It's a good thing to revisit some classic whiskies every now and again. With new and exciting editions coming out seemingly daily it's easy to forget what some of the big names that started it all have a lot to offer, it's just that they just might not shout so loudly. The Glenlivet is massive in single malt terms. It's the second biggest seller in the world with an eye on the 10 million (12 bottle) case in a year sales figure that only the mighty Glenfiddich has ever surpassed. OK, it's wee drams compared to its big blended brothers, Ballantine's and Chivas, but it's certainly one that most whisky lovers will have tried at some point.
This is a flight of three from their core range; the 12, 15 'French Oak Reserve' and the 18. The latter I have covered briefly before on this blog as part of a write-up of a Pernod-Ricard Scotch tasting, but like I say it's always nice to give whiskies a bit of a retaste and a rethink. Whisky's the world's most complex spirit and so if someone's taken the care to mature it for 18 years I suppose it's not a bad idea to spend a bit of time with it at the far end!
Floral and honeyed, with red apple. On the palate the barley comes more to the fore, and it has an unexpectedly dry core. The finish has a slightly bitter edge which detracts a little from the gorgeous nose which for me it the whisky's strength. Still, a good Speyside all-rounder.
Glenlivet 15 'French Oak Reserve'
On the nose there's a lot more spice, although that apply note is still there, just maybe baked into a crumble with lashings of brown sugar and cinnamon. The extra maturation seems to integrate the dryness of the palate more with the finish - it's less unexpected, seeming to flow a bit more smoothly. That said it's not a massive leap in complexity, just a little more mellow and content with itself. 40% abv.
By eighteen years old I think the whisky's really asserted itself - the apple crumble is there but it's as if the traditional, somewhat staid, recipe has been taken on by a modern TV chef with a kitchen full of crazy gadgets and ingredients. There's more of everything - dried fruits complement the staples, and the spice wrestles its way from nose to finish, changing all the way. This time the finish loses that bitterness, settling on a more generous, sweeter if still dry, and somewhat moreish note. 43% abv.
Whiskies like these are the tip of a scotch whisky iceberg, They're the most visible of the luxury, single malt category, and so in a way it's reassuring that they are of such obvious quality - if nothing else it's a reminder of what the others have to do to keep up the standard - but also, to quote Morpheus, they hint as to 'how deep the rabbit hole goes.'