It’s time to return to the Glenlivet and frankly it has been a while. In their pursuit of becoming the best selling single malt and overtaking Glenfiddich, it’s been all about quantity and smoothness. In other words whisky for tumblers.
I’m often torn with these giant Speyside distilleries. They have a history and do like to play on this with any marketing and presentation. Yet visit these places and it is an industrial product they are creating. The advent of No Age Statements has assisted in the pursuit of world domination where quantity has been the goal at the expense somewhat of quality.
Here I’m returning to the Glenlivet and their Founder’s Reserve which is bottled at 40% strength. The marketing made me chuckle suggesting that its the harmonisation of George Smith’s (the Founder of the distillery) core characteristics when he built the distillery in 1824; I’d like to see his views on the product if we could turn back time? If anything nowadays, we’re seeing things come full circle. Vinyl is a good example as despite its minus points from an audio and visual perspective it appeals to so many. With whisky now as well, we’re starting to see those who may have started with a Glenlivet or a Glenfiddich wanting more flavour and an enjoyable experience from the dram.
There is an appreciation that the old ways with malting, yeast and relying on human skill results in a whisky that can be savoured. Check out my piece on the forthcoming Dornoch Distillery for an example of how revisiting these old methods truthfully in practice, rather than just amidst marketing flannel, is an exciting and worthwhile prospect.
Lets see how this Founder’s Reserve stands up.
Colour: amber honey
Nose: more honey, hob nob biscuits, a little orange and ginger marmalade. A red berry influence. A creamy toffee chew, plenty of vanilla, a finger sponge briefly dipped in coffee and somewhere amidst all of this bananas.
Taste: vanilla, vanilla and more vanilla! Then you can taste the alcohol even at 40% which carries through to the finish. This shows the youthfulness of the spirit in my experience rather than a poor distillate, which I cannot envisage Glenlivet producing. In-between the vanilla arrival and warming finish, there exists cream and orange but little else.
Overall: very disappointing but in all honesty were we expecting anything different from the current Glenlivet as it exists today? Pursuing top spot has been made possible by driving down costs, producing an inoffensive whisky whilst hanging onto the remnants of history. Sadly, Glenlivet is not alone and the Founder’s Reserve is perfectly fine as a mixer or in a tumbler with a ton of ice, or as a starter malt. Those looking for a more worthwhile whisky experience will soon move on and leave this redundant whisky behind.