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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Single Malt Report: Taste Off, Part 2. The Glenlivet 18 year old

Surprise!  Whisky #2 was Glenlivet 18!

Okay, maybe not that big of a surprise.

Last week I matched up their 12 year olds, this week I tried their 18 year olds side by side.

I allowed Glenlivet a bit of a handicap.  Being that I've historically preferred Glenfiddich's spirit, I gave Glenlivet the second spot in the Taste Off, thus giving it more time to develop in the glass.

Now, unlike the GF 18, the GL 18 weighs in at 43% ABV, in both the UK and the US.  And if you squint, you can see that my GL sample was at 43%.  Otherwise, like the 'Fiddich, it's also colored and filtered.  And, like with the 'Fiddich, my expectations were thusly set a little low.

And it surpassed them.


Brand: The Glenlivet
Ownership: Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard)
Region: Speyside (Livet)
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation: 85% American (ex-bourbon) oak casks, 15% Spanish (ex-oloroso) oak casks
Age: minimum 18 years
Alcohol by Volume: 43%


Round 1 - neat, in a covered glass for 35-40 minutes before sampling

The color is dark gold with ruby highlights.  The nose starts with sweet sherry and molasses.  Has some notes that are reminiscent of the 15yr (cocoa and pencil shavings) even though that bottling spent time in Limousin Oak.  Buttery American oak notes develop over time.  Then there's some nice creamy milk chocolate and toffee.  The palate proves to be quite different.  Very fruity in fact: mango, green grapes, and peaches.  There's some caramel sauce, and maybe a touch of berries.  It gets sweeter the longer it's in the glass.  It's still sweet through the finish, with that hint of berries, more peaches, and pencils.

Round 2 - with water (down to 35.8% ABV)

There's that musty cocoa-pencil note from the 15yr in the nose again.  Some subtle white fruit.  And something lovely, perhaps cognac-ish.  The palate leads with peach and citrus juice.  Some hints of sherry.  Quite sweet, almost like wheat whiskey.  And...well...Moss Man action figure.  Yep.  Moss Man's still there in the finish, though quietly.  The sherry, peach, and sugars are much louder.

The verdict?

My favorite Glenlivet yet.

Though I enjoyed the Glenfiddich 18's berry notes more than I can defend, the Glenlivet 18 was more complex.  It's curious stuff.  I wouldn't mind a second round of it to dig further.

A great price on this one.  Like the GF 18, it's not a powerhouse; it's anything but burly.  Quite polite.  More suitable for these damn hot summer days and nights than a meaty sherry bomb or a peat wallop.  If you like the GL 12, then I wouldn't doubt you'd like its older sister.  And she's legal.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $65-$75, great price for its age
Rating - 87


  1. Now, wait just a minute here...did you just say "fruity"?

  2. I need to try that one again. I had a dram at a bar here in PDX, but it was served in a tumbler, so I don't think I got much out of it.

    1. Yeah, I don't think it's powerful enough to shine through a tumbler's shape. It's been hot as hell here in LA/LBC, so I've been appreciating the quieter whiskies recently.

    2. I got Glenlivet 15 YO French Oak and 18 YO minis in my haul, so I'll get to replicate some of your tastings. Will be nice to try it with some proper glassware.

    3. I'm curious about what you think of the 15yr vs 18yr. The 15yr still hasn't won me over. It's not like I'm not trying.
      :-) Still workin' on that bottle.

  3. There's an old comment on the Straight Bourbon forums that mentioned mixing a bit of Nadurra into a glass of Glenlivet 18 to perk it up so to speak. Haven't tried it myself since I don't have a bottle of 18 handy at the moment (though I've got a bottle of Nadurra Triumph in the bunker).

    1. That's probably a good idea, a nice mini-vatting of GL's best. From what I can remember, the Nadurra was a completely different creature from their regular bottlings, and in a very good way.

    2. I tried it last weekend and found it decent but uninspiring. Admittedly, that was after a Bruichladdich and a CS Hazelburn, so my taste buds may not have been firing on all cylinders.

    3. Which CS Hazelburn? Did you go with the Sauternes or Bourbon? Hopefully you got a good glass for that one.

    4. The Bourbon Wood. Just posted up my tasting notes: http://cocktailchem.blogspot.com/2012/09/whisky-review-hazelburn-8-year-bourbon.html

      And yes, it's a proper whisky bar, so they have Glencairns.

    5. Going to read that now! BTW, most LA whisky bars not have proper glassware. Some don't even have snifters. I've started bringing my own glass, like a nerd.

    6. *awkwardly tries to return fist bump, misses entirely*

  4. Woohoo, I grabbed a couple miniatures of Glenlivet 18 at Beltramo's for $5.99 each (they also had the 15 as a mini so I got one too). I'd hate to say it but this is fruity. While tasting this one I decided not to add water because I felt the flavors were good enough already (just give it some time). As a point of comparison, I'd say Glenlivet 18 is very similar to Balvenie Doublewood with both having a lot of spice on the palate. I might actually buy a full bottle when I have the room on the bar. It might make a good everyday malt if it weren't for the price.

    1. Score! Didn't realize they made minis of the 18. I was very surprised by this one. Probably my favorite GL now. Dunno if you have Total Wine & More shops up by you, but they're selling GL18 for $54.99 down here.

    2. The mini selection is definitely wider in the UK since the Whisky Exchange has a lot more variety than I normally see here (I'm a bit shocked to see nearly the entire Glendronach range as minis). I don't think the Glenlivet 15 and 18 minis were a regular release for Beltramo's since they haven't been restocked.

    3. Yeah, color me envy green about the mini selection in Europe. There are even a bunch of indie bottlers who put out minis of their stuff, not as much as they used to but they still do it. Minis would sell well over here, plus it would go a ways toward moving the bigger bottles since consumers would be more open to trying out new brands that way. But then again, I don't think anyone's having trouble selling bigger bottles in the US.