Flagship dram of the Glenlivet distillery and available in a good number of places where whisky is served, what you see here is supposedly the USA’s most popular single malt scotch – and it’s not difficult to see why. After how ever many years of drinking the Founders Reserve at almost every opportunity (though nor at the expense of any other distilleries…), we figured it’d be time to sit down and give it a proper review…
In A Nutshell
Glenlivet refers to itself as ‘the distillery that started it all’. Seeing as they were the first to legally start producing whisky in Scotland (after the Excise Act of 1823) this claim could be said to be true. They’re also the world’s second most popular single malt brand, and the biggest selling single malt in the US.
A while back I went down for ‘spirit of the malt’ tour, getting a look at the distillery itself, some tutored tastings, then finally enjoying the chance to draw some whisky straight from a cask in the dunnage warehouse. It was one of the best things I’ve done in my ridiculous ‘whisky career’ (if you could call drinking barrel aged poison that :3).
Anyway, The Founder’s Reserve was created in honour of George Smith, the man who started it all. This was a dynasty that begun with him and later saw his son, John Gordon Smith, make The Glenlivet ‘legal’ (apparently a battle that took a lot of time, effort and money).
Glenlivet is part of the Pernod Ricard portfolio, which also includes Chivas regal, Longmorn (one of Speyside’s best kept secrets) and Aberlour. Glenlivet means ‘valley of the smooth-flowing one’ – and they’ve been making/smuggling firewater in the Livet Valley for at least 200 years. Circa £35 a bottle, the Founder’s Reserve is probably the easiest Glenlivet to get your hands on, stocked in most supermarkets throughout the UK. Also one of the first whiskies that I tried, back in the day…
We Drink It, Stuff Happens
Light gold colour, minimal viscosity
Young, but not ‘raw’.
The initial impression is ‘wood heavy’ – resinous wood glue sensations and exciting libations.
After your nose acclimatises it’s all soft fruit – dried apricot and sugar, apple pie filling, marzipan and Battenberg cake. Like someone took ‘essence of German dessert’ and added just a tiny bit of it into fiery liquid sunshine (not that the Scots know much about actual sunshine). This along with something butterscotch and creamy – not unusual and not unexpected.
Hold a little in your mouth and your first impression is honeyed.
Yup, still sweet, though the hint of caramel that you get on the nose takes over all that floral fruit stuff you could smell earlier. Breathe a little and there’s lots of vanilla and sweet marmalade. Also the tiniest hint of lemongrass. In terms of alcoholic ‘heat’ – this one’s about average, which combined with the sweet flavours and 40% ABV makes for quite the easy drinking dram. And why not?
Not a particularly long finish on the Founder’s Reserve – it leaves a little butterscotch in the back of my throat and that tobacco sand dryness that you get when you combine lots of alcohol and oak. Plus a grappa-esque grapeskin note that lingers
There’s a reason why this stuff sells so well in the USA – for what you pay, it is a very well crafted example of the distiller/blender’s art. I don’t think my palate is sharp enough to pick out a distinctive Glenlivet flavour profile, but as far as Speyside drams go – I guess you could call this an excellent example.
Nothing unusual, nor mind blowing here (what were you expecting at £30something retail?) but a very ‘workhorse’. Table whisky?