By Richard Thomas
The Glenlivet occupies a rarefied spot among Scottish distilleries. The establishment opened in 1824, among the first to take advantage of the legalization of whisky-distilling in Scotland under George IV. Since then it has operated with very near perfect continuity, enjoying a historic reputation for high quality along the way.
They bill themselves as “the single malt that started it all,” and given their history they have a pretty good (albeit not inarguable) claim to that status. The Glenlivet is also the second-biggest of the single malt brands, one of only two shipping over a million cases a year, and the largest in the world’s biggest whiskey market, the United States.
The Glenlivet 12 is the entry-level rung in the brand line, and surprisingly for a 12 year old scotch bottled at 40% abv, it has a fairly dark appearance. No wine or straw coloring here, but instead gold with a coppery tinge.
The nose is sharp with dry grass and green apples with notes of honey and vanilla, making it sweet, but with an edge. The ex-bourbon barrels show up strongly here, as they do in so much of what The Glenlivet does, putting more vanilla down on the flavor, and pulling the sweetness over so that one foot is in the malty, honey range and another is in the corn syrup, cereal-sweet zone. Throw in some spices and you’ve got the idea, kind of like what a scrumptious bowl of oatmeal might taste, were it made with grits and barley meal instead.
The finish is a nice, lengthy and moderate wind-down, plain and simple. Nothing new there, just a steady trailing off with a minimum of warmth.
The Glenlivet 12 Year Old has long been one of those huge bang for your buck choices in single malt scotch. It’s good enough to drink neat, but cheap enough that you can put it on ice during the summer without a trace of guilt.
In the United States this whisky usually goes for around $28 for a full bottle. Over in Europe, it is increasingly unavailable as it is replaced by Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve.