Whisky Tasting Notes: The Glenlivet

If I’m going to talk about Scotch, there are two brands that I have to bring up, regardless of how good or bad they may be. The Glenlivet is one of those two brands (Johnnie Walker being the other). These are the big name Scotches out there, and for many people, when you say the word “Scotch” these are the spirits that come to mind.

The Glenlivet does has a place in the history of whisky, being the one of the older legally-recognized distillery currently in Scotland. What makes their story interesting is that they have no qualms in playing up their illicit past. Prior to 1823, illicit distilleries were common. There’s a plethora of variables why this occurred,with most of them being related to the fact that the British Parliament had little experience in figuring out how to regulate a product that was both an income generator for the government, and yet at the same time deemed morally questionable by those who had to deal with those who abused the drink. It took nearly two hundred and fifty years for them to craft a policy that guaranteed revenue to the government, but didn’t put people out of work, nor prevented people from buying the spirit. 1823 saw the introduction of what many saw as reasonable legislation.

George Smith was one of the folks who ran an illicit distillery prior to the 1823 legislation, and it was he who took the risk to become legal. It is said that because of the risk he was taking (apparently he had upset a fair amount of the remaining smugglers and illicit distillers who were quickly losing market share to the now legalized drinks), the local Laird gave George a pair of pistols to protect himself in case he was attacked by those of ill repute. The marketing folk at The Glenlivet are eager to tell us that Mr. Smith had need to use those pistols on several occasions, but there is no evidence to support that claim. But selling a myth is very common in the whisky industry.

The drink you see in the picture is their core product, a 12 year old single malt, meaning that it is made from one type of malted grain (barley in this case) and then casked and aged for twelve years. It is not a blend.

The Glenlivet is a Speyside whisky, which is a subset of the Highland whiskys. This is a regional distinction, and means very little as far as taste is concerned.

Nose
It smells quite grain with a bit of apples in the background. My first thought was “This smells like beer”.

Taste
The mouth feel was quite notable in that it seemed spotted with a gelatin-y looseness. I have no idea if that makes any sense, but there was a very distinct texture to the drink. The taste itself a subdued pepper with a bit of sweetness. Very subtle and light in its taste.

Finish
Light but extended, with vanilla resonances. Not bad.

Overall
Not a bad drink at all. Not overpowering or obvious. This is both a compliment and yet a weakness at the same time.

Here’s where it ranks on my list of preference.

Very Good
Bushmills Black Bush
The Macallan – 18 yr old
Redbreast

Good
Bushmills
Centennial Premium Rye 10 Years Old
The Glenlivet
Jameson
Tyrconnell