By Richard Thomas
The Glenlivet scored a notable achievement in 2014. Already the second-placed single malt whisky in terms of sales, the brand closed the gap with top-seller Glenfiddich by breaking through the one million cases mark for the first. The margin of market share separating this pair of top brands shrank to less than 1%.
Around the time The Glenlivet reached this milestone, the company introduced Founder’s Reserve, a no age statement (NAS) single malt. Word at the time was that this entry-level single malt was taking its place alongside The Glenlivet 12 Year Old, but this month it was announced that Founder’s Reserve would replace the 12 Year Old in certain well-established markets.
Basically, Founder’s Reserve would become the new first-rung whisky for the brand in Europe, while the traditional 12 Year Old would soldier on in the U.S., presumably to attract more new drinkers from the world’s biggest whiskey market. At the same time, The Glenlivet has a project in the works to triple their production capacity.
Some European bloggers are already complaining, being the types who disdain NAS whisky on general principle, so it falls to others to ask if Founder’s Reserve fits the bill. Crafted by The Glenlivet’s Alan Winchester, it is intended as a homage to the style of whisky made by the distillery’s founder, George Smith.
Based predominately on ex-bourbon barrel aged whisky and bottled at 40% abv, if the move to NAS is meant as camouflage for a hard turn to dramatically younger spirit, the color doesn’t show it. In the glass, it has a robust and golden appearance.
The fresh, crisp nose has the character of a candy of toffee and apple, with just a hint of orange zest and salt. On the palate, the whisky has a light and silken character, with the sweet character turning to a baked apples and pears dish, seasoned with a spoonful each of brown sugar, vanilla extract and cinnamon. Then comes a solid note of dry, woody spiciness. The finish is a bit zesty and peppery, giving a strong warmth that soon fades away.
In the Britain, The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is listed at £36.