The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

Glenlivet Founders Reserve review

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.

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve – review

Colour: amber honey

On the 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.

In the mouth: 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.



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.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. I tried this at a Chivas Regal blending session last night and have to say that I really enjoyed it! Found it really flavoursome and will definitely be getting a bottle when I can justify tipping over the magical number of 20 already-owned!

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Matthew, that’s the beauty of whisky what isn’t for you might be right on the money for someone else. At least its not an expensive bottle to purchase and enjoy!

  2. Brian McPhee says:

    Hi Jason,

    As a fan of The Glenlivet, I was shocked at the poor quality of this malt. Certainly agree with your point of tasting the alcohol throughout the drink. It’s is certainly a young one. The main trouble I find with it is the use of first fill oak barrels creates a bitterness that doesn’t work well with the ethanol sting of a very young whisky.

    Whilst I do find that on the nose, and upon tasting, I still pick up The Glenlivet distillery characteristics (to be found in all GL brands), which for me is notes of vanilla passing onto orange notes. Unfortunately, the flavours are short lived and also live alongside the tang of youthfulness in the whisky.

    I suppose one has to bear in mind both the reasons for its being, and the way The Glenlivet actually market the Founders Reserve. Marketing wise it is often pictured by The Glenlivet themselves as being a mixer whisky. It is also very reasonably priced and to be found in most British supermarkets. With the demand in the American market for the 12 year old being so high, the Glenlivet are attempting to introduce a different malt for the masses as demand for the 12 is likely too high. An experiment I applaud but which ultimately fails in my eyes.

    If someone were to ask me if they should buy it, I would sooner point them to the similarly priced Highland Park 12. A real classic with some great complex flavours.

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Brian

      Great post, thanks for dropping by. Ah yes, I can still remember the taste of this Glenlivet. Memorable for other reasons in reality.

      It is one of those brands we don’t review much at all here. Our team are free to review what they like and when they like. No one mentions Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Balvenie etc. However, I appreciate there’s a need to give an opinion on these when we can. These brands tend to close the door on the independents as well. A shame really, as they are all well made but the delivery to market and timing seem rushed.

      The supermarket shelf space seems to be dwindling due to the popularity of gin and craft beers. It is rare I pick up something now even with the discounts.



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