Sunday, February 22, 2015
Review - The Glenlivet 'Founder's Reserve'
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.