Glenlivet Nadurra 16 Yr: 59.7% abv
Background: Glenlivet is a Speyside malt, as you may already know. If you know any single malt Scotch, you probably think of one of two distilleries: Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. Although Glenfiddich holds the crown for being the bestselling single malt in the World, Glenlivet is more popular in America, being the #1 selling malt whisky in the US. So, with a volume of about 5.9 million liters being produced per year, there is quite a lot of Glenlivet going around. We aren’t huge fans of the 12 year, which lacks a great balance and appears far too fruity for its own good. So why would we review a Glenlivet then? Nadurra, a non-chill filtered, 16 year version of Glenlivet at cask strength, which is aged in French Oak casks, takes Glenlivet to a different level in terms of quality and notability.
Nose: The nose starts off the with classic Glenlivet notes, including some champagne and green grape notes, along with a cooked apple smell, which contributes a crisp, refreshing aroma to the whisky. If you dig deep enough, you can get the soft, ripe smell of a banana in the nose as well. It is a very malty nose, with wood and grain notes making for a dry, sweet smell coming through. The wood notes include some maple and oak tones, with vanilla influences from the wood coming out as well. There is a subtle citrus note that cuts through, but it doesn’t over-dominate the aromas. Along with the sweet notes, you get some allspice and nutmeg smells coming through.
Arrival: Naturally, in a whisky at this proof, there will be an intense spiciness that presents itself. There is some cinnamon intensity, with vegetal, bitter notes starting off the cadence of this whisky. There is a small amount of honeydew and vanilla that adds to the sweetness in the arrival, which is relatively masked by the burn of the alcohol.
Body: There are some tropical fruits coming through in the body with pineapple notes. There is a large contribution of maltiness to the body. The cinnamon presence from the arrival continues through to the body, and lingers onward. There is also a dominant vegetal characteristic to it that seems to provide a grassy character to the whisky.
Finish: The finish holds some bold malty flavors, with some grapefruit citrus notes coming through. There is some green grape that come through as well. There is vanilla bean flavor that resides in the finish, with some cinnamon notes and fresh mint as well. The vegetal quality of the body lingers through to the finish and does not at all diminish.
Nose: With a little bit of water, I would venture to guess you’d find this closer to its distant cousin, bourbon. The nose brings out some soft melon notes, akin to cantaloupe, with a contrasting grapefruit smell. Along with this, it is more creamy and soft. It becomes more vegetal as well.
Arrival: The arrival, after some water, will be much more pleasant than you last remembered it. There is a malty creaminess to it, almost like a vanilla malted shake.
Body: The spiciness is less prominent than before, with a good balance coming about as a result. There is still a big vanilla character involved, which seems to dominate the flavors on the palate in the body. Nothing more really happens in the body at this point, and it isn’t until the finish that big flavor changes happens.
Finish: The finish, after adding water, becomes more sugary and sweet, retaining the big malty character from before, and holding onto some of the grape character that came from the arrival. There is some orange rind that we noticed later on in the finish, and some grain bite as well. There is also an odd pumpkin spice note that starts to develop as you focus more on the departure of the flavors. There is still some smooth banana flavor that comes in.
Final Comments: This is quite a hot whisky out of the gate. You might not expect this out of a Speyside, or even a Glenlivet for that matter. Fortunately, despite its hotness, it has quite a bit of engaging material to offer up to your palate. After water, there is more balance and complexity, but be weary. With too much water, the body will lose some of its rich complexity that you’ll find at the natural presentation. The real problem with this bottling of Glenlivet is that it shows that Glenlivet can make a super-high quality whisky, and people should expect that from them. For this reason, KCM encourages NOT to buy Glenlivet 12 Year, or Glenlivet 18 Year, but if you’re going to buy Glenlivet, this one is the way to go.
Why you’d buy it: Because you enjoy intense cask strength whiskies and want to see how French Oak plays into the taste profile
Why you wouldn’t: It is far too intense or intimidating