The Glenlivet 12 Year scotch is a classic Speyside single malt characterized by a balanced and elegant flavor profile. Its flavors of citrus, honeysuckle, and vanilla promise to please those looking for a non-smoky flavor—no peat flavors here.
Classification: single malt Scotch whisky
Company: Pernod Ricard
Distillery: The Glenlivet, Speyside, Scotland
Cask type: Ex-bourbon American oak and European oak casks
Still type: copper pot stills
Released: reintroduced with new clear bottle and the words “Double Oak” in 2018
Aged: 12 years
Mash bill: malted barley
- An outstanding example of a classic Speyside single malt, and it won’t break the bank
- Serves as a calibrating whisky—the kind of spirit you pour when you’re trying to explain what single malt Scotch is (e.g., elegant, complex) and isn’t (i.e., not always a peat bomb)
- For those not used to brown spirits, the barrel tannin snap on the finish may be an acquired taste (but one worth acquiring).
Color: Medium-light honey-gold
Nose: Citrus fruit, honeysuckle, and vanilla, illustrative of what a classic Speyside single malt should smell like. Do not expect peat, as that is not what this northeastern region of Scotland is known for.
Palate: Candied nuts, sweet vanilla shortbread cookies, and a hint of toffee
Finish: Sweetness that lingers on your tongue but is gently overtaken by lemon zest and the crunchy bitterness of barrel tannin, with just a hum of vanilla beneath it
On the very top of the bottle, you will see the year The Glenlivet was established: 1824. But that’s just the year that its founder, George Smith, officially obtained a recognized license to distill. Smith was one of many distillers practicing his trade in the dark of night and carrying barrels over the hills to sell in secret to elude the outrageously heavy excise tax put upon spirits by England. But a legitimate near-200 years of practice indeed makes for a very fine single malt whisky, and one of the benchmark representations of the Speyside style.
Every distillery makes its own choices that, if done well and correctly, become the fingerprint of their spirits. No matter the barrel finishes or other flourishes imparted, you can find the thread that runs through them all. The Glenlivet’s mash process is all about extracting sugar from the malted barley, which isn’t to say you should assume a candy-ish type of sweetness, but instead a gentle richness, fruitiness, and soft cookie-like note that balances beautifully with the alcohol and tannin from barrel-aging. It hums through all of the distillery’s whiskies, no matter the age or choice of finish.
The long necks on the copper stills, designed by George Smith himself, catch the most delicate esters during distillation, and are part and parcel to the soft, alluring aromas you’ll find in the nose. The 12 is so very easy to love: It’s soft and supple on the palate, with each of the distinct parts—aromatics, alcohol, tannin, grain, barrel, texture—in complete balance. It’s why these whiskies have endured for two centuries—before and after single malts were a thing.
In the 1870s, George Smith’s son, John, fought and won the right to be the only distillery to use the name Glenlivet exclusively as long as the article “The” preceded it in order to differentiate his family’s distillery from the many in Speyside and beyond who were opting to toss either “Glen” or “Livet” onto their labels.
Today, The Glenlivet honors its founder’s clandestine industriousness with a Smugglers Trail: a mile-long hiking path where you can walk in the steps Smith took centuries ago, through the woods and skirting the River Livet.
The bottom line: An essential bottle on any home bar, The Glenlivet 12 is an excellent single malt pour to sip and share.