Glenlivet, a renowned brand known for its quality, is widely available and even contributes to the creation of other well-known whiskies. However, amidst the attention given to their modern offerings, it’s important to remember the brand’s rich history. The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve aims to bring that history and traditional production methods to the forefront in the modern market.
A Storied Past
Illegal distilleries were once widespread in the Speyside region of Scotland. However, in 1823, a new law required all distilleries to be licensed. This led to the establishment of Glenlivet in 1824 by George Smith, much to the dismay of other illegal distilleries hoping for the law’s repeal. The original Glenlivet distillery in Upper Drumin began operations that same year.
Adaptation and Resilience
In 1858, while constructing a new distillery in Mimmore to meet rising demand, the original distillery was destroyed. Some equipment from the old distillery was salvaged and is still in use today at the new location. Glenlivet remained open throughout the Great Depression, making it one of the few profitable distilleries during that time. However, it was temporarily closed during World War Two, only to reopen with British government-enforced grain rationing to ensure production for export and reduce war debts.
Ownership of Glenlivet changed hands several times until it was acquired by Seagram in 1977, a renowned Canadian company known for its liquor and Fireball Whisky. In 2000, ownership was transferred to the French company Pernod Ricard. Glenlivet impressively sells approximately 6 million bottles of single malt scotch whisky annually.
Craftsmanship and Process
The standard Glenlivet edition is widely recognized and respected. It also serves as a key component in the creation of other brands, such as Chivas Regal. The Founder’s Reserve is designed to closely follow the original production methods used when the distillery first opened.
Crafted from 100% locally produced malted barley, this single malt scotch whisky undergoes milling, cooking, and fermentation to create a mildly alcoholic liquid. The batch is then distilled in copper pot stills with tall still heads. This design allows only the lightest components of the distillation to reach the finished raw whiskey.
Following distillation, the whiskey is matured in new American oak barrels, distinguishing it from the normal production line that incorporates previously used bourbon, sherry, and port barrels. The maturation period remains undisclosed but is likely at least three years, if not closer to twelve. The whiskey is then blended to achieve the desired flavor profile, proofed down, and readied for sale.
Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve adheres to the standard packaging formula of scotch whisky, with its unassuming cylindrical body, rounded shoulder, and medium-length neck. The bottle is sealed with a combination of plastic and cork stopper.
The label, however, introduces a touch of distinction. Divided in half, the upper portion presents required information against a white background, while the lower portion provides details specific to this unique variety. The color of the lower label changes for each distinct line of whisky, making it easy to spot and identify the desired bottle across a bar. A slight separation between the two labels allows a glimpse of the whiskey from the front. Though not groundbreaking, it is a solid and functional design.
Aromas and Flavors
Upon nosing, the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve exudes a distinct floral bouquet, reminiscent of holding a cluster of blossoming flowers. This floral aroma is accompanied by notes of peach, brown sugar, and a hint of vanilla.
The flavors mirror the aromas, with the initial impressions being floral blossoms, peach, and a touch of vanilla. As the taste develops, a malty flavor akin to sourdough bread emerges, followed by a honey-like sweetness. On the finish, the fruity peach flavor returns, intertwining briefly with honey and sourdough bread notes.
Essentially, it evokes the essence of a delightful brunch—light, delicious, and refreshing.
On the Rocks
With the addition of ice, the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve takes a bittersweet turn. The light and floral characteristics that balanced the spirit when consumed neat are diminished.
The dominant bitterness resembles that of cocoa nibs, though without the accompanying depth of flavor. The malty bread-like taste, a bit of peach, and a hint of honey—remnants of the “brunch” flavors—remain but lack the strength and saturation found in the neat version. Overall, the character becomes washed out.
Tradition and Taste
It is admirable that Glenlivet aims for a more traditional take on single malt scotch whisky, staying true to the style. Neat, it showcases a light and herbal profile. However, when compared to other spirits available at a similar price point, the Founder’s Reserve falls short in terms of impact and character.
While it is certainly worth experiencing, especially in specific contexts, the intense competition within this market segment means that there are other options that offer more robust flavors. Therefore, if you are looking for a single bottle to grace your bar, consider something with a bit more character.
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Overall Rating: 3/5
When enjoyed neat, this scotch unveils flavors reminiscent of sourdough bread, peach, honey, and floral blossoms. However, it is best to avoid adding ice.