Glenlivet is a pretty good middle-of-the-road scotch that won’t break the bank and also won’t scorch your taste buds. It’s efficient, effective, and solid… but not fantastic. So when I saw that they had a version that had been matured in Caribbean rum casks, I was hopeful that this extra touch would be able to take Glenlivet to the next level and really kick things up a gear.
Illegal distilleries were rampant in the Speyside area of Scotland for generations, but with the passage of a new law in 1823 all legal distilleries would need to be established and properly licensed to operate. Glenlivet was established one year later in 1824 by George Smith — much to the annoyance of the other illegal distilleries in the area who hoped that mass disobedience would lead to the law being repealed.
After going through this new legal process, the original Glenlivet distillery in Upper Drumin was established. Sadly, though, this original distillery was destroyed just over thirty years later, in 1858. At the time, though, a new distillery was under construction in Mimmore to try and meet the rising demand for their product. So some of the original equipment from the destroyed distillery was transferred to the new location and remains in use to this day.
The distillery remained open through the Great Depression, one of the only distilleries to remain profitable in that period, but was shuttered during World War Two by government decree. In the years following the war the facility reopened, and the British government actually enforced grain rationing to ensure that the facility could operate (and produce spirits for export that would reduce Britain’s war debts).
Glenlivet went through a number of smaller changes in ownership until they were purchased in 1977 by Seagram, the Canadian company most famous for their eponymous liquor and Fireball Whisky. In 2000, the ownership was transferred to the French company Pernod Ricard.
Glenlivet sells approximately 6 million bottles of single malt scotch whisky annually.
- Learn More: What Is Scotch Whisky?
Glenlivet single malt scotch whisky starts as a fermented mash of 100% Scottish produced malted barley. The mash is then distilled in lantern-shaped stills that feature a rather long neck, known by distillers to produce a sweeter spirit than other designs.
Following the distillation process, the spirit is first aged in former sherry and bourbon casks for a number of years, which results in the typical Glenlivet spirit that you’d see on the shelves. For this particular offering, select stocks are further aged in barrels previously used to age Caribbean rum for an undisclosed period of time before being blended and bottled for sale.
Glenlivet is following the blueprint for a scotch whisky bottle very closely with this design, and not really taking any chances.
The bottle is a standard design: cylindrical walls, flared base, and rounded shoulder that tapers to a medium length neck. There’s a nice flare in the neck that makes the bottle easier to handle, and the whole thing is capped off with a synthetic stopper.
Moving on to the label… on the one hand, I appreciate the relatively sparse design work going on here. It conveys the required information efficiently and cleanly, but there’s no character or other interesting components to it. It’s just a label that obscures a good portion of the bottle.
I do appreciate that they differentiate the lines of their whisky by using different colors on the bottom band these days (red is the color for this Caribbean cask finished series). This color branding makes it easier to identify the bottle you want, and I like that small touch.
This is a beautiful golden colored liquid, and it smells very floral and fruity. First impressions are that it smells like honey smeared over a delicious dinner roll, with some floral blossoms, cantaloupe, and a touch of vanilla. I’m not picking up anything specifically rum-esque other than possibly some additional sweetness and sugary aromas.
What can be found in the aroma is pretty close to what you’ll find in the actual flavor: floral blossoms, honey sweetness, a bit of acidity and tartness, and some vanilla. I’m actually getting almost none of that fruit that I detected in the aroma, and even less of an impression of the rum flavors at this point. I believe them when they say that they used rum casks to age this… but I’m just not seeing the impact.
Typically, when adding some ice to a glass of whiskey, the weaker flavor components drop out of the running and what remains are the stronger, bolder ones. In this case, though, I think the ice might actually be bringing out the subtle rum notes and finally highlighting those characteristics from the maturation process.
I’m now getting many more aromas that I associate with a rum — specifically, some brown sugar coming through mixed with some attenuated oatmeal and vanilla. I can’t smell a single flower petal in this anymore.
Unfortunately, the rum aroma notes don’t translate into the flavor in this case. I’m just getting a less saturated version of what I saw when taken neat, complete with that tartness that’s been turned up a little bit. It isn’t ideal, to be honest.
In theory, rum finishing is a good idea — rum is delicious, whiskey is delicious… the combination should be great! The problem, unfortunately, is that rum typically doesn’t have a very powerful flavor profile. At least, not the kind of rum where you’d be able to cheaply get the used casks for your own finishing process. (And at this price point, I can’t imagine they shelled out for expensive casks.)
There might be a bit of added sweetness and sugary qualities to the whiskey, but that’s as far as the changes go. Otherwise, this is still very much a standard bottle of Glenlivet, so you might as well buy a standard bottle instead. This is still good, but not necessarily worth the markup that comes from the finishing process.
|Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve Single Malt Scotch Whisky|
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $41.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
It tastes just like the standard version of Glenlivet. You should buy that instead.