The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

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George Smith o’ Glenlivet

The Glenlivet Distillery was founded in 1824. It was established in a remote glen, well known to illicit distillers. In fact, it was one of those distillers, a man by the name of George Smith, who purchased a license following the 1823 Excise Act. His decision didn’t go down very well with the other distillers in the glen, however. Many of them viewed the excise laws as English interference in local affairs and took great pleasure in ignoring them. To them, Smith was a traitor and had to be stopped. Such was the hostility, Smith was persuaded by the Laird to carry a pair of pistols with which to defend himself should the time come.

Smith’s Glenlivet was a massive success and many of his critics were persuaded to follow in his footsteps. Before long, dozens of distilleries were producing so-called ‘Glenlivet’ whisky. By the time Smith’s son was running the family business, it had become such a problem that he was forced to take the matter to court. In 1878, the court ruled that Smith’s original distillery should be known as The Glenlivet, while competitors would be made to hyphenate (Aberlour-Glenlivet, Tamdhu-Glenlivet etc).

Today, The Glenlivet is one of the biggest whisky brands in the world, even overtaking Glenfiddich in 2015 as the number one selling single malt brand. A recent decision to remove their flagship 12-year-old expression was met with some criticism, however, with many expecting its replacement, a no age statement ‘Founder’s Reserve’ to be an inferior product.

Smell: Lemon, Floral Honey, Vanilla and Caramel

Taste: Caramel and Honey, Toffee and Fudge along with creamy Vanilla and fresh fruit in the form of Green Apple, Pear, Lemon and even a touch of Grape.

Thoughts: The trend towards no-age-statement bottlings isn’t a popular one and Glenlivet are perhaps the most high-profile example to date. For my part, I always like to try a whisky before making my mind up about it. I must admit, however, that I believe removing the 12-year-old from the UK market to be a mistake and something of a kick in the teeth to the loyal customers that bought it again and again.

I can’t claim to be the distillery’s biggest fan. I appreciate its significance. I respect its success. Scotch whisky needs the big brands to spread the good word across the world. In terms of flavour, however, it just isn’t my kind of dram. It’s too delicate, too gentle for me. Still, I believe you can recognise quality, whether it is to your own personal taste or not.

I’m not sure quality is really what I’m seeing here, though. To be clear, it isn’t awful. To be awful it would have to taste bad. Instead, it just tastes a little bland. The Glenlivet is always subtle but this takes it to extremes. It’s like they’ve tried to strip it of anything that could resemble character. It won’t break the bank certainly but there are blends of a similar price point that offer a better buy.

I don’t think this whisky is quite as bad as some people have made it out to be, but I also don’t think it is particularly worthy of The Glenlivet name. I certainly can’t see me ever being persuaded to buy it again. Do the right thing, Glenlivet. Bring back your 12.

*If, for some inexplicable reason, the whisky reviewed in this article has caught your eye, you can buy it from Master of Malt here. Please be aware that as an affiliate I can be paid a small commission on any purchases you make after following links from my page. The whisky is also available from several other excellent retailers. 


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