I always make a detour for the whisky section in any supermarket. Such avenues are not my usual fare, but it is very important that we check out the value end of the spectrum here on Malt. It was only last year that I noticed the brightly coloured exterior of a new arrival in form of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve.
My interest was piqued as it’s always fascinating to see what the Glenlivet are doing next. An almighty brand under the ownership of Pernod Ricard. The Glenlivet caters to the masses and this rum edition was a first in the UK for the distillery and brings a touch of refreshment for staple Glenlivet drinkers and those new to whisky, or that’s what I anticipate as being the key motivators. Let’s remind ourselves of all the details Glenlivet provide for this release:
‘To create whisky with a tropical feel, our makers finished a portion of our smooth whisky in barrels that previously held Caribbean rum. The result is a well balanced and exceptionally smooth whisky. Single malt, meet summer.’
And that Sherlock, is yer lot. Bottled at 40% strength, with No Age Statement or details about colouring or filtration, its what we’ve come to expect from George Smith and Co. Indeed, this is a mass-market product so such details are not guaranteed, but even with this in mind, I felt that the price which was touching upon £40 was too much. Simply because of the lack of detail. Questions and more questions arise. For instance, how old is this actually? How long is the rum finish? What type of rum barrels were used? What percentage was finished in rum casks? Is this nothing more than a sub-5-year-old Glenlivet teabagged in a rum cask for a matter of a few weeks or months? On that basis, faced with the lack of detail no purchase was made.
Perhaps it is the winter months that are prompting this taste of summer to be heavily discounted. I’ve seen it such reductions across several supermarkets for £24-£26, which underlines the mark-up and potentially that it was wrongly pitched in the marketplace. We’ve seen this before with the Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which was verging on £47 in a sector that relies heavily on value and impulse purchasing.
In my humble opinion, Glenlivet seems torn between offering a staple affordable whisky and aiming for a more desirable product. Caribbean and whisky are popular, as the Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year old has shown. That article is from 2015, which underlines the need to return to it once again. But also that my memories of the Balvenie edition since have been fairly inoffensive and forgettable. With some rum flourishes on the nose and a palate that lags behind. It’s available at £49.95 on Master of Malt or $114.99 via Shared Pour, but at least you have an age statement to guide you. That sign which subconsciously implants some recognition that you know what you’re getting… But for the Glenlivet take on a rum cask influence, you’re left to guess.
We’re all feeling the wallet pinch recently and there are some really struggling out there. Whisky remains a luxury item and often relegated when more important purchases are to be made. Partially this might explain the widespread discounting, or attract some much-needed attention after landing at the wrong price point? Either way, I’ve always found it compelling viewing whenever Pernod Ricard rebrands or launched a new whisky. Too often than not the arrivals are beset with problems.
Pernod Ricard owns Malibu a rum-based liqueur, the Montilla and Havana Club¹ brands, so there is a ready-made assortment of rum casks waiting to be utilised if required. From memory, these aren’t big rums full of esters and by nature, these will fit nicely alongside the Speyside characteristics that we see in Glenlivet; if they are even the source. The fact that only a proportion of the whisky was finished in rum casks (as opposed to every drop), means on paper we have a very leisurely rum influence, which after the Talisker 2020 Special Release might be a good thing.
The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve Single Malt Whisky – review
On the nose: sultanas, golden syrup and a gentle light brown sugar. Pressed apple juice, some delicate orange peel and honey. A simple and inoffensive nose. A splash of water reveals sweet pastry, cardboard and with some patience, citrus notes.
In the mouth: light, inoffensive and vapid. Green apples, vanilla, tart in places with some vanilla. Kiwi fruit, orange peel and on the finish some white pepper and hint of alcohol. Just a couple of drops of water reveals subtle rum flavours, stewed apples and caramel.
There’s not much to dislike or like in any worthwhile quantity here. A very inoffensive whisky that doesn’t move you in a negative or positive fashion. A mundane experience that might have more uses as a mixer than a standalone single malt. Another Glenlivet expression that plays it very safe to the mass market.
¹ In the United States, this trademark continues to be the source of legal challenges.
There are commission links within this article if you wish to check out this Glenlivet yourself and help support Malt. Our thanks to our Patreons for supporting this article.