The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

When I opened this bottle, I did so knowing that I would not like it at all. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. Supermarket fodder that uses it’s brand recognition to sell in volume, but the actual liquid in the bottle is nothing short of disappointing. Myself and others are guilty of beating down on it whenever we need to provide an example of what is a bad whisky, along with Auchentoshan American Oak. Do I dare try that again?

We all have these pre-conceptions about certain whiskies we have experienced on our whisky journey. A bad bottling, or a bad batch from a producer, can turn us off much faster than a good bottling can turn is on to something. The negatives always seem to overpower the positives in our mind. I last tried this a few years ago, and didn’t like anything about it. It lacked any redeeming features on both the nose and palate and seemed very anaemic indeed. Not only did it put me off this expression, it put me off anything else Glenlivet for fear of being disappointed again. If you want me to explore your range, you need to be solid from the bottom up, which I think is a reasonable view to take.

The reason I have a bottle of this to open is because it is the type of budget supermarket whisky that is sometimes gifted to me. I think many of us can possibly relate to that. People who are not interested in whisky will see the words “single malt” and the Glenlivet brand, and assume that means it will be good, so they buy the bottle for their whisky loving friends. I love them for it, and it is always gratefully received for the thoughtful gift it is intended to be. I also have plans to use it for an “inner stave” home maturation project, so I need to know what it tastes like before hand in order to see if I can improve it. More to come on that in the coming weeks and months.

The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve – Review

Nose : It’s light, which I expected, but it’s also fairly bright and sweet, with orchard fruits the dominating theme, particularly pear, and even more specifically, pear flavour gummy bears. There’s some tropical fruits lurking behind that too, with a little pineapple and foam banana. It’s quite confectionery, as you may be able to tell from the notes so far. There is a very light, dry stone earthiness in the background and a good amount of yeasty bread dough. Good start.

Palate : It’s a sweet whisky on the palate too, with icing sugar, sherbet lemons, pear drops and vanilla cream. There’s a little caramel, more of the doughy yeasty thing we had on the nose and a touch of white pepper, with a bitter tannic oakiness developing, but not too bitter that it causes a major problem in my opinion. The bitterness subsides, but remains in the palate throughout the slightly dry finish, with toasted hazelnut, root ginger, milky tea and salt.

Conclusions : I was certain I would hate this, absolutely certain, but in all honesty, i’ve been pleasantly surprised. Whether they have changed the recipe I don’t know, but something is different and the whole experience is much more appealing than it was in the bottle I had a few years ago, particularly the nose. The label describes it as being matured in a Selective Use Of First Fill American Oak Casks. I am going to interpret that as not being 100% first fill, but perhaps a combination of first and refill ex-bourbon casks. I don’t have an old bottle to hand to know if that is recent addition to the labelling, but it could possibly explain the better quality I am finding if they are using more first fill, in what is likely to be a young whisky that needs more active wood to create flavour. This selective use line seems to be used for other bottlings too, which is a little ambiguous for my liking. You may also notice they don’t mention Speyside at any point on their bottles and very infrequently in their marketing, almost as though they fear it will be off-putting to some consumers. Curious.

It’s a fairly straightforward whisky, perhaps a little sweet and confectionery in flavour for some, and it doesn’t take as long as some drams to pick apart its aromas and tastes. That is it’s appeal in a way, you can easily sip this without thinking too much about it, and I can see why it would be a good whisky for beginners. I wouldn’t rush out to buy it at RRP, which is around £32-£35. At that price it is competing with Arran and Glencadam 10’s, and it isn’t able to do that, but it regularly crops up for £20-25 in the supermarkets, and I can’t put you off at that price. It’s good to revisit these budget whiskies from time to time, as even the most ubiquitous of examples can be capable of change. More often than not these days they are going the other way, but this is a positive progression, and I think 5/10 is a fair score for something suitable for all whisky buying budgets.

Three Word Review : Sweet. Bright. Confectionery.

Score : 5/10

(Score descriptions can be found in the About page)

Vital statistics

ABV : 40%
Non-chill filtered : No
Natural Colour : No
Maturation : Ex-Bourbon casks
Region : Speyside
Colour : Golden

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