“Glenfiddich is the world’s best-selling single-malt whisky” according to Wikipedia. Though not quite as ubiquitous as Jameson’s (a blended), you can find Glenfiddich in about any bar. More remarkable is that Glenfiddich is a marque of William Grant & Sons, a family business, not a multinational, and yet they are number 3 in Scotch whisky production behind Diageo and Pernod Ricard. I have an unscientific survey (visiting bars for 30-odd years) and in my estimation, their closest competitor is The Glenlivet, another Speyside distillery (owned by Pernod Ricard) with a near-equal global reach. I’ve reviewed a number of their whiskies recently but the comparison for this head-to-head will be the Glenlivet 12-year.
BenRiach Curiositas gives you the hint right up front: this is a curiosity, in that it is a Speyside whisky with a peaty element. (The distillery does have a non-peated version which will be the subject of a future review.)
BenRiach does not exactly have a storied history, rather a patchwork one. Established near the end of the 19th century, it produced for about a dozen years and then made no spirit for 65 years. After that, it changed hands between multinationals a couple times before going independent in 2004. The company added Glendronach to its holdings four years later and bought Glenglassaugh in 2013. The BenRiach holding company remained an independent until bought by Brown-Forman in 2016. This is the third of the Brown-Forman distilleries I’ve bought an expression to review. That wasn’t planned as I did not know they were associated, but it’s working into a nice mini-series. For a comparison to another peated dram, I’ll continue with the Glenglassaugh Torfa which was the subject of the previous review.
Welcome followers 50 & 51! Also, since I updated to a more mobile-friendly format, thanks all for a solid 2x increase in viewership in 2020. That is about the only part of 2020 that has not sucked (pandemic, massive worldwide recession, collapse of American democracy, you know, all that stuff…)
Here comes another Glenlivet, this time the 15, on a huge sale at my local Oregon bottle shop. At $65 it is a $12 discount to the usual tariff. I was going to wait a while to post again, but a combination of this compelling sale, and the fact that we are locked inside for a weekend due to the horrific fires in Oregon (and resulting smoke) and a little celebration for my 50th (and 51st) followers has resulted in a bonus mid-week update.
Switching it up on you today! The last review was The Glenlivet 12, now we’re on to the Glenlivet 21. As I mentioned in the previous post, with 14 stills, The Glenlivet produces 6 million bottles a year. They are consistent, I’ll give them that. But the 12 did not impress with depth or complexity. Today’s question: can they produce an outstanding whisky, given 9 more years?
The 21 is tagged ‘Archive’ and priced here in Oregon at $209 per bottle. For reference, our un-flashy benchmark Glenfarclas has a 21-year that retails for $145. I’m hoping there is some special mojo in the Glenlivet to make it worth that coin. Whiskyloot has a tidbit—the ‘Archive’ moniker is because there are whiskies up to 40 years in cask vatted with this expression. Now they have my attention. We had a dram from a 34-year cask at the Balvenie and that whisky had a thickness and depth that was transformational. Old whisky is different.
You might be surprised I have not reviewed this before, as The Glenlivet, along with The Macallan and Glenfiddich (the other massive Speyside producers) are found just about everywhere. Even in biker bars, for the occasional effete sipper of single malt, you will find The Glenlivet. To attain such reach, these distilleries are truly huge. The Glenlivet, with 14 stills, is the baby of the bunch, producing 6 million bottles a year. You might ask, at such scale, what kind of whisky can they produce as a single malt?