Glenlivet is a solid brand with a good reputation, usually fairly easy to find wherever you are, and is even used as a component to make some other famous brands that we’ve seen on the site. But while their more modern offerings might take all the limelight, the company has a long and storied history — and their Founder’s Reserve edition aims to bring that history and traditional production method to the modern market.
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annoyance of the other illegal distilleries in the area who hoped that mass disobedience would lead to the law being repealed). The same year the original Glenlivet distillery in Upper Drumin began operation.
The original distillery was destroyed in 1858 while a new distillery was under construction in Mimmore to try and meet the rising demand for their product. Some of the original equipment from the destroyed distillery was transferred to the new location and is still 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 could 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?
The standard edition of Glenlivet is a well known and well respected spirit, which also partially is used to make other brands such as Chivas Regal. This specific version was designed to compliment that standard line of whiskey by providing a version that more closely follows the original production methods in use when the distillery first opened.
As a single malt scotch whisky, this starts with a crop of 100% locally produced malted barley. That barley is milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid which is then batch distilled in copper pot stills. These stills are designed with a very tall still head, which only allows the lightest components from the distillation to make it over the hill and into the finished raw whiskey.
Once the whiskey has been produced, it is placed into new (not previously used) American oak barrels for maturation. This is different from their normal production line, which uses a combination of previously used barrels from bourbon, sherry, and port production processes, and is more in line with a traditional method. The whiskey is left to mature for an undisclosed period of time — at least three years by law, but likely closer to twelve.
The finished barrels are blended together to create the proper flavor profile, proofed down, and bottled for sale.
There’s a pretty standard formula to how scotch whisky is packaged, and Glenlivet doesn’t stray very far from that standard.
The bottle is about as average and unassuming as you can get, with a cylindrical body, rounded shoulder, and medium length neck. The vessel is capped off with a plastic and cork stopper.
The label is where there’s a bit of flair and distinction. They basically split the label in half — an upper portion that has a white background and most of the required information, and then a colored bottom section that has some detail about this specific variety. That makes the bottle easy to spot from across the bar and identify what you are drinking, as the label color changes for each individual line. I do appreciate that there’s a hair of separation between the two labels, which makes the clean delineation impressive and allows some of the whiskey to be seen from the front.
It’s a solid design that works well, although it’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off anytime soon.
There’s a distinctly floral aroma coming off this glass, as if you are holding a bouquet of flower blossoms right under your nose. Supporting that aroma is some peach fruit, brown sugar, and a touch of vanilla.
It should be no surprise that those aromas translate very well into the actual flavor of the spirit, with floral blossoms, peach, and a hint of vanilla being the first things that appear. As the flavor develops, there’s also some malty flavor that tastes like a slice of sourdough bread, followed by a sweetness that comes across to me like honey. On the finish, that fruity peach flavor appears again and lingers with the honey and sourdough bread flavors for a brief moment.
Basically, this tastes like brunch. Flowers, peach, bread, and honey. Light and delicious.
With the added ice, things have taken a decidedly bitter turn. There aren’t as many of the light and floral characteristics to balance out the rest.
What I’m primarily getting is the same kind of bitterness you see from cocoa nibs — but without the added depth to the flavor. There’s the malty bread-like flavor in there, combined with a bit of peach and a splash of honey (the only “brunch” flavors that remain), but all are without the strength and saturation that we saw when we tried this neat.
It just seems a bit washed out and without character.
I appreciate that they are going for a more traditional take on a single malt scotch whisky, and it does taste like that traditional style. It’s light and herbal when taken neat, but unfortunately doesn’t quite have the saturation to keep things together when on the rocks. To be fair, though, that result is average and expected for this style of whisky.
I don’t regret spending the money on this bottle, as there is definitely a time and a place for this flavor. The reason why I’m not rating it much higher is just because there’s so much competition in this market at this price point, with other spirits providing a significantly better flavors. This is good and worth a taste — but if you only want one bottle for your bar, then you might want to get something with a bit more character.
|Glenlivet Founder's Reserve|
Classification: Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $30.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
When taken neat, this scotch tastes like brunch: sourdough bread, peach, honey, and floral blossoms. Just don’t put it on ice.