The Glenlivet Distillery was founded in 1824 in a remote glen known for illicit distilling. Founder George Smith was himself a well known distiller and became the first in the area, one of the first in Scotland, to go legitimate. This all came about after the Excise Act of 1823 was passed and the government began to offer licenses to distill and sell whisky – so long as the holder would agree to have an Exciseman permanently on site.
Mr Smith’s decision was not at all popular with other local distillers, many of whom saw the excise laws as an English invention being forced on the people of Scotland and taking great pride in avoiding them. Perhaps they were hoping that the laws would eventually be forgotten about and they’d be left to get on with things as before. Smith knew better though, and there are many stories surrounding him that tell of harassment by local rivals. The story goes that he was given two pistols by the local laird and carried them with him everywhere in order to defend himself and his premises.
The Glenlivet found success very early on. By the 1850’s it was so famous that other distillers tried to piggyback on this success by calling themselves a ‘Glenlivet’ whisky. This of course was of great irritation to George Smith and his family and in 1878 Mr Smiths son took it to the court. He won a legal battle for the right to the name ‘The Glenlivet’ and from that day on, all the other distillers could only hyphenate (Aberlour-Glenlivet, Tamdhu-Glenlivet for example). This practice survived for many years but has all but died out today, with the use of Speyside now commonly in use to describe the region.
Glenlivets success continues and to this day it is one of the most recognisable whisky brands in the world and in 2015 even overtook Glenfiddich as the number one selling Single Malt. They have come in for some criticism of late however, when their much loved 12 year old was discontinued in many markets, it’s native Scotland included, and was replaced by the non age statement ‘Founders Reserve’. Needless to say, this decision was not popular in many quarters and the dissatisfaction is understandable: consumers want more transparency, not less and the removal of an age statement feels like a step backward. However, the fact remains that for many of us the 12 year old is a thing of the past and we are left to make our own decision as to whether the Founders Reserve, judged on it’s own merits, is worthy of a purchase.
Certainly, the Founders Reserve is reasonably priced, coming in at around £30 to £35 – we’re certainly not breaking the bank here. On the nose I get Lemon, then Honey and Floral notes with Vanilla and Caramel. On the palate meanwhile there’s Caramel and Honey with some Toffee and Fudge notes along with creamy Vanilla and fresh fruits in the form of Green Apples, Lemon and Green Grapes – in fact there’s almost a white wine quality to it.
The Scores: About the Scoring System
Smell: 16 / 20. Fresh and Fruity but complimented with a pleasant caramel / fudge character.
Taste: 15.5 / 20. It’s not the most complex of drams and is perhaps a little one dimensional but what it does it does well enough. I quite like the interplay on the palate between fresh green fruits and the toffee & caramel notes.
Value for Money: 7 / 10. Very much on the lower end of the scale for single malt whisky and as such, a decent enough purchase if you like this sort of thing.
Overall: 38.5 / 50. I have to admit it’s not really my thing this, but I don’t think it’s a bad dram. It is perhaps not as good as the 12 year old was but then it’s been a while since I’ve tasted that particular whisky and to be honest I was never much of a fan anyway. In any case I’d need to taste them side by side to really compare the two. Standing on it’s own I think the Founders Reserve is decent enough and if you’re looking for a light bodied, easy drinking single malt with a subtle, fresh character that’s both available and affordable then this could well be the one for you.