Let’s try something new here. Instead of devoting an entire article to each expression of Glenlivet, I’m combining reviews of their Classic Range into one post. The Classic Range is comprised of the following age-stated expressions: 12 year old (yo), 15 yo, 18 yo, 21 yo and 25 yo.
Founded in 1824, The Glenlivet has pretty much distilled continuously since. The 12-year-old expression is the biggest selling single malt here in the U.S., and second biggest selling in the world right behind The Glenfiddich 12-year-old. It’s the first bottle of single malt I’ve ever owned, given to me by a neighbor as a welcome gift. Definitely an easy whisky to get into. After tasting this expression, I had to pick up bottles of older Glenlivet to see what age (and different barrels) do to the flavors and aromas. Let’s get into the whiskies.
The standard expression from The Glenlivet, this 12-year-old single malt can pretty much be found everywhere. It’s one of those “starter” scotches that is recommended to newbies. Fresh fruits like apple and pear fill the nose, along with hints of vanilla and toffee. These aromas carry over into the palate, providing green notes (is that a flavor?) and crisp fruits. The finish is somewhat short and slightly sweet. It’s a great summertime whisky.
A portion of the 15-year-old Glenlivet is aged in French Oak casks, which impart a slight spiciness. It’s evident throughout, starting with the nose. Spiced pear, citrus peel and ginger are the most dominant aromas. The palate is both sweet and spicy, with cinnamon, toffee, pear and vanilla. The whisky’s finish is soft, with a small amount of oak and spice coming through in a good way. This is a fantastic step-up from the basic 12-year-old expression.
The Glenlivet 18-year-old matures in both American and European casks, both first fill and refill. The nose is a bit more robust than the 15-year-old, despite only three more years of age. It still retains that signature Glenlivet fruitiness. However, now it’s starting to turn from fresh fruit to a more dried fruit. The palate is also a bit spicier than its younger sibling, with vanilla, toffee, and fruit taking center stage. Orange peel is another prominent note here, providing a little bitterness and citrus. This carries over into the finish, with a big citrus note succumbing to a slightly drying oak note.
This 21-year-old expression is released in small batches, which means there could be slight variations between batches. One of my favorite whiskies in my collection. A sherry note comes through for the first time in this Glenlivet flight. Dried fruits, vanilla, toffee, hazelnut and burnt orange peel round out the rich nose. Taste-wise, this whisky is full of refined dark fruits, sherry, toffee and vanilla. It has a lovely creamy mouthfeel. Great stuff here. The finish is complex, with a spicy, semi-sweet and slightly bitter combination of flavors, carrying over some dried fruits and nuts.
Topping off the Classic Range is the Glenlivet 25-year-old single malt. It’s small batch produced and finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. The finish shows, as sherried fruits dominate the nose. It isn’t all sherry here though. I wouldn’t call it a “sherry bomb”. There’s also some slight bitterness along with some dried fruit and toffee. A few minutes in the glass evolves things further. A slight malt note as well as wine note (Chardonnay?), creamy vanilla and caramel start showing up in small waves. Very nice! Taste-wise, there’s a nice velvety quality here, with dried fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and some oak. That rich spice carries over into the long finish. Again, this is some quality whisky.
Ranking these whiskies in order of preference, I would place the 21yo squarely on top, followed by the 25 yo, 15yo, 18yo then the 12yo. This was a great whisky flight that I’d strongly suggest you participate in, if given the opportunity. I may just host a Glenlivet flight next time I have folks over at the house.