The 11 Main Glenlivet Whiskies Reviewed


When I first tried Glenlivet I found it enjoyable but not as much as other whiskies that have become regulars on my shelf. This is clearly very strange because Glenlivet is one of the biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the world, so to work out what was going on I decided to do a proper review of the eleven main Glenlivet whiskies and this is what I found.

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1. The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Double Oak

A bottle of Glenlivet 12 Year Old Double Oak

About

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $49.99 approx. for 750ml

This is the first whisky in the Glenlivet core range. It’s matured mostly in European oak casks but then also in ex-bourbon American oak casks, for at least 12 years. It’s also the Glenlivet that I found enjoyable but not as much as the regulars on my shelf.

Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Gold

Nose: Apples, vanilla, honey, pears, citrus, peaches, grass, spices

Taste: Apples, toffee, honey, citrus, malt, spices, vanilla, oak

Finish: Short to Medium: Oak, apples, dry, bitter

Score – 75 / 100

Summary

There’s no doubt that this is a good, very easy to drink whisky. It’s sweet, the tasty flavors go very well together and it’s incredibly smooth and gentle.

On the other hand, it’s not that complex so it’s perfectly understandable if despite enjoying this whisky, you would prefer something that is. In other words, I’m normal after all.

2. The Glenlivet 14 Year Old

A bottle of Glenlivet 14 Year Old

About

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $62.99 approx. for 750ml

This is a relatively new offering from Glenlivet and it’s matured in first-fill ex-bourbon American oak casks, first-fill ex-sherry casks and ex-cognac casks for at least fourteen years.

Tasting Notes

Color: Amber

Nose: Vanilla, honey, grapes, orange, citrus, pears, apples, raisins

Taste: Apples, caramel, honey, cinnamon, cognac, grapes, pears, raisins, vanilla, chocolate

Finish: Medium: Spices, raisins

Score – 75 / 100

Summary

The 14 has the basic Glenlivet profile – so it’s uncomplicated, sweet, tasty and smooth, but it also has a well-balanced cognac influence. If you like Glenlivet and you like cognac then you’ll probably like this.

3. The Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve

A bottle of Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve

About

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $80 approx. for 750ml

Some of this whisky is matured in French oak casks for a limited amount of time. The Limousin (name of a forest in France) oak used for the French casks has a lower density than other oaks, which lets the whisky sink deeper into the wood and add a ‘rich and exotic character’ to the classic Glenlivet profile.

Tasting Notes

Color: Gold, amber

Nose: Oak, vanilla, cinnamon, apples, caramel, honey, lemon, pears

Taste: Vanilla, apples, cinnamon, pears, honey, pepper, oak

Finish: Medium: Vanilla, cinnamon, oak, honey, apples

Score – 75 / 100

Summary

The 15 also has the basic Glenlivet profile so it’s another uncomplicated, easy to drink whisky that’s sweet and smooth with well-integrated flavors. As for the influence of the French oak casks, it’s less ‘it gives the whisky a rich and exotic character’ and more ‘it adds some non-sherry fruity sweetness’, which is great if you like that.

4. The Glenlivet 18 Year Old Batch Reserve

A bottle of Glenlivet 18 Year Old Batch Reserve

About

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $137.49 approx. for 750ml

This whisky is matured in first and second-fill American oak and ex-sherry oak casks for at least 18 years. More importantly is the fact that it’s won more awards than any other Glenlivet whisky, so I was expecting to conclude that things would have turned out very differently had I originally tried this Glenlivet and not the 12.

Tasting Notes

Color: Gold, apricot

Nose: Apples, orange, sherry, cinnamon, malt, toffee, apricots

Taste: Vanilla, sherry, apples, oranges, spices, honey, caramel, oak

Finish: Medium to long: Oak, spices, sherry

Score – 80 / 100

Summary

Things would have indeed turned out very differently had the original Glenlivet I tried been this one. The Glenlivet 18 has the same flavor profile as the 12 (because unlike the 14 it’s not matured in ex-cognac casks and unlike the 15 it’s not matured in French oak casks) but the six extra years give it much more depth and complexity (although it would have been even better at the old, and now discontinued, 43%ABV).

And the price is not too bad for what is certainly a good quality, 18 year old single malt whisky.

5. The Glenlivet 21 Year Old Archive

A bottle of Glenlivet 21 Year Old Archive

About

  • 43%ABV
  • Price: $294.49 approx. for 750ml

This whisky is aged for at least 21 years in hand-selected American oak casks and ex-sherry casks.

Tasting Notes

Color: Reddish amber

Nose: Cinnamon, oak, vanilla, sherry, caramel, tobacco, apples, strawberries, honey, raisins

Taste: Vanilla, cinnamon, oak, caramel, sherry, apples, orange, cherry, malt

Finish: Medium to long: Oak, sherry, toffee, pepper, vanilla, caramel, apples

Score – 85 / 100

Summary

After 21 years of maturation, the Glenlivet profile is very well developed. That’s why this whisky has a medium body, a velvety oily mouthfeel and lots of flavors. It’s sweet, extremely smooth, complex and very well balanced. It has a nice sherry character from the ex-sherry casks that doesn’t overpower the other flavors but is not too mild either. A delicious, enjoyable whisky.

It’s also very expensive. Although not very, very expensive – which brings me nicely on to …

6. The Glenlivet XXV

A bottle of Glenlivet XXV

About

  • 43%ABV
  • Price: $459.99 approx. for 750ml

The oldest in the Glenlivet core range is made from the rarest of their whiskies which have been aged for at least 25 years and finished in ex-Oloroso sherry casks.

Tasting Notes

Color: Amber, gold

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, honey, sherry, apple, citrus, cinnamon, banana, currants, figs, tobacco, floral, oak

Taste: Caramel, sherry, oak, cinnamon, tobacco, dark chocolate, nuts, floral, honey, raisins, pepper, lemon, apples

Finish: Long: Spices, oak, sherry, fruit, wine, dry

Score – 90 / 100

Summary

The XXV is certainly the best Glenlivet in the core range. It has a medium mouthfeel with a somewhat oily texture, it’s delicious with a lot of well-balanced flavors, and it’s complex all the way through. Again, the ex-sherry casks add a sherry character to the base flavor profile that’s neither a sherry bomb nor so mild as to be insignificant.

But it’s also impossibly expensive.

7. The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

A bottle of Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve

About

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $41.46 approx. for 750ml

As the name suggests, this whisky is an attempt to give the classic Glenlivet profile a tropical feel. To that end, some of the whisky that makes up the Caribbean Reserve is finished in casks that previously held Caribbean rum.

Tasting Notes

Color: Honeycomb

Nose: Banana, apple, vanilla, honey, citrus, caramel, apples

Taste: Rum, vanilla, pepper, caramel, apples, banana, pineapple, oranges, coconut

Finish: Short to medium: Tropical fruit, rum, honey

Score – 70 / 100

Summary

There was certainly a prominent rum sweetness in this whisky although (and I don’t know if it’s just me) I’m not sure that’s enough to give it a ‘tropical’ feel. It was enough though, to more or less hide a bit of heat from the alcohol – there’s no age statement but this is clearly a young whisky.

Personally, I would much rather stick with my new regular whisky, but if you want something cheaper and are a fan of rum sweetness, then you should certainly try this.

8. The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

A bottle of Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

About

  • 40%ABV
  • Price: $41.99 approx. for 750ml

This whisky is a tribute to the founder of the Glenlivet distillery, George Smith, as it not only uses his distillation methods (that are applied to all Glenlivet whiskies), but it also replicates his selecting of whisky from casks with a range of ages. The modern twist is that it includes whisky aged in traditional oak casks and American first-fill oak casks.

Tasting Notes

Color: Pale gold

Nose: Vanilla, apples, pears, caramel, chocolate, grass, citrus, bananas

Taste: Vanilla, apples, citrus, pears, bananas, toffee, chocolate

Finish: Short to medium: Fruity, oak, chocolate

Score – 70 / 100

Summary

This is a good, easy to drink whisky. It’s a bit thin but it’s sweet, smooth and tasty. 

There’s no age statement but it’s clearly a very young whisky, so it has even less depth and complexity than the 12. On the other hand, it’s also cheaper!

9. The Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso

A bottle of Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso

About

  • 60%ABV – 61.3%ABV
  • Price: $93.49 approx. for 750ml

The Glenlivet Nàdurra range are natural whiskies (hence Nàdurra which is Gaelic for ‘natural’) in that they’re bottled at cask strength and not chill filtered, so the whisky in your bottle is exactly the same as it was when it came out the cask. This expression is matured in first-fill Oloroso sherry oak casks for an unknown number of years.

Tasting Notes

Color: Amber

Nose: Sherry, raisins, oak, vanilla, toffee, plums, honey, chocolate, apples, apricots

Taste: Raisins, sherry, chocolate, oak, apples, plums, honey, cherries, grapes, pepper

Finish: Medium to long: Sherry, chocolate, grapes, apples, oak, pepper

Score – 77 / 100

Summary

Overall, this is a very enjoyable and tasty whisky. It has a lot of sherry without being a sherry bomb, but on the other hand, I think the sherry does overpower the basic Glenlivet profile a little too much.

Another issue is that this is a young whisky that would be improved with a few more years in the cask. That being said, it’s still pretty good at its present (and undisclosed) age.

10. The Glenlivet Nàdurra First Fill Selection

A bottle of Glenlivet Nàdurra First Fill Selection

About

  • 59.1%ABV – 63.1%ABV
  • Price: $91.99 approx. for 750ml

Continuing the Nàdurra range of natural whiskies, this expression is matured for an unknown number of years in first-fill American white oak casks. Not first-fill ex-bourbon American white oak casks, but new white oak casks, just like American whiskeys.

Tasting Notes

Color: Light gold

Nose: Vanilla, pears, honey, apples, floral, chocolate, pineapple, toffee, peach

Taste: Vanilla, pepper, oak, honey, bananas, pineapple, lemon, pears, chocolate

Finish: Medium to long: Oak, vanilla, pears, pepper

Score – 83 / 100

Summary

Being aged in new white oak casks adds a lot of depth and complexity to the Glenlivet profile, making this a strong, flavorful whisky that has a nice combination of sweet and fruit notes.

Of course, a few more years in the cask would help tame the alcohol’s intensity and add even more flavor to another young whisky, making it even better than it already is.

11. The Glenlivet Nàdurra Peated Whisky Cask Finish

A bottle of Glenlivet Nàdurra Peated Whisky Cask Finish

About

  • 61.5%ABV – 62%ABV
  • Price: $89.99 approx. for 750ml

This Nàdurra expression is not a peated whisky itself (meaning made from malted barley that’s dried in peat smoke) but finished in casks that previously held heavily peated Scotch.

Tasting Notes

Color: Gold

Nose: Light peat smoke, apples, pears, vanilla, banana, lemon, chocolate, grass, citrus

Taste: Apples, peat smoke, honey, citrus, vanilla, floral, pineapple, chocolate

Finish: Medium to long: Peat smoke, vanilla, apples, honey, chocolate

Score – 81 / 100

Summary

This is also a young whisky that would benefit from more time in the cask. Nevertheless, it’s relatively complex with well-balanced flavors and, because of the unusual method of adding it, a light peat that doesn’t dominate.

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Josh Mitchell

I'm Josh Mitchell. I love whiskey and am working on increasing my whiskey tasting abilities and my collection.

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