Regulars will know the Glenlivet doesn’t feature much in my conversations or recommendations. A huge behemoth of a distillery set in a wonderful rugged part of Speyside with a wonderful heritage. Clearly there’s much to consider and appreciate when it comes to the Glenlivet except the most important piece of the puzzle being the whisky.
In recent times it’s been embroiled in a bare-knuckle fight with Glenfiddich for the honour of being the biggest selling single malt globally. To compete the distilleries have been expanded, no age statements introduced by Glenlivet and arguably former heights abandoned in pursuit of more financial gain. These leading lights are not representative of my whisky drinking nowadays, but their influence cannot be ignored or their enduring popularity. More than before they act as a gateway into whisky and for some travellers this initial stop is satisfying enough without venturing onwards.
Glenfiddich has been more successful in maintaining its brand and levels of interest whilst pursuing more sales. The introduction of the Experimental Series has delivered an interesting slant with the recent announcement of its ice wine finish in the form of Winter Storm showing some originality. Glenlivet in comparison has given us the haphazard efforts of Alpha and Cipher, both failing to have a sustained impact or bringing the brand to the attention of a new demographic. More than before – like many others I know – I leave these giants of the industry to their own devices. Occasionally when a surprise does arrive such as the splendid Glenfiddich single cask for the 2017 Speyside Whisky Festival, then it’s a wonderful surprise.
Still, I remain tempted whenever I see an intriguing Glenlivet via the independent sector. There’s an unhealthy, festering, sadistic urge compelling me to see a knockout dram from this distillery. The obstacle course to find such an example is one I’m always midway through and never quite reach the finish line. This particular whisky was recommended as being an interesting example by the fine folks at the Dornoch Castle Whisky bar who’s judgement is amongst my most trusted.
The initial impression is one of colour. Sherry bomb. Sherry monster. Sherry fiend. Sherry beast. There are many names associated with such a formidable appearance. This dark rich colour is a beacon to some whisky enthusiasts who prefer to engage with such foes in gladiatorial combat. My favourite tastings are those that are blind to the contents and visually by using coloured glass. I’ve only attended a handful of such exponents but this approach focuses the mind by stripping away our preconceptions of colour. Only then arguably can we appreciate the contents with prejudice.
Signatory is a well-established and excellent independent bottler with a sizeable collection of casks. This particular Glenlivet was an exclusive bottling for The Whisky Exchange (TWE) and whoever picks their casks does an extremely good job from my experience, so I have high expectations. The only criticism I’d have from previous TWE bottlings is that the prices can be a little more than competitors would charge so the value aspect has diminished a tad.
This cask was distilled on 27th March 2007 before being bottled on 19th May 2017, at 10 years of age. The 1st fill sherry hogshead (number 900174) resulted in an outturn of 312 bottles at a ridiculous 67.1%. Needless to say I couldn’t find it online for sale and it’s likely only available via the secondary market now. The smaller hogshead rather than a traditional sherry butt has resulted in more interaction with the wood that will hopefully go beyond the mere colour scheme.
The Whisky Exchange 2007 Glenlivet – review
Colour: dying embers.
On the nose: blackberry jam with a tar-like quality. Stewed rhubarb, plums and cola cubes follow. However, it’s not the beast from the initial colour, more resin-like and plump without reaching monster status. Vanilla appears with water, as do fresh raspberries, dark chocolate, toffee, Turkish delight and rock candy.
In the mouth: the alcohol comes as no surprise nor the touch of rubber or memories of cigar smoke. Water is required to bring out more depth and detail. Strawberries, a rich dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans and red apples.
Another failure to find that Glenlivet that truly delivers. This whisky is more cask than anything else and as such feels constrained and limited. It’s perfectly drinkable, interesting but at the same time tinged with disappointment. My quest continues.