I took a trip up to The Glenlivet Distillery in a rather special week; it was the week that various media outlets proclaimed that The Glenlivet had overtaken another well know brand to become the number one selling single malt brand in the world. This is a fact that everyone on site is rightly proud of.
The Glenlivet Distillery is a mix of the old and new, traditional and modern. It is a large distillery by any measure and in the process of getting even larger. There is a major expansion project about to be undertaken doubling their already impressive capacity of ten and a half million litres of pure alcohol per year. For this they currently have seven sets of stills, sixteen washbacks and a big, big mashtun.
The site is a popular tourist destination with around fifty thousand people crossing the threshold very year, and it may increase in popularity with it now being one of the very few sites giving a free tour. For me it is worth a visit just to see the model made of bottles that looks like the DNA double helix!
The highlight for me was seeing the legal document (the indenture) that enshrined this site’s right to call itself The Glenlivet. If you go to The Glenlivet you’ll see a copy, I was fortunate enough to go down to Strathisla Distillery to see the original. Many other sites could tag on Glenlivet to their site name, but after 1824 there was only one that could say it was The Glenlivet. This is a legal right that the guys here are still very proud of.
Their site is also something that they should be proud of. It was immaculately presented the day I was there and the view out of the still house across the Ladder Hills and towards the Lecht, containing many old whisky smuggler routes, was stunning.
Their hospitality and the whiskies they arranged for me to try were also stunning. From their “entry level” whisky, The Founders Reserve, through some cask strength expressions to their twenty five year old, showed me great variety, great differences and great taste.
I have to be honest and say that The Founders Reserve has taken some stick in some blogs and whisky articles for being a non-aged flavour led expression, however to be fair it has also got some press. As for me, well, I really liked it. It is light and fresh, retaining the delicate and complex nature from the new make spirit. A floral and heathery nose develops with time into a really nice menthol toffee note. It is a smooth and easy drinking whisky, and at some of the prices I’ve seen lately in supermarkets a really good value single malt.
A particular favourite of mine was the Hand Filled 18 year old, matured in first fill bourbon casks. The banana and floral nose developed into a peachy and woody note when a wee drop of water was added. The sweet, buttery, vanilla, creamy finish was just wonderful. I am now planning a trip back up to buy one of these for my private collection!
The other expressions were varied, I preferred the Valiant cask edition more then the sherry Nadurra; my wife however has more expensive taste really enjoying the XXV bottle (at £200 a bottle). The 18 year old was very pleasant and overall I really enjoyed the variety and differences achieved through their innovative use of age and cask.
The Glenlivet impressed me in more ways than one; their mix of heritage and history with big production was great to see, the beautiful site in a stunning location is worth a visit and their product is definitely worth a try.
Recommendation of the Month
The Hand Filled 18 year old is amazing, but at £70 maybe a bit over budget for many. My recommendation of the month, going on value for money given some of the reduced prices that I’ve seen lately is the Founders Reserve, a lovely easy whisky at a great price.