The Glenlivet is a household name for anyone even casually into Scotch whisky. It’s the best selling single malt brand in the United States and is always one of the top selling brands globally. The distillery, founded by George Smith and John Gordon Smith, eventually became the only distillery in the region allowed to use the “Glenlivet” name as part of the brand. In the 1970s, the concept of single malts was still new to the market and phrases like “pure malt” or “all malt” were being used to describe a product that wasn’t blended together with other grain whiskies.
Today’s review is of the Glenlivet 12 Year we all know and love but with one major twist: it was bottled in the 1970s as The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Unblended All Malt. Bottled at 43% ABV, this whisky was an unusual product in an era when blends were far and away the dominant product in the Scotch world. The Glenlivet as a distillery remains extremely true to their traditional methods. Many of the production processes are the same today as they were in the 1970s—right down to the yeast strains used during fermentation. Of course, some factors can’t help but slowly shift over time. One can only imagine the purer water, slow-growth oak, and heirloom barley varietals that were used 50-60 years ago. Despite these naturally evolving ingredients, this is essentially the same Glenlivet 12 Year we’re all familiar with today.
With that in mind, how does the Glenlivet 12 Year from half a century ago compare to the modern day stuff? Let’s find out.
|Appearance||Light gold. I typically don’t note this but the whisky coats the glass really well for an 86 proof expression.|
|Nose||Apples, white wine, pineapple, earthiness bordering on light peat, pencil shavings, cinnamon sugar, coconut, Amontillado. With water and time, raisins, oats, green melon.|
|Taste||A big apple note leads off again, licorice, more of that same light oak, honey, orange citrus, malty, mixed dried berries. With water, vanilla, more sherry influence, a slightly phenolic earthiness returns.|
|Finish||Medium length. Stewed fruits, dried pineapple, cereal grains, wet cave, a bit of nutmeg, slight salinity. A bit drier and more spice forward with water along with notes of cinnamon, ginger, and a bit more oak.|
|Overall Thoughts||This certainly drinks like whisky from a bygone era but I’m struck by how the core flavors of this pour carry through to today’s modern 12 year old expression. The apples, tropical fruit, lighter oak, and baking spice are all there. To me, this tastes like it was made with better malt and aged in better oak. It’s not groundbreaking but it was never meant to be when it was released. What a fun piece of history to try!|