Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Breaking notes!
Tasting the 200th anniversary bottle of Glenlivet

Scottish whisky distilleries can be so old, that I always check who was the president of the United States of America when some distillery was founded. 

Two hundred years ago it was James Monroe who came to the end of the Era of Good Feelings, an important political time in the history of the US. 

Another important name in those days, was that of George Smith. He would become a legend as the founder of The Glenlivet Distillery, this year exactly 200 years ago. A distillery so renowned for its quality, many others would tag the name “Glenlivet” to their own, as a sign of quality. 

You can sometimes still find these bottlings, such as Balmenach-Glenlivet or Dailuaine-Glenlivet. Talk about the importance of terroir.

The Glenlivet Distillery celebrates its bicentennial this year, and they released a pretty standard bottling to commemorate the anniversary. Business has been good for this mammoth distillery, one of (if not) the biggest selling Scotch single malt brands in the world, and these days with a distillery capacity of 21 million litres per annum. How do you stay charming when you are in the business of mass production? I have to admit that the regular bottles don’t always entice me anymore. The Glenlivet 15 years old matured on French Oak used to be a favourite in our household. And a few years back there was this lovely “Illicit Still” 12 years old that had a real authentic taste to it. But the more run of the mill non-age-stated expressions are rather forgettable. So let’s see what The Glenlivet has produced for the bicentennial celebration. They even made a nice promotional movie to accompany it:

The Glenlivet 12 years old, 200 years celebration, bottled at 43 % abv

Makeup: This 12 years old expression for 200 years Glenlivet was matured in First Fill American Oak. Glad to see it was not bottled at the lowest strength, but rather a little up to 43 % abv. That is about all the information I could find. No further details on the casks, or colouring of the liquid.

General impressions: First up is the obvious vanilla but it does not smell as “white” as vanilla can do. There are other playmates here, like caramel, candy, and the inevitable pencil shavings. There is also a weird hint of potpourri that would not be out of place to freshen up your bathroom. A light fruity note struggles to come through, which I would identify as pear. So, regular Glenlivet.

Mouthfeel is pretty decent, with a nice oily character. The wood is dominant here, but it is also the binding factor of this whisky. Hence, the first fill American oak. It works well with the light spirit of Glenlivet, and the 43 % gives just a little more kick. I would have hoped for some reminiscence about the early bottlings of Nàdurra, but that were cask strength expressions not shy of the 60 % abv mark. This is obviously a mellowed cousin twice removed of those powerhouses. I do wonder where the caramel comes from. The vanilla is not as abundantly there as I would have expected. Sadly, it also has this slight cardboard off-note, but I guess this is still a huge batch and therefor comes with the deal. Not uncommon in low strength Speysiders.

Conclusion: A decent dram, for sure, but not one I will often pour in my tulip glass. Rather in a tumbler, watching my favourite football team play in the Champions League, such an occasion. I might be less cynical about this celebratory Glenlivet than Dramface, but I have to agree it could have been a more special offering. I actually think The Glenlivet aimed to offer something for ALL their fans, and there must be a lot since the brand is so huge. With this offering, the celebration comes from the beautiful packaging. The whisky is little more than a footnote in this. But, for a footnote, you could do a lot worse.

Score: 81 points

Disclaimer: taken from a self-bought bottle via German channels.

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