The Glenlivet Cipher

There are some whiskies that are very popular and dominate the sales charts. These seemingly are worshiped in some quarters especially Stateside and consistently appear in conversation or online. Yet in my realm they are rarely if ever discussed, these malts are to fellow enthusiasts deceased whiskies.

With Whisky Rover I try to cover what I can which means I have purchased whiskies from Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and Glenmorangie to review here. Can I actually say any of these deceased whiskies have me running out to purchase more or trying to raise them in conversation? No, not at all. Yet they remain extremely popular and are well marketed. I’d also throw Balenvie into the forgotten whisky realm, but that has lacked coverage here and it will be addressed in 2017.

Do you remember the Glenlivet Alpha? Many I suspect will not, being an interesting experiment from the distillery that tried to focus attention on the whisky rather than details about casks, age etc. It was in retrospect a flawed attempt to do something differently. Well, I say that noting just how in recent years Glenlivet has embraced the No Age Statement market with several releases.

The distillery is a huge producer and can support its core range with reasonable efficiency whilst also introducing the odd NAS release along the way. However in the UK we’ve lost the 12 year old in favour of the Founder’s Reserve, which is a very poor swap in my opinion. Remember the Panini football stickers? It’s like swapping an exceptionally rare card for one you’re guaranteed to find in every packet. Not that I was a huge fan of the original 12 year old in any shape or form.

So the Cipher takes its genesis from the Alpha in that Glenlivet are wanting you to explore this whisky without any signposts or information. It’s the anti-Compass Box whisky (not a bad thing) deployed by those marketing bods who generally embrace flannel and shun the details that many enthusiasts expect to read on their purchases. Open the bottle, explore its contents and then visit the official website to see where your powers of deduction take you.

Except that all whisky tasting notes are personal opinion and never written in stone. I mean, who actually pays any attention to official tasting notes? I’m not going to tell you what you should be nosing or tasting in a whisky; just what I pick up. What I may suggest is whether a bottle is worth purchasing and if the price is accordingly decent. This originally hit retail for £90 which is a bit of a steep price for a bottle with no details whatsoever and I believe has since sold out.

Potentially this is the ultimate marketing ploy in this No Age Statement storm that many say we’re living in nowadays. I’m just interested in the whisky itself so I’m shunning the website and doing my own thing. Bottled at 48% strength, this was purchased as part of a bottle share.

Colour: a light toffee
Nose: coconut flakes and icing sugar, backed up by red apples, grapes and honey. It’s classic Glenlivet with the vanilla essence as well but it’s all top heavy and little beneath the exterior.
Taste: cranberries with honey and caramel. Red grapes, oranges, putty and more vanilla. A little soap before we move into a cinnamon finish.

Overall: the puzzle here is a decoy, as it’s trying to something it’s clearly not. This is underlined by the recent 33 year old Glenlivet from Gordon & MacPhail I reviewed. There’s no substitute for a great cask and time it’s a knockout combination.

At this moment in time there are no great secrets or depths to delve into the glass when the Cipher is poured.  There’s nothing wrong with this Glenlivet Cipher, in fact I enjoyed it more than several of the official bottlings from this distillery I’ve tasted in recent years. Yet I wouldn’t run out to purchase a bottle at its original price which is excessive as it tastes a little youthful to me and I’m tired of marketing gimmicks.


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