Thursday, September 02, 2010

When the drams flow smoothly

 By guest blog editor Alester Phillips

Nestled in the heart of Speyside is Josie’s Well, a source of mineral rich water, and a key component of The Glenlivet. I am sure you will all know by now that a name is not just a name when it comes to whisky. The name is meaning, it is history, and as Chivas Brothers International Brand Ambassador, Alex Robertson is keen to point out, provenance – that thing that defines the origins of a whisky. The Glenlivet is not just a name, “Livet” means “Smooth Flowing One” – and that is definitely not just a name when presented with a range to sample from The Glen of the Smooth Flowing One.
Alex and Chivas Brothers don’t mess about when they do a tasting - it’s all about presentation. In the upstairs dining room of Metropolitan in Glasgow’s Merchant City we have white table cloths, individual “The Glenlivet Signature” tasting books, and a projector with beautiful images of the distillery and its surroundings, oh and lumps of wood and a slice of a barrel.
Neatly laid out in front of us (for the first half of the tasting) were six glasses each containing the one of the core Glenlivet range – 12yo, 15yo French Oak, 16yo cask strength Nadurra, 18yo, 21yo and 25yo.
The 12 is a good place to start, easy, light, and the 15 French Oak is a hit-or-miss, some like the influence of the a couple of years in Limosin oak, some don’t. Next up was the Nadurra, 53.6% and full of flavour and I know that some people are of the opinion that whiskies should be bottles at full strength as standard. As we worked through the rest of the range, up to the 25 which was rich, smooth, so easy to drink - and what should be expected from a classic Speyside which has been maturing for all that time-   it becomes clear that The Glenlivet signature range is not for everyone, some people love it, others are just unexcited by it.
Part two was the exciting (informal) bit, and even Alex seemed excited that we were about to get our eager paws on some cask samples that are not destined for general consumption.
Laid out at the top table from Alex’s magic bag were eight bottles to which members gravitated, like flies to… a fine Speyside Dram. So, there were Glenlivets – 5yo first fill sherry butt which some thought was a bit like Aberlour A’Bunadh, and should be bottled as standard, it was that tasty. Then there were first fill American casks aged 8, 14, 18 and 21 – the 21yo was seriously good.
There was even a drop of cask strength Miltonduff kicking about and the 17yo Alt A'Bhaine, bottled at 62.8% was really something, and a great dram to finish a grand night.
I'm sure most, if not all who attended will agree that the second half was the real treat, and there were things on the table that we could only wish would find their way into a bottle for a reasonable price!
Naturally, the conversation turned to caramel (as it inevitably does), but there was no drama, just a lot of good drams.

Nice to see Alex again, too. As a founder member of Glasgow's Whisky Club, he set us out on the path we're on now. I hope he's impressed by what he sees.

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