At a time when liquor was produced illegally and the need to push against all the competition meant licensing the means to produce spirits – George Smith an illicit distiller formed the first licensed Distillery in the parish of Glenlivet, the year being 1824.
The Glenlivet is one of the few that survived the Great Depression but needed to shut shop during World War II. The government mandated the prohibition of liquor production during this time so that it could export food and grains to make up for the massive debts it incurred during the war. The realization of earning huge revenues by exporting liquor to the US and the rest of the world forced these restrictions to be lifted soon after even at a time when barley and fuel were limited resources. Alas, the Glenlivet distillery opened its doors once again and grew to be the largest selling whisky in the United States and the second most selling whisky globally; still is too!!
This Speyside malt houses a wide variety of expressions, some NAS, some Limited, some Vintage but the most common of them being the Aged expressions beginning with the 12 YO, all the way until the 25 YO. Additionally, its contents are also used to make the Chivas Regal and Royal Salute blends, thanks to its association with Pernod Ricards.
Early last year (2015) the distillery moved away from its longstanding logo of the thistle- Scotland’s national flower, to something that was more unique and associative. The logo, ‘a bridge’ also comes with a story of its own – still standing strong and running over the river Livet, it was a means for bootleggers to smuggle and distribute their whiskies. Many of which used the ‘Glenlivet’ name skimming off its popularity in the goal of making heftier profits.
The 12 YO is matured in a combination of European and American Oak Casks with a majority of its life spent in the latter. The liquor is light bodied and almost tea-like, a quick swirl exposes smooth, long thin trails with its classic gold tinge cutting beautifully through the glass.
Nose: Malty and wheat-like with a dash of vanilla and honey. Wood, white pepper, a tinge of tanginess and bits of coconut, pineapple, dried fruits and golden raisins.
Taste: Caramel and biscuit like with a slight hint of zest, laced with tropical fruits and spices – cinnamon and cloves. Traces of smoke and peat with a velvety feel in the mouth.
Finish: Sweet, woody and long.
The Glenlivet 12 YO is quite a delightful Speyside malt which though not very complex serves as an ideal ‘light’ malt for the novice, intermediate or the casual drinker. It doesn’t have those really strong, pungent, peaty flavors like those of the Islay’s but brings rather fruity and floral tones which adds to its knack of attracting scores of whisky lovers. I could see this as a great means to relax; when one simply wants to sink into the couch and not deal with the intricacies of what’s going around.
Comparing it to its biggest competitor: The Glenfiddich 12 YO (how could I not?!), the Glenlivet is a bit more rounded, sherry flavored, and smoother although the former does come as being light, crisp and refreshing. I really can’t put a nail on which might be the clear winner, but with some deliberation I can see myself tip toeing closer to the Livet.
Although my preference, as is with all malts: Neat or with a hint of water; you do see recommendations pairing the 12 YO with club soda in a 1:1 ratio or with ginger ale.
I know what I like…and you might as well go with what gets you the tickles!