Last week, I was very fortunate to attend the global launch of a new, permanent addition to the core Glenlivet range. The occasion, held in The Library, a swanky members only club near London’s Trafalgar Square was the perfect setting, and Glenlivet had clearly gone to much effort to brand the place its own with bottles from their range strategically placed behind the bar, and historic Glenlivet images hanging from the walls.
As you walked in, you were greeted with a classic Collins, with Glenlivet 12 as its base, or you could have a straight dram of 12. As it happens, in recent times, whisky and whiskey based cocktails have really grown on me – there is definitely something to be said for experimentation – and this Collins was solid and very drinkable.
Very soon, we were underway, with some introductory words from the colourful, humorous and effusive Glenlivet brand ambassador – Alex Robertson. I’d never had the pleasure of meeting Alex before, but he’s definitely a guy you should be dramming with!
Following Alex came some words from, Laurent Lacassagne – the head honcho of Chivas Bros Worldwide – surely an indication of how much value Glenlivet ascribed to the launch. He continued to build excitement in the room by announcing that the assembled would be privileged to taste two world firsts. We were privy to some Glenlivet stats, most notably that the new addition to the core range was to celebrate shipping one million cases of whisky annually. That puts Glenlivet up there with the likes of Glenfiddich, and is certainly impressive.
Next up was Nicki Burgess, Global Brand Director with the big announcement. We were led upstairs to another part of the Library to be told that the new addition was The Founders Reserve. This expression would sit alongside the 12 year old in price range, but itself is NAS, ABV 40%, aged “mostly” in ex-bourbon casks. It is to be released to “several key markets”, and will not be available in Duty Free. Packaging is typical Glenlivet, with a Georgian blue providing the base colour to the box and label.
[Founders Reserve pic]
But who cares about all that, what did it taste like?
We were each given a dram, and whilst I’ve never been proud of my tasting notes, only my ability to know what tastes good, here are my thoughts:
The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, NAS,
Nose: Glenlivet! Light floral notes, a little grass, some citrus
Taste: Citrus coming through, pineapple (did anyone say Alpha?), a little toffee and spice towards the end, with a little pepper on the tongue at the finish. Light, but that’s not to say this lacked complexity.
Finish: Long, but not too long. I’d say “decent” in length. And I’d also say “pour me another”. This was a very fine dram, and certainly one I’d like to see as a regular on my shelf. It’s affordable, clearly good quality, and very drinkable. Put this on the table with a few friends, and there won’t be any left by the end of the evening. The investment banker in me would rate this a ‘strong buy’.
So with one fine whisky down the hatch, it was now time to taste another. This was one was very, very special, and few people in the world will get to taste it. We were lead, in very small groups, to a private room where were introduced to the Winchester Collection (named for the eponymous Master Distiller – Alan Winchester). Glenlivet’s first ever own bottling release of a 50 year old.
The tasting was led by Alan Winchester himself, accompanied by Alex. This particular is release is one of just 100 from a hogshead filled in April 1964 and bottled in June 2014, with an incredible ABV of 42.3%, drawn from a single cask. The packaging was sublime, handcrafted wooden box, hand blown glass bottle, sterling silver stopper, with an ever-cold-to-the-touch cairngorm stone set in the top. This is a masterwork. We were in the presence of something special, and at $25,000 a piece, you’d need a fairly special occasion to open it.
Whilst bottles and boxes are nice to look at, what did it taste like?
Colour: As you can guess, it was dark, but not too dark. Approaching mahogany in colour.
Nose: Fifty years in wood and barely a note of oak. That’s a remarkable thing, and it’s something I couldn’t stop coming back to as I continued nosing. The overwhelming flavour that come through on the nose was cherries. If you like Black Forest Gateaux, and you happen to have a spare $25,000 in your pocket, buy this. I nosed for several minutes, it was incredible, even though I’m sure I’d numbed my olfactory senses by the end of it.
Taste: more on the cherries, rich, toffee, oily, mouth coating (but certainly not cloying). This was seriously good.
Finish: it’s still going on ☺
I have to say, I absolutely loved this dram. There was just so much going on. I’ve been fortunate in the past to have attended a tasting of several bottles of another super-premium range of whiskies rhyming with Tonstellation, from a well known distillery beginning with D and ending with ‘almore’ (Gal is still waiting for my write-up of that amazing evening!). I’ll be honest, I left that evening a little disappointed in the whiskies (the hospitality was incredible though). Of the 8 we tried, there was one where I thought, if I had the £8,000, I’d buy it and drink, but that was it. The others would look nice on my shelf (and I’d love the money to be able to buy them), but that’s what they’d be, ornaments.
But this was an entirely different experience. This 50 year old Glenlivet is for pouring into a glass and hoping that glass never empties, and I honestly don’t think I can pay it a greater compliment than that.
This was a privilege, and special thanks to Glenlivet for a special evening, and special thanks to Gal for sending me as his envoy!
Oh, and if that 50 year old is slightly out of your budget, do pick up the Founders Reserve instead, you won’t be disappointed.