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What can anyone say about the Glenlivet that hasn't already been said? Glenlivet is an icon. It's the biggest selling single malt in the United States and the second biggest selling single malt in the world. Its origin story is one of the more interesting ones in the business, and even has a bit of truth to it. The Glenlivet 12 Year Old has a special place in my heart, so I was eager to try a bottle of their 18 Year Old when it was on sale awhile back. I'm glad I bought it when I did because the price has almost doubled since then. I must have forgotten this whisky in the back of my cabinet, because I didn't open it until a few weeks ago.
Nose (undiluted): Though the nose is a bit understated, the sherry cask influence is evident with dried fruits, but with more brightness than the raisins and dates profile I typically associate with sherried whisky. Dried cranberries and raisins perhaps. Cherries. Vanilla frosting, icing sugar, oak.
Palate (undiluted): gentle arrival, understated, yet it's medium-bodied, with bright red fruit, sugar cookies and a somewhat oily texture. "Chewing" the whisky brings out a bit of orange zest and vanilla.
Finish: this is where the whisky really shines. Cherries, dark chocolate and walnuts with nutmeg, cloves, oak and raisins lingering longer than expected. Very balanced.
Adding water brings out some sharper notes on the nose. Bright orange zest comes through and dark chocolate shines through on the palate. Water thins out the body of the whisky, but brings forth more spiciness, especially nutmeg. The addition of water is interesting, but I prefer this one neat.The trade-off between body and spiciness isn't worth it to me.
I'm always a little embarrassed about admitting I like something popular. Maybe it's a consequence of spending my teenage years (and my early twenties) in the "alternative music" scene. The Glenlivet 18 may be a popular, "mainstream" whisky, but its popularity is justified, even if its Ontario price tag is not. This isn't my typical whisky preference. I gravitate toward intense, peaty, smoky scotches or bold, spicy ryes. Yet this whisky is almost above reproach. I would prefer to see it bottled at 46% ABV or higher, and without E150a (caramel colouring) and unchill-filtered, but as far as rich, rounded, sherried Speyside whiskies go, this one is pretty darned good.