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The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve Single Malt Whisky

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.

If you cannot find this in your local supermarket, then Master of Malt have it for £39.95, Amazon request £32.99, via The Whisky Exchange for £35.45 and $39.99 at Shared Pour.

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve Single Malt Whisky – review

Colour: honeycomb.

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.

Conclusions

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.

Score: 4/10

¹ In the United States, this trademark continues to be the source of legal challenges.

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CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    Craig says:

    I also did the impulse buy at £26 to see what they were offering. I agree the nose is mundane but found a really unpleasant youthfulness in the mouth. Even at 40% I was adding water to make it… Drinkable.

    I have offered out a nearly full bottle to friends and no one wants it! Seems to me it’s likely to do more harm than good to the Glenlivet mass market brand

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Craig

      Yes, seems like a box-ticking exercise from Glenlivet that really lacks any motivation to be different. Another entry in the failed file for Chivas.

  2. Avatar
    bifter says:

    Thanks for the review. Chivas once extolled the ‘Age Matters’ tagline. Within a few years of that being launched, the Glenlivet 12 had been replaced by the execrable Founder’s Reserve (presumably ‘reserved’ for less welcome visitors?) and the 12 had disappeared from the shelves. Cognac casks and rum casks rarely seem to work as well as hoped and, although the Captain’s Reserve managed not to be outright offensive, I’ve not been tempted to try this latest addition to the range. I’m not a big fan of the Balvenie 14 either.

    When I did the Glenlivet tour the incredibly knowledgeable guide, David, once an excise man apparently, rattled off an impressive series of stats about the distillery and the processes of whisky making, Glenlivet can do big numbers! However most of these pointed to an industrial scale and efficiency – 10 huge washbacks feeding a £1m mash tun the size of a studio flat every 50 or so hours and 8 stills in almost constant use (that was just the bit we were touring, there are more in the new complex). He did allude to the days when farmers would bring the barley direct but that would result in queues round the block now. As it is a steady stream of artics brings in the grain. Efficiency and scale may promote consistency but they seem to sacrifice character and craft.

    My other anecdote about the Glenlivet is a tasting I did with Chris Brosseau, the Glenlivet archivist. He brought bottles of the classic 12 year old expression from the ’40s through to the present day and opened one from the ’70s, one from the ’90s and a present day bottle. The attendees unanimously agreed that they could also be thus ordered in terms of quality. I applaud the honesty of such an experiment but it tells a sorry tale! He did though make me aware that Glenlivet Guardians can ask for a special dram in the library if they are visiting (though book ahead) and that was an experience not to be missed!

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Thanks for sharing Bifter, its the one distillery friends just don’t want to visit. Those old Glenlivets can be lovely things. I guess it’s called progress?

      Cheers, Jason.

  3. Avatar
    Chad says:

    A similar Glenlivet expression to this is distributed in Taiwan, and I think it’s exclusive to that market. It’s 14 years old, rum cask finished. Even the label is nearly the same. It was too expensive to consider, though (in duty-free), mostly because it was only a 70cL bottle and the bare legal minimum 40% ABV. I don’t want to reward that sort of effort.

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