I have not had very many old Glenlivets. And unless you’re a member of the whisky illuminati chances are you’ve not either. The few I’ve had have been very good indeed. The best of the lot was probably a Glenlivet 38, 1974 bottled by Berry Bros. and Rudd for the Whisky Exchange in 2012, and which I emptied a few weeks before starting this blog (hmm I should check to see if I saved a sample from that bottle as was my usual practice in those days). This old Glenlivet was also bottled for the Whisky Exchange but by Signatory. It’s also, unlike the BB&R bottle, from a sherry cask. And as this is 2018 and not 2012, it costs more than three times as much. These are the times in which we live. Not so long ago a bottle like this would have been within reach of regular punters looking to make a splurge; now it’s only for the rich. But what is it like? Courtesy Billy Abbot, who passed on a sample to me when we met for drinks in June at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s London tasting rooms, I can give you my answer.
I should clarify that it’s not exactly a sherry cask. It only spent the last six years of maturation in a sherry cask (presumably ex-bourbon before but probably more than one bourbon cask that went into a larger sherry cask, given the 702 bottle out-turn from the final cask).
Signatory 36, 1981 (47.6%; Signatory for TWE; sherry finish; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Rich sherry: leather, dried orange peel, apricot jam, plum, cola, pencil lead. Gets more herbal as it sits (dried sage). With a drop or three of water the fruit is more pronounced and the herbal note backs off: plum and cherry to the fore.
Palate: All the stuff from the nose but with some oak added on (not tannic). A little thinner on the second sip both in terms of flavour and texture. Water improves the texture and pushes the oak back but it also blanks the fruit a bit.
Finish: Long. The oak is most prominent here as it gets quite spicy as it goes with white pepper and cinnamon. Less oaky and spicy here too with water.
Comments: This is very nice, especially on the nose, but if I were to ever spend £575 on a whisky it would not be on this. But those who are able to spend £575 on a whisky may feel differently about the question of value. Given the oak on the finish, I suspect that this was a bit of an oak bomb at age 30 and that the cask/casks was/were balanced via the 6 year sherry maturation/finish. Well, whatever the circumstances, it mostly worked here. More fruit on the palate and less oak on the finish and it would be headed to the next tier.
Rating: 87 points.