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I recently tried the Glenlivet Nadurra at a friends house - thoroughly enjoying it - and decided to reappraise the output of the Glenlivet distillery in my collection. I had a couple of bottles at the back of my cabinet - this one and a 12 year old with a drop left in the bottom. I decided to review the 15 French oak but using the 12 and my memory of the Nadurra as benchmarks.
Nose: a little more depth than the 12 year old but definitely a strong family resemblance - something more like ginger or burned orange pops out but not a millions miles away from the standard expression. Slightly less mossy than the 12 probably due to the new oak.
Palate: more complexity that the 12 year old, at first quite similar but then a nice piquant dryness kicks in. The French oak speaks a little louder than the casks its younger sibling resided in. For me the body is lighter than the 12 year old and it has a gentle acidity which I think I prefer. Having said that its got some stiff competition in its price range (£31-33 in the UK). If you're in the market for a Speyside in the £30-35 bracket - a couple of pounds more buys you a Glenfarclas 15 year old and for £7 less you'll easily pick up a Glenfarclas 10, which puts this one in perspective.
Finish: medium, the dryness gives way to that acidity after which a little malt remains.
Conclusion: Better than the 12 yes but 25% more expensive and not 25% better - if you can measure such a thing. How does it compare to the Nadurra? Put simply it doesn't -Nadurra is wonderful whisky, full of character, cask strength, fun and enticing. I'd be interested to see what this 15 was like unfiltered and at cask strength.
For me Glenlivet pitch much of their range to the mass market and very successfully - good luck to them. This 15 year old does nothing to entice a whisky drinker like me and that's why these bottles weren't empty yet.
I think I'm going to buy a bottle of the Nadurra which I don't think will hang around as long!