“The beauty of the whisky lover is that their palate is always evolving, searching for the next flavour experience.”
That quote comes from someone who would know: The Glenlivet Master Distiller Alan Winchester. He was talking about the curiosity that drives the whisky lover — the hunt for new flavours, new expressions, new experiences.
Curiosity is the beast that Alan was feeding when he created the latest Glenlivet expression that’s reaching the Canadian market.
The Glenlivet 14-Year-Old is one of the most innovative releases so far from The Glenlivet, a Speyside Scotch whisky distillery that boasts a deep history (but doesn’t rest on it). Finished in ex-Cognac casks, the expression adds a tantalizing layer of complex aromas to the tried-and-true Glenlivet experience of a smooth, sophisticated dram. Why are we so excited about it? Keep reading.
What’s so special about ex-Cognac casks?
First, how about a primer/refresher on the importance of oak barrels to the flavour of Scotch whisky? As many readers will know, Scotch is aged in second-hand casks. (In contrast to certain other whiskies that must be aged in new barrels only — notably bourbon.)
The Scotch industry has traditionally aged its newly distilled spirit in casks that it sourced from bourbon country in the United States and the sherry bodegas of Spain. As the newly distilled spirit is put in the casks to rest, it takes on the flavours and aromas of whatever used to be in the barrel. So, for example, if you age Scotch in an ex-bourbon barrel, it has the potential to borrow the pineapple, coconut and vanilla aromas that we associate with American whisky. Sherry barrels (known as “butts”) give us ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and dried fruit.
In this century, Scottish distillers have been mixing things up a bit. Whiskies aged in Caribbean rum casks are becoming more and more established, as more people discover their rich fruitiness.
Now it’s time to experiment with Cognac cask aging. The Glenlivet 14 is initially aged in a conventional way, in American/sherry casks (first fill, for those who want to get technical), before being “finished” in ex-Cognac casks.
And that’s where things get a bit unusual, and super interesting. Cognac producers use barrels made from two different oak species (quercus pedunculata and quercus sessiliflora, in case it comes up at trivia night). Working together, these French oaks will impart tannins and spice to a spirit, and have a softness and subtlety that will remind you of, well, Cognac.
So what does The Glenlivet 14 taste like?
Delicious, and uniquely so. On the nose, there’s a sweet start of honey and apricot jam, with notes of cinnamon toast and licorice. The classic Glenlivet smoothness is the first thing you notice on the palate, then succulent mandarins in syrup, poached pears and chocolate-dipped raisins.
Scotch and Cognac — a match made in heaven? Yes, it turns out. The Glenlivet 14 boasts an intense, bold and unconventional flavour profile that could inspire you to think of fresh ways to enjoy Scotch whisky. And we can help with that …
Three refreshing ways to enjoy The Glenlivet 14
First, you could simply serve it on the rocks. Controversial? Maybe. There are purists who insist that neat or a splash of water are the only ways to savour a single malt. But where’s the fun in boxing yourself in?
Especially with summer upon us, give yourself permission to chill your Glenlivet 14 down to patio temperature by serving it on ice (hint: See if it brings out the licorice notes). And for extra fun, why not serve it in a brandy snifter as a nod to its French roots?
Second option: Try The Glenlivet 14 in a whisky smash.A smash is essentially a julep, just more casual — as in, easy to make if you have intermediate bartending skills.
- 2 parts The Glenlivet 14 Year Old
- 3/4 part simple syrup
- 3 lemon wedges
- 4 mint leaves
- mint sprig garnish (save the nicest-looking mint for decoration)
Method: Muddle lemon in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add other ingredients (except mint garnish) and ice. Seal and shake well. Strain into a glass filled with fresh crushed ice. Add the mint sprig as a garnish.
Third and finally: To serve a larger crowd, make a Glenlivet punch. This recipe can scale up or down to whatever size your gathering may be, and remember that freshly squeezed lemon juice is the thing to use in mixed drinks — never the stuff from the plastic lemon.
- 3 parts The Glenlivet 14 Year Old
- 1 part orange juice
- 1 part lemon juice
- 1 part maple syrup
- 1 part ginger ale
- 48 dashes Angostura Bitters
Method: Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl with ice. Garnish with lemon wheels, orange half wheels, and grated cinnamon and cinnamon sticks.