‘classic’ lemon Spey-styled malt with all the pears.
- T: Soft astringent [flat actually], sour, metallic, and tannic yet not obviously woody.
- F: Soft yet sharp fizzy-sour/tannic-sour and stewed finish with a Cup-a-Soup powder conclusion. Even our guide said its an “oddball” cask.
- C: Glenlivet isn’t the only distillery giving away super-old/aged ‘oddball’ casks as part of the ‘show’. Risky, as what at first can be seen as an incredibly generous offering can end up looking like a cheap gesture.
Scores 78/79 points
We then enter the visitors centre and see a long table laid out for a tasting presented by Glenlivet’s International Brand Ambassador Ian Logan [WI]
We start at the bottom.
- N: Light.
- T: Nice enough curve.
- F: Fair.
- C: Rounded, accessible campfire whisky.
Scores 79 points
From the horse’s mouth, ‘Reserve’ [at Glenlivet] indicates that only a proportion of a ‘batch’ is re-racked – in French oak casks in this example – and the rest kept back, as opposed to ‘finishing’ where all of the batch contents is re-racked. In this case, 30% of the overall batch has been re-racked for two years.
- N: Sour cereal mash and raisins.
- T: Sharp and malty at first, turning decidedly savoury with a dry astringency.
- F: Sour green with deeper oaky signs of ageing.
- C: Though a tad tannic, I like it. 15 is a good age for whisky.
Scores 84 points
Glenlivet Nadurra  Ob. Batch PW0715 61.5% WB83.35
This saw a 6-month finish in [an] Islay cask[s].
- N: Beefy ethanol, yeah! Tomato and Worcestershire Sauce Wheat Crunchies meets Bloody Mary with an additional touch of coal tar and BBQ scrub.
- T: Big on smoke as well as being salty, vegetal, and winey.
- F: Remains super bright and smoky, becoming more creamy as the smoke softens a touch. The power makes such an impact in comparison to the first couple of 40%ers, but is it all too overwhelming at such high strength?
- C: Imagine a blend where Ardbeg is the malt and Glenlivet acts as the neutral grain, in a 30/70 split. Thankfully, this expression doesn’t come across as too gimmicky, the fruity Nadurra-ness still recognisable even after an Islay dunking.
Scores 85 points
Glenlivet 18yo [29/06/16] Ob. ‘Hand-filled’ Batch 3 48.9% [WB]90
- N: Well aged bourbon cask-matured peppery nose with orange/lemon lollies, a little meatiness, and a peaty/smoky suggestion. Could this be from the last dram perhaps? Funny order.
- T: Chilli arrival moving to pepper. Vegetal-sweet with even more Glenlivet ‘orangeyness’ than the previous Nadurra.
- F: Plenty here. Of note, woody, creamy sour, again with a peat-smoke suggestion at the tail.
- C: Needs time, but as time passed, my interest [and score] wained. I hear batch #2 was ‘award-winning’.
Scores 84 points
Glenlivet 16yo [19/12/12] Ob. Uisge Beatha cask #63371 60.2% WB89
We are told this is from a sherry hogshead with an outturn of around 200 bottles.
- N: Very oily with a suggestion of sulphur and char, the wood and the previous cask contents speak, but this is no bad thing in the context. [Same same with water].
- T: I think we have a ‘buy-now’ malt. The strength brings quite the rawness but the high strength means there’s plenty to play and experiment with.
- F: A lovely interplay between sherry and pineapple.
- C: Perfectly engaging whisky. It’s all down to price now. £250, pfft.
Scores 90 points
Glenlivet 24yo [01/05/16] Ob. Hand-filled at the distillery Batch #1 60.9% WB91.60
[Bottled by Donnie Mackay], this came from a single ex-oloroso cask, we are told.
- N: Zingy [abv] sawn wood and orangey sweet fruits.
- T: It’s a beast but water makes it. With dilution, we’ve a bitter sherry outer with a sweeter centre.
- F: Leads to a malty chew, albeit somewhat dry/tannic and a little winey.
- C: Even with time and careful water management, it’s a bit of a monster. Too much? For me, yep.
Scores 83 points
With thanks to Glenlivet and Whisky Lounge.