Sunday, February 22, 2015

Review - The Glenlivet 'Founder's Reserve'

The Founder's Reserve is a new expression in the core range of The Glenlivet single malts. The new whisky has been crafted by Alan Winchester, the Master Distiller at The Glenlivet, and is designed to pay homage to the style of whisky created by the distillery's founder George Smith.  It has been matured predominantly in first-fill American oak ex-bourbon casks.  The introduction of the no age statement Founder's Reserve has been prompted by the increasing success of The Glenlivet.

The Glenlivet distillery is located in the Speyside region, close to the town of Ballindalloch in the scenic Livet Glen from which it takes its name. As mentioned the distillery was founded in 1824 by George Smith, whose signature still appears on the labels and packaging. It was the first distillery in the Speyside region to be granted a distilling license under the Parliamentary Excise Act, which was brought in one year earlier. Glenlivet is now one of Scotland's largest distilleries with an annual production of 10 million litres and is currently owned by Pernod Ricard, who took control in 2001.

The influence of Pernod Ricard has seen The Glenlivet become the second best selling single malt in the world with over six million bottles sold each year. It is the most popular single malt in the USA, where it has been number one since the 1970s, and this market accounts for nearly 50% of all sales of The Glenlivet.  Pernod believe that this new expression will aid the brand in its push to overtake Glenfiddich as the world's number one single malt and introduce more new consumers to it.

The Founder's Reserve is available now in the UK, with other global markets following shortly.  It will controversially replace the popular 12 years old expression in some of these markets and is bottled at 40% ABV.  The recommended retail price is £36.

Our tasting notes 
The colour is pale golden yellow and the nose is instantly fresh, vibrant and fruity.  The initial aromas are of green apple and pear, which are joined by honeycomb and lots of vanilla.  In the background are further aromas of coconut, fresh sawdust, candied/burnt orange and a hint of almonds.

To begin with the palate is equally as vibrant and fresh as the nose suggests - there is plenty of tangy green apple and boiled pear drop sweets.  This vibrancy gives the whisky a light feeling.  Other characteristics soon join in and add sweetness (think of vanilla, crumbly brown sugar and honey in particular).  With time a woody spiciness develops, which is reminiscent of a combination of the sawdust aroma from the nose and baking spices (especially cinnamon and nutmeg).  This gives an increasing sense of dryness in the mouth.  Late notes of candied orange and white chocolate appear, along with hints of white pepper and dried ginger.

The finish is relatively short and mirrors the palate.  It begins fruity and sweet with plenty of apple, honey and vanilla before becoming increasingly dry, woody and spicy.  Notes of dried coconut and cinnamon accentuate this.

What's the verdict?
The Founder's Reserve is a brave step by Pernod Ricard - one that will allow them to introduce The Glenlivet to more new consumers across the globe, but also one that could potentially alienate some existing fans.  The news has caused a similar stir online to that of The Macallan when the ditched age statements for the colour based 1824 Series two and a half years ago.

Naturally the Founder's Reserve will be compared to the popular 12 years old, but it should not be as it is designed for a different purpose and as the new entry level for the core range.  The new consumers will discover a fresh, sweet and drying easy drinking whisky.  Connoisseurs or those determined to compare it to the 12 years old maybe underwhelmed by the lighter, more vibrant approach that has been presented.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

great review Matt.

I can understand your point about not comparing the founders v 12yr old. However, i would add that if we are about to see the slow extinction of 12yrs single malts to be replaced by NAS whiskies then a UK/European enthusiast cannot help but compare them. Both are/were the entry-level whiskies for Glenlivet's core range.

It appears since Macallan withdrew its 12yr old the other big distilleries are slowly following suit.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

I've just tried this and was exceptionally disappointed. The only whisky I've literally ever poured down the sink.

Sniffer said...

Bought a. Bottle at Costco on special offer. As a long time fan of THE Glenlivet 12 year old, I was so so disappointed at this "thin" tasting no age statement version. Not for me.

mcdoom said...

Glenlivet 12 YO was the first single malt I ever tasted, probably 30 years ago, and a long time favourite. Every time I purchased a bottle and tasted it again I was impressed by the complexity and harmony of the whisky. The new offering is underwhelming in the extreme, I find it sour and brackish and off-putting. I see the similarities of the Macallan 12 YO disappearance from the market and will jealously guard my remaining bottle, now if I could just lay in a few of the beloved Glenlivet 12YO before it disappears completely.

base said...

Have been a fan of the 12 year old glenlivet for years and kept being impressed by the smooth complex taste (and aftertaste) of it. This "Founders Reserve" has a weird aftertaste i really don't like, and is isn't even close to the smoothness of the 12YO. I'll have to put a lot of ice in it to finish this bottle and I'll probably never buy it again. I really hope they will bring the 12YO back.

Johnny Canuck said...

This is going to replace my 12 YO? I tried it, and it is ok but not as tasty as my 12 YO? Keep them both, who knows perhaps this will pickup with others......Cheers

Derek said...

You may as well buy a bottle of Bell's Blended as buy this, as it's only fit for dousing in gallons of mixer ...and who wants to drink malt whisky that way? Aldi do a range of malts for about £18 a bottle, and 2 versions of those that I've tried are both far superior to this overpriced mouthwash ..... Bye bye G & JG Smith - you've had the last of my hard-earned, that's for sure :-)

Jerry said...

I've been drinking Glenlivet for years...most the 12 YO, 15 YO and 16 YO but occasionally the 18 and 21 YO. Personally my favorite is the 16 year old. I tried the Founders Reserve for the first time this week. I've never ever seen it in the US stores before. On a scale of 1 to 4 (4 being the highest) I'd rate it a 2. I'd be extremely disappointed if they replace the 12 YO with this grossly inferior product!!! What are they thinking???

Anonymous said...

But surely the issue with regards to Founder's Reserve isn't who does or doesn't think it's significantly better/worse/whatever than the 12 - it's that the age of this expression supposedly mysteriously doesn't matter just because there's a lack of industry interest in discussing it (unlike the 15, 18, 21 or 25, for example). Is the relevance of age really simply "turned off" just by the application of an NAS label - does this even make sense - and, if age is really "irrelevant", why is age maturation done at all, much less for decades by master distillers in some instances? Isn’t the “different purpose” of this expression to sell young whisky at inflated prices to people who can be convinced of this malarkey?

Anonymous said...

I have tried 66 single malt whiskies; Glenlivets 12 yo is very drinkable; the Archive is excellent but I will not buy another Founder's Reserve

Léon Grenier said...

They are maybe doing the same mistake new handler often do. Changing recipe for short term high profit but strong come back with a previous product. Or even a mistake on aging process on a volume to high to just restart. That is my opinion. Either way it's not good for the well appreciated 12 yo reputation of the founders reserve. I will let it sit and sip it hoping it will just get better by the time I am done drinking it in 50 years

Robert Williams said...

I understand that there are plans to continue selling 1 12-y-o Glenlivet in the US. I do not care for the so-called "Founder's Reserve" (which has clearly been forced on the entry level market rather than 'reserved' for it). I no longer drink Glenlivet.

Anonymous said...

Aldi and Morrison's own brand single or blended malts are all distinctly superior - more complex nose, longer and much richer in the mouth - and SIGNIFICANTLY CHEAPER. It would be rude to pour this down the sink. I plan to keep mine for the mother in law.

Mark Coulthwaite said...

Truly horrible. I can only assume they are ashamed of themselves and raking in the mega-profit from the uneducated that kind-of-recognise-the-name.

A shame to see what Pernod have done to a once noble brand.

Matt Adams said...

Why wait for a barrel to sit around for 12yrs when you can call a 3yr old whisky and knock it out as a "Founders Reserve"?

I say 3 yrs, as to me, this is clearly young spirit which has not had the opportunity to enhance in the wood.

Shame on you Glenlivet!

Godzilla said...

If the 12 yr old was a distinguished old family friend, the Founder's Reserve is his graffiti spray-can wielding, loud headphone wearing tearaway nephew. Fans of nail polish remover will like this, I found it metallic and young and with that pear-drop acetone character that you get with really young single malts. Yes, there's lots of fruit, but it's an artificial-tasting fruit that isn't particularly subtle or greatly pleasant.

In particular I think it was cheeky for Glenlivet to call this 'Founder's Reserve'-- mentioning the founder and prominently displaying the 1824 date is a cynical marketing attempt to make it seem like a cherished, time-tested impression rather than something they cooked up a few months ago, and there's nothing 'Reserve' about a bottle you can find in every Tesco in the country. This marketing might fool customers in the far East but not us natives! The old 12yr old was an easy going if not terribly challenging dram, and this is certainly no replacement; why Glenlivet have chosen to take the 12 off the shelves completely (while retaining it in America)I don't know; the end result is simply that the Founder's Reserve has become the poster-child for all that's lamentable about NAS whiskies.

JayGab Forum said...

I give it a 6.5

Darryl Owen said...

Hearing that both Glenlivet 12 and Macallan 12, 15 and 18's are going by the wayside in my market (Canada) is extremely disappointing to me. Luckily it seems I will be able to stock up on these bottles as I live in India right now, and trust me, I will be buying the shelves empty of these bottles to take back home with me.

Hans Ramløv said...

The Founders reserve is extremely disappointing. Very thin in both nose and taste. Someone else said was sour in the nose, this is my opinion too - a little like old socks. we may just use for food or maybe as a comparison for new comers to whisky when they taste the "real" stuff.

David Clink said...

I couldn't disagree more with the negative reviews of Founder's Reserve. I got a bottle from a friend who brought it back from Frankfort. That bottle was labeled Distillers Master Reserve. ( I assume it is the same as Founders's Reserve) For years I heard people say they didn't like scotch for it tasted like medicine. Drinking straight vodka of any vintage can easily claim that impression. When I tasted the Distillers Master Reserve I was immediately pleased. I have bought and tried all the Glenlivets and Macallam, and many other high end single and blended scotches. This has become my favorite to date. It starts smooth and finishes smooth. If you prefer the harsh hit of other scotches this isn't for you. There is a wine called Tempranillo (sp?) that is to red wines what this scotch is to scotches. A welcome spirit to the array of scotches.

Anonymous said...

Definitely not the Glenlivet I know.
the 15 year old French Oak Cask and the 21 year old are for me.
Pass on this one.

Nathan said...

Well done Glenlivet. This is exactly how to kill a brand. This is simply a poor excuse for a replacement. I've been told it's been blended with 3yo scotch. Tastes like it too. I will definitely give this a miss. You have lost a long time advocate of your 12 yo which in my humble opinion was one of the finest single malts produced.

Anonymous said...

This founders reserve should be reserved for bitches and their mixed drinks. I just bought a bottle from A bevmo and the problem was that because there's no year on the bottle then some idiot had it listed as a 21 year old scotch ... Leaving me .. Underwhelmed

Anonymous said...

I would rather drink a blended whiskey than this. truly horrible.

Anonymous said...

I've never tried Glenlivet 12, so there's no "comparison bias" here. It was simply the worst whisky I've ever tasted. Artificially flavoured pear drops, a whiff of super glue, a soupçon of soap - just awful. A new worst whisky to come in on my list under Tesco Value blended.

Anonymous said...

I have been a whisky drinker for 40 years and have always favoured good but sensibly priced scotch.
Why all the negatives - don't try and compare it to your previous products accept it for what it is and you will enjoy it.
I have introduced this to a number of friends and not one of them disliked it. It is smooth to the pallet and all the flavours come through without the harshness of many malts.
Love it, as do my friends and family and hope it will be produced for many years tocome

Keith said...

I enjoyed it. Better than a lot of scotch whisky I have tasted. I do prefer Irish or a good bourbon.
Keith

Calvin Chin said...

Glenlivent Founder's Reserve tastes like dissapointment. Try putting a few drops of water into this "Single Malt" like what they've taught in a whisky tasting session and it swept away the merely existant of sweetness and complexity of tasting note when I drank it neat.
Try to order a glass of whisky on rock with this single malt and you will understand it after a few sips. The end notes is purely dissaponted.