Saturday, 8 February 2014

Glenlivet 21 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:

Glenlivet 21 Year Old
Single malt whisky 

Speyside, Scotland
Near perfect
Near perfect 
Best served:

(N) Candied ginger, barley sugar, sesame crisps, mild menthol, hazelnut, almond, dried flowers, creamy barley, pineapple, peppery papaya, mild chocolate and cocoa, orange and mandarin peel, cinnamon, coconut and vanilla macaroon, polished mahogany, dried dark fruit (prune, sultana and fig) and lime (P) Creamy vanilla, oats, Christmas cake, raisins, glazed cherries, dark chocolate, licorice, sherry, menthol, nuts, cinnamon, Arabic coffee.(F) Dried fruit, sandalwood, bitter dark chocolate, ginger bread, nuts, lingering oak. 

The Glenlivet distillery proudly proclaims that it is the "single malt that started it all". Distilling alcohol was not always legal in the United Kingdom, but this all changed with the enactment of the Excise Act 1823. George Smith, who was operating an illegal distillery alongside many others in the parish of Glenlivet, was the first person in the parish to secure a license to distill and so The Glenlivet was founded in 1824. The new distillery could not keep up with demand, and by the time George Smith's son John inherited the distillery (lucky chap!) its whisky had become so synonymous with quality that other distilleries named their products "Glenlivet". John took legal action against the distillers, and the court held that he and his master blender were the only people allowed to use the name "Glenlivet" but other distilleries could hyphenate the name alongside another name (for example, "The Glen Moray-Glenlivet Distillery"). John therefore decided to name his whisky The Glenlivet, to signify that it is the whisky that, well, started it all! 

Today, my nose and taste buds are convinced that The Glenlivet continues to produce whisky of excellent quality. The main expressions offered by the distillery include the 12, 15, 16 (Nadurra), 18, 21 and 25 year old. 

This review is about the Glenlivet 21 year old, which is produced in 'bespoke batches' and apparently each cask is nosed and approved by the extraordinarily gifted tasters (known in the industry as "noses") at the distillery. I know they're extraordinarily gifted, because The Glenlivet is consistently terrific and true to the timeless sweet style that epitomizes the distillery - there is very little semblance of fault in every Glenlivet expression I have tasted and I have tasted them all many times. 

The Glenlivet 21 year old offers fresh vibrant dried fruit sweetness with heavy oak driven undertones that find balance between the spirit, wood and sherry. This whisky really stands out from the rest, and I struggle to see how a whisky can get any better. Despite spending at least 21 years in oak, the creamy barley still shines with oak driven flavours of labyrinthine complexity that interlock harmoniously in a way that conjures wonder at how a whisky can project its character with vibrancy, richness and power and yet be so silky smooth and elegantly subtle. In other words, this is fine whisky that ticks all the boxes and it reaffirms my belief that The Glenlivet is still "the benchmark of quality in Speyside". Absolutely brilliant work by the team at Glenlivet! 

Tasting notes:
Nose: Almost immediately the intricate details of the bouquet express themselves in labyrinthine complexity - candied ginger and barley sugar balance against the bitter-sweet snap of honeyed sesame crisps as mild menthol, hazelnut, almond and dried flowers underpin creamy barley, pineapple, peppery papaya, mild chocolate and cocoa, orange and mandarin peel, hints of cinnamon, coconut and vanilla macaroon, polished mahogany, dried dark fruit (prune, sultana and fig) and the fresh spritz of lime. 

Taste: Beyond silky, the flavours integrate in impeccable fashion offering subtlety and softness while following a smooth but sinuous pattern. Mild notes of creamy vanilla and oats underpin rich Christmas cake with raisins, glazed cherries, dark chocolate and licorice as mild undercurrents of menthol gradually intensify at mid-palate together with dark chocolate, crushed hazelnuts, sherry, cinnamon and resinous spiced Arabic coffee.

Finish: A lingering sweet haze of dried fruit and floral infused wood notes is balanced by the lingering bitter dark chocolate as ginger bread provides a sweet spicy spark within the nutty and oak rich finish.  

Rich, complex, smooth yet assertive, balanced and seriously delicious

£100 (UK), $240 (Aus)

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