Simon Wittenberg experiences The Glenlivet’s Sample Room Collection, which comprises re-imagined 21 and 25-Year-Old whiskies, in the virtual company of the Speyside distillery’s Cask Expert Kevin Balmforth and Chivas Brothers’ Head of Heritage and Education Alex Robertson.
It’s the start of a new chapter for The Glenlivet whisky distillery in Speyside. Firstly, there’s a new state-of-the-art visitor centre (below) to greet guests after its MTV Cribs-style unveiling towards the end of last year.
Secondly, The Glenlivet’s legendary Master Distiller – Alan Winchester, who enjoyed a 48-year career with the distillery, has now passed the baton to three whisky makers who boast a combined experience of half a century.
Bringing 23 years of this experience to the table is Cask Expert Kevin Balmforth, who spends many hours at The Glenlivet’s Sample Room just outside Glasgow, where access is granted to a privileged few. Despite passing through the distillery’s doors on a weekly basis, the busy Sample Room is where Kevin and his seven other colleagues nose and taste hundreds of samples and do cask trials to craft and refine the flavour profiles and exquisite products that end up on shelves across the globe.
Amongst the first expressions to emerge in this exciting new era are the re-imagined and evolved 21 and 25-Year-Olds – two pillars of today’s Glenlivet line-up, and which have been brought together under the apt name of The Sample Room Collection. Sitting alongside The Glenlivet’s long-established 18 Year Old, they sport a bold new visual identity, which includes the autograph of The Glenlivet’s founder George Smith, who established the now renowned distillery back in 1824.
The new colour tones on the packaging play on the brand’s iconic turquoise palette whilst adding a darker and rich twist with the premium copper finish. The combination of the deep blue gradient and the unique textures of embossing propels the line-up into a new standard of luxury.
The 21 Year Old, which will retail for $260 a bottle (around £215), is the result of between five and ten years of hard work. Triple finished in first-fill Oloroso Sherry, Tronçais oak (which has previously held Cognac) and Vintage Colheita Port casks, three other types of Port Cask were considered, namely Vintage, Tawny and Ruby. In fact, every barrel that arrives at The Glenlivet is nosed empty prior to being filled.
The result of using the aforementioned casks is the delivery of luscious notes of caramelised pears and juicy sultanas, with hints of warming ginger. Deriving from the first-fill Cognac cask influence, the fruity flavour is intertwined with fragrant nutmeg and cinnamon, creating a long and rich spice finish. The Port cask adds hints of plums, syrup and cloves.
The Glenlivet 25-Year-Old single malt (selling for $625 / around £510 a bottle) is finished in Pedro Ximenez (PX) Sherry and Tronçais oak Cognac casks. The double cask expression is a true testimony to the care and craftsmanship that has gone into every drop. The taste is both rich and intense, yet silky and sweet, with the double cask finish adding depth to the palate.
Its inviting flavours of plum jam, sweet fig and blood orange, deriving from the sweeter Sherry influence, are complemented by the Cognac casks’ warming notes of ginger, toasted oak and a hint of charred pineapple, leaving a long, rich and sweet, gentle spice finish.
Kevin Balmforth, The Glenlivet’s Cask Expert, said that The Sample Room Collection had provided an exciting opportunity to elevate two iconic whiskies, thereby developing an end result full of layers of flavour and richness. He also explained that The Sample Room Collection broke new ground in whisky and set new standards in taste and quality through craftsmanship and refined cask finishes.
The Glenlivet Sample Room Collection – Where and How?
The Glenlivet’s re-imagined 21 and 25-Year-Old single malt Scotch whiskies will be on sale from July. For more information, visit www.theglenlivet.com.
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