As I continue to taste some of the most popular whiskies at The W hisky Shop this week I ask Matt about the Glenlivet 15 Year Old…
Watson: this will be the oldest which I have tried so far…what should I expect?
Matt: Older whiskies tend to be softer of the palate and come across as being smoother. This is especially true when they are bottled at 40% ABV or slightly higher. They also tend to be richer and more complex than their younger siblings in a range, due to the extra time spent maturing in a cask. However, confusingly this is not always the case and depends on the type of cask (or combination of casks) used during the maturation. In the case of the Glenlivet range, you do experience this obvious change between age statements – the 12 years old is quite light and delicate, while this 15 years old is richer and sweeter with deeper and more complex aromas and flavours.
Watson: I have read that part of the maturation is in new French oak casks. What does this do to the finish?
Matt: That is true – in fact, this 15 years old is named The French Oak Reserve. French Oak is predominantly used in the wine trade and is rarely used to mature single malt whisky. It imparts its characteristics quite quickly in to high alcohol spirits, such as whisky, and as a result has to be used in a subtle and sympathetic way. The result is a lovely nutty richness on the palate, that then manifests itself as being dry, slightly tannic and spicy (think of wood shavings, cinnamon and nutmeg) on the finish. This tempers the sweetness from the other casks used and creates a good balance.
Watson: Glenlivet has several expressions i.e 17/18/19 and 21 year olds, do they vary greatly?
Matt: As mentioned before, the different ages vary due to two factors – the spirit softening as it matures for longer and the type of casking used during maturation. The third factor is the flavour profile that the Master Blender of a particular brand is trying to achieve at a certain age statement, and the first two factors feature heavily in this process. In the case of Glenlivet, the range does show a natural progression while still retaining the signature Glenlivet characteristics. The 15 year old that we are trying today is richer, sweeter and a little spicier than the 12 year old. The 18 years old is a little richer and sweeter still, but with the spiciness knocked back a touch. The 21 year old goes another step and starts to show a distinct tropical fruit note, which is a classic characteristic for older Glenlivets.
Watson: Glenlivet is another Speysider…Is there anything special/ unique about the distillery?
Matt: Glenlivet is one of the most famous whisky distilleries and single malt brands in the world. It is also one of the largest single malt distilleries in Scotland with an annual production capacity of 10 million litres. I think only Glenfiddich beats this figure. Glenlivet was founded in 1824 by George Smith, and it was the first distillery in the Speyside region to be granted a distilling licence under the Parliamentary Excise Act in 1823. The range of single malts sells an impressive six million bottles per year – this puts it in second place for world sales of single malts (behind Glenfiddich), third in the UK (behind Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie) and number one in America.
Matt: So Watson, what do you think? What have you noticed between this and the younger whiskies that you have tried?
Watson: Another thumbs up from me! I actually tried the 12 Year old (from my dads cupboard) to compare it with the 15 Year Old. I preferred the 15 Year Old as I got a real sense of the spicier notes especially cinnamon. I was surprised by the difference in these two whiskies and although the 12 Year Old was light and refreshing I loved the complexity of the 15 Year Old. Next week we stick with Speyside and try the Balvenie Signiture!