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Glenlivet 12 Year Old

The Reference Malt

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@systemdownReview by @systemdown

6th Jan 2012


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user


Yes, another Glenlivet 12 review. Why, you might ask? Good question. The answer is in three parts as follows:

1) pure self-interest (more on this in a minute); 2) to see if I can't remind myself and others about the "reference" malt; 3) to compare seemingly unfavourable reviews of recent bottlings against an older bottling

I hadn't tried this in a couple of years and I thought I'd give myself a refresher. It's Australian summer at the moment and although it's been quite mild by normal standards, things will heat up again as we pass through the storm season (but without the devastating flooding of early 2011, hopefully). This happens to be a good summery malt, by all reports - a clean, fruity, malty, oaky, very approachable medium-bodied Speyside malt without so much as a whiff of peat or other "unpleasantness" for the un-initiated. It is "THE" reference malt according to many.

To expand on my selfish reason for posting this review, it's purely because it means I can revisit it any time for my own use. Usually, in my head, I attempt to calibrate all single malt tastings against my recollection of this, the Glenlivet 12 year old. In my head, this is supposed to score about 75/100 (plus or minus a few) *, so we'll see if that pans out.

This review is for a bottle date-stamped March 2006 - yes, an older bottling which is designed to be consistent with my recollection of it. Has it changed? We'll see, here goes:

Nose: Sweet honey, toffee apple, fresh and stewed apples and pears, light and fragrant, pleasant in its simplicity. With water: floral notes emerge, malt and a softer honey than before become prominent.

Taste: Sweetness hits first, exactly as the nose promised. Really surprising how sweet this is actually, I don't quite remember it that way. Malt and oak spice in the middle, marrying very well with the sweetness as to balance it out. Oak spice at the end intensifies and then mellows as held in the mouth, a great mouthfeel by the way, quite well rounded. With water: Mellows all round, didn't detect any new flavours, just subtle variation, silky smooth. Some can taste the apple in this, I can't, even with water. It's in the nose for sure, but maybe my tastebuds are defective!

Finish: Oak spice crescendos and then falls away, leaving a not unpleasant spice residue in a short-medium length finish. The underlying malt lingers a while before fading.

Balance: There really isn't much to fault here in terms of overall balance, although the only thing I might say is that the sweetness could be toned down just a smidge in the nose and on the palate. I did somehow expect some caramel to intrude in the nose or the taste, but I didn't experience that - the sweetness I got was more honeyed sweetness. Pretty good.

So there it is. My refresher in the "reference" malt that will probably see me through my entire year of tasting other malts. It was pretty close (if not a little better) than what I expected from my recollection of it in years passed. Next time I'll try a recent bottling and see if my thoughts change.

Is this a complex whisky? No. Is it a great whisky? No. Is it enjoyable? YES! A refreshing, approachable dram for any time of day. A simple but elegant whisky that really does, at least for me, epitomise what Scotch malt whisky is all about and why I love the "water of life" so much.

  • There are various 100 point systems in use for whisky tasting. Some, like me, see 75/100 as the cutoff between an average and good whisky, with "very good" starting around 80, great 85, excellent 90 and superstar 95+

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Victor commented

Thank you for a nice review. I think that it is a very good thing to have multiple reviews reflecting multiple points of view on whiskies. And it is good for the commonly available and simpler whisky expressions not to be overlooked. After all, the new whisky drinker really will benefit from being able to read a few descriptions of what that Glenlivet 12 is likely to taste like if s/he proceeds to go for a taste of it for the first time.

As to Glenlivet 12, it is indeed simple and pleasant.

11 years ago 0

SquidgyAsh commented

Good review and as Victor says it's always nice to have some reviews for more of the entry malts as this is where quite a few of us got our start and where I think more of us will introduce our friends to, in order to get them hooked on our hobby. I know that when my best friend comes over to Australia the first bottle I'm introducing him to is the Aberlour 10 year old. Your review made me wanna go grab a bottle of Glenlivet 12 year old for him to taste. Thanks again for that good review!!

11 years ago 0

systemdown commented

Follow up @ 6 months, 2012-06-06

The six month review is not really part of my planned “time course” whisky tasting routine, but since the bottle has been sitting on my shelf for that period of time, at 5/6 level since my last tasting (3 months ago maybe?) I thought I’d see how this was progressing with oxidation.

So this whisky was opened in the height of sub-tropical Australian summer (January) and has seen a warm Autumn, and now the start of “winter” (if one can call it that with a straight face).

My theory is that whiskies tend to suffer faster in this warm, humid climate so I’m keen to know how this stock Glenlivet has fared, for a light Speysider. Onto the review:

Nose: Lovely stewed and baked apple, apple juice, honey, spiced Pimms, lime and dash of vanilla. There seems to be a sherried influence here albeit very minute - I have no idea whether this whisky contains any traces of sherried stuff but that’s an interesting development in the nose nonetheless. Worthy of an extra point I’d say!

Taste: Immediately a little sharpness on the front of the tongue, astringent even, spicy, a prickly “buzz” that seems to envelop all other flavours, but, after a while the sweetness of the malt and honey shines through to rescue the taste buds. Some grassiness also present. Still a sweet dram after 6 long months, mostly intact - certainly not “flat” or boring. But, is it still good?

Finish: Astringent again on the swallow but dissipating quickly to be followed by bold dry bitters, malt and spicy oak in a warm, slightly tart, short finish. Doesn’t disappear all at once mind you - a few pleasant dying embers of sweet warmth remain for a while.

Balance: Some good moments, particularly in the Speyside nose which doesn’t disappoint. The palate is somewhat overwhelmed however by the astringent, prickly delivery that doesn’t go away quickly enough, waiting until the very end of the mouth to dissipate sufficiently for the sweet malt and honey to replace it and “cool” off the tastebuds. I’m fairly certain that oxidation has started to play a detrimental role in this bottle. For me, the “prickly” sensation is something I’ve experienced before with a heavily oxidised whisky. This whisky, at 6 months open, has yet to fall too heavily down the degradation slope, particularly as the nose and finish would attest, this whisky still has some life in it yet.

N20 T17 F18 B18 = 73

I think it’s fair to say that oxidation has done some harm here - the nose may have held up but the taste (particularly) and finish have suffered. however, I don’t necessarily dislike this dram as it now stands - sure, it’s lost some refinement, gained a few rough edges and with it, some interesting twists and turns and manages to be an interesting and drinkable whisky. If I leave it another 6 months, it can serve as my oxidation calibrator! Okay well I’ll save a portion, to be sure. I shall simply finish most of it over the “winter” before it becomes un-enjoyable.

11 years ago 0

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