Glenlivet releases don’t usually impress most people. They tend to play it safe in terms of flavours and intensity. On one hand, it’s easy to dislike them for that. But it’s that exact quality that makes the whisky so popular across the world. Whereas Islay releases, intense sherry releases, cask strength releases, and experimental wine finishes can be more interesting, they are also riskier, as the finished product can be more volatile. Although Glenlivet does have a few releases that fit the above profiles, they are best known for their core line of 12-25 year old releases. They are certainly ‘safe’ whiskies, but they aren’t bad. Personally, I find the 12 to be a bit boring, but a refreshing and pleasant light sipper nonetheless. Oppositely, the 18 is actually quite wonderful, complex, and pleasing. I’ve sampled a few from their range and haven’t disliked any of them. But intense, challenging, experimental, or provocative are not words that I’d use to describe them. With that in mind, I approach the 15 yr French Oak Reserve without any colourful expectations.
Nose: Freshly sliced apples, honey, gentle vanilla, citrus, pears, cereal. Smooth, light and pleasant, albeit a bit ordinary.
Palate: Smooth and oaky. There are some nice light floral notes interwoven with orange, vanilla and honey notes. The oak is certainly more pronounced than I expected, which is a pleasant surprise.
Finish: Sweet, gentle finish. Light oak, honey, pancakes, cereal, and gentle floral notes remain for the duration of the somewhat short finish.
This stuff is pretty much what I expected it to be. Better than the 12, but still a bit uneventful. The 18 is a significant step up, and I’d recommend it over this one in a heartbeat. However, it’s one of those drams that will neither offend nor impress. It’s a bit better than the 12 because the oak and floral notes are a bit more apparent. It’s pleasant, competent, and light. I’d say it’s a slightly above average introductory dram, or an easy sipper for those who don’t want anything particularly intense. But in the end it does lack a bit of character. Ultimately this is what it is supposed to be. Accessible and pleasant. I’ve learned to expect precisely that from Glenlivet.