Sensology Tasting with The Glenlivet

Thanks to Joules, the brand ambassador for The Glenlivet here in France, I was invited to an interesting experience with some other local whisky enthusiasts. Joules organised in a nearby wine shop (À l’Ombre d’un Bouchon) a “Sensology” tasting: it consists of a pairing of whiskies with ingredients delivering the smells and flavours you can find in the water of life. The whole point is that we are usually deceived by our eyes, our knowledge, our expectations. Therefore, in order to fully experience these malts from The Glenlivet without such distractions, we taste the whiskies in opaque glasses, and without knowing anything about the age or the maturation of the liquid inside them. We have access, as I said, to a pletora of fruits (dried and fresh) and spices and ingredients to help us in identifying the tasting notes.

The tasting starts with an interesting excursus on the history of The Glenlivet, but I won’t spoil you the pleasure of discovering it by yourself – in other words, I’m way too lazy to write about it now and I rather want to talk about the whiskies we tried… So Joules basically let us nose and taste the whiskies, trying to figure out our thoughts without telling us anything, but she’s rather inquisitive about what we smell and taste. So without further ado, here there are my thoughts on the three malts we get to try…

Whisky 1: Glenlivet 18 Y.O. (43%, OB, 2018)
It turns out this is one is actually the Glenlivet 18 years old. I sincerely would have never ever guessed it, as it seemed to me quite fierce and intense, and somehow possibly youngish. But I’ll let my tasting notes speak.
Nose: Immediately alcohol, screaming at my nose “I’m the first whisky of the day and I’m gonna hit you haaaaard” or something like that. A pinch of surprising salt, then lemon, apples, and roaring pineapples. It feels like an ex-bourbon cask, and the vanilla is here to confirm it. Spicy, hot, intense.
Taste: Here the alcohol is even fiercer, with strong barley and malted barley flavours balancing the notes of some white fruits. Dried oranges, too, maybe? It’s quite nice as we can actually taste all these things in front of us! Marzipan? There is no marzipan on the table, but I wrote it down anyway. Go figure.
Finish: Again, alcohol and pineapples.
Overall: 84/100. It was my personal favourite of the three, but I was the only one swaying in this direction. The others pointed out the unbalanced alcohol (to be fair it was our first whisky, and we didn’t add water to it). Very nice, maybe a bit too punchy without being too complex. I would have rather thought at a Nàdurra expression. Sometimes I think I understand about whisky as much as John snow does about military tactics…

Whisky 2: Glenlivet The Captain’s Reserve (40%, OB, 2019)
The second whisky is The Captain’s Reserve. It’s dedicated to Captain Bill Smith Grant, the great-grandson of The Glenlivet founder George Smith, and it was finished in Cognac casks… Weirdly enough, this one was unanimously picked by all the other participants as their favourite of the three. Here you can find my tasting notes:
Nose: Oh, much sweeter than the previous one, with dark chocolate headbutting spices and dried figs. Cinnamon, maybe? Again, something reminding that pineapple I found in the first whisky as well. Apples and honey, too.
Taste: We unanimously agree that the alcohol here is less punchy than in the first one, or maybe our palates are already destroyed… Much sweeter and with richer sherry-like flavours, along with orange peels, fresh apples, mint, and salt.
Finish: Sadly, very short and a bit oaky. This one is definitely the weakest part, as it disappears almost immediately. But it’s OK, I’m ready for a new one!
Overall: Now, I have absolutely no idea about cognac – but I think this finish is quite elegant, as it doesn’t go all Godzilla on the malt destroying it and overwhelming its characteristics, and it rather complements it nicely. Not too complex, but definitely enjoyable: 77/100.

Whisky 3: Glenlivet 15 Y.O. French Oak Reserve (40%, OB, 2018)
And finally the third one is the famous Glenlivet 15 years old French Oak. I remember that some years ago a friend of mine gave me the remnants of a bottle to “look after”, and I reviewed it here (in Italian). It’s nice to compare tasting notes after quite some time… here my newest ones:
Nose: Very sweet and fruity, with peach and bananas. Maybe the fruits put on display here by Joules influence my nose, but I cannot stop thinking about this fruit salad. The new Limousin oak casks used in the maturation are going strong with some vanilla and… well, oak.
Taste: Bananas, again, peaches, again. A drying mouth feeling even though in general it’s quite delicate and floral. Maybe, a bit too oak-y for me and not on the complex side, but it’s very drinkable. I mean, dangerously drinkable.
Finish: Not too long, a bit like a cameo of Stan Lee (I’ miss you Stan): it’s brief, but you won’t forget it for a while.
Overall: To me it was a bit better than the Captain’s Reserve, so I’ll give it a 80/100. I quite enjoyed it, and don’t forget that the price-ratio for this one is great!

We are the end of this amazing sensory experience – really, I have to do more blind tastings with stuff to nose and taste in front of me, it works great, and it’s definitely educational! OK, done with the schooling part, now Joules unveils further treasures: the whole Glenlivet range! We get to try the Master Distiller’s Reserve, the Glenlivet 12 Y.O. (France exclusive this one, different from the “normal” 12 years old), the whole Nàdurra line (1st Fill, Oloroso Matured, and Peated), and we even have the chance of even try the the big hitters, the Glenlivet 21. Y.O. and the majestic…

Glenlivet XXV (43%, OB, 2016)
This one has been aged for over 25 long years in a combination of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, before being finished in 1st fill ex-Oloroso casks. Its price tag is high, but the casing is super elegant and it exudes luxury, joy and sunshine. Why sunshine? I don’t know, I just thought about it now, humor me.
Nose: Immediately very intense with floral and herbal notes. Where is the sherry? Ah, here it is, fat and rich. Lemons and dried pineapples, more citrus fruits, again. It’s quite powerful despite the relatively low ABV. Vanilla, caramel, and some surprising fresh and herbal whiffs.
Taste: Well, how can i put it. It’s simply very good! I mean, it’s very very well built, with floral notes combining perfectly with more heavy and fruity flavours. The vanilla is there, with some white pepper popping up too (I think). And the oak is kept at bay, despite the age. Very very nice.
Finish: Here the finish is long and elegant, quite majestic. This is to me a remarkable difference to, for example, what was happening with the Captain’s Reserve or even to some extent with the 15 years old…
Overall: A very tasty one. If I have an unsubstantiated critique to move is that even with all its elegance and pleasantness, for such a high price tag (way over the 200 euros mark) I would have expected a bit more in terms of “wow factor”. Nevertheless, it’s a LUKE in my book, and my favourite of the evening: 87/100.

I liked all the Nàdurra line, it’s good stuff! Especially for those of you who have, like me, a palate as delicate as the one of a post-apocalyptic warlord. In particular I scribbled down the notes of this one:

Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso Matured (60.4%, OB, 2016)
It’s the OL0516 batch, and it’s fully matured in first fill ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Who fears the sherry monsters? Not me, not after so much whisky!
Nose: It’s not a deep and calm sherry, it’s kind of… harsh maybe? Strong, intense and a bit violent, but that was expected. The sherry is sweet, devilishly spicy, and oily. I need to add some water to tame this one: it develops some herbal notes (thyme?) and vanilla. Pears, too (I seriously wrote: et tu, pear?).
Taste: In the mouth it’s aggressive and punchy, but that’s how I like it. Fat and oily, but also a bit harsh, sadly. The sherry is there, with dried fruits and strawberries. It’s entertaining and nice, but not as easy drinking as others I tried tonight. With water there is a nutty side that emerges, with very intense and surprising banana.
Finish: Long and fat, some coffee mixed with a somewhat misplaced oaky bitterness.
Overall: Looking at the full maturation in first fill Oloroso casks, I would have expected a more overwhelming sherrypocalypse that doesn’t arrive. Maybe it’s better like that… It’s a 83/100 for me.

Great tasting, seriously, and I am so grateful to Joules for the invitation: this Sensology Experience is a great help in identifying smells and flavours, it was very interesting. I also want to give a big shoutout to the other participants: xzacha, whiskyhebdo, franck.napoly, and flowsdrams. Please, visit their awesome instagram channels – sooo much better than mine!

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