The Glenlivet 15 Year Old ‘French Oak Reserve’

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Smith’s Glenlivet

The Glenlivet distillery was founded in 1823 by George Smith, a former illicit distiller who rented Upper Drumin Farm in the south of Glen Livet from the Duke of Gordon. The Duke himself had been instrumental in the drafting of the Excise Act of 1823 which made it simpler (and cheaper) to distill legally. No doubt under pressure from his landlord, Smith put an end to his illegal activities and bought a license, a decision which did not go down well with his former colleagues in the glen.

By the time the act was passed, illegal distilling had been endemic in the countryside around the River Livet for the best part of 40 years, with many local gangs wielding great wealth and power. It was even a common occurrence for legal distilleries to be burnt to the ground, sometimes while the owners were still inside.

Smith however was a tougher prospect. A man of determined character, he famously travelled with a pair of pistols gifted him by the Duke that he might defend himself and his property against attack.

Smith’s new legal whisky gained popularity almost immediately. Specifically created with a light, floral character, it stood out from the competition. In fact, the success of the spirit would eventually cause Smith’s grandson George Smith Grant to fight a lengthy court battle for the right to label his product The Glenlivet, a course of action he was forced to take after other local distillers began using the name to bolster their own sales.

Today the Glenlivet distillery is part of Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers stable, producing and selling over a million cases of whisky a year.

The Whisky

The Glenlivet 15 year old single malt is bottled at 40% and available in the UK for around £50 a bottle.

Smell: Fresh Fruit and Fudge, Toffee, Honey and Oak.

Taste: Richer on the palate than the nose would suggest… Fudge, Toffee, Caramel and Spicy Oak to the fore with lighter, fruitier notes in the background.

Thoughts: This is an interesting take on The Glenlivet spirit that offers something a little different without breaking the bank. I haven’t reviewed many Glenlivet expressions on and felt that maybe the time had come to do something about it. I confess that I have always found the core range a little pedestrian and the nose of this 15 year old seemed to suggest that I should expect the same. I must say, however, that the first sip came as something of a surprise, offering more flavour than a quick sniff would lead you to believe. For me it could still do with the added boost of a higher bottling strength, but for a reasonable price you get a decent Speyside dram given a little extra depth through the use of French Oak in the maturation process.

*If 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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