Monday, February 25, 2013

An Eye-Opening Experience: The Glenlivet

By Eric Guido

In the world of wine, I find that searching for the obscure and impossible-to-find bottles often results in much more satisfaction than tasting through large production, easier-to-find wines. I suppose this has affected me in much of what I do, especially with one of my recent explorations in life, Single Malt Scotch. Of course, like most new intrigues in life, I’ve spent a good amount of time listening in on conversations and picking the brains of other Scotch drinkers in an attempt to find the best bottles—the must-try bottles. However, the results had been a mixed bag of satisfactions and disappointments. In reaction to this, I began to withdraw a little and found myself relying on a small number of bottles that I knew I liked. Oh, what a mistake that was.

Why? For starters, I had skipped the biggest brands of Single Malt Scotch. Imagine if you decided to taste through Bruno Giacosa’s Rabaja Riserva without ever tasting Produttori del Barbareco’s Rabaja Riserva. In essence, you’d taste an amazing $200 bottle before tasting a $50 bottle that’s 99% as good. Do the math; is the $200 bottle really worth the price? Well, maybe if you have money to burn.

All of this brings me to The Glenlivet. The fact is that, up until recently, I Ignored The Glenlivet because it was so widely recognized as the Scotch of choice. The chances of seeing a bottle of 12-year Glenlivet at your favorite bar are pretty high. In my old way of thinking, this meant that I should skip over it and move on to the more obscure—big mistake. What’s more, with the 12-year being their flagship bottle, when you start to delve into the 15- and 18-year, you find an amazing mix of single malt expressions.

At this point I take a pause—“Am I really enjoying this?,” I ask myself.

“Yes, I am,” the little voice inside my head replies.

I believe I’ve had something of a revelation. I’m sipping the 12-year, and it speaks to me about satisfying the craving of a larger audience. It’s soft and sultry with all the sexy spice you want, yet without the hard edges you fear. It’s that introduction Scotch—the one that tells you if your guest wants a one-night stand or a life long commitment. If they like it, great… If they love it, take the next step.

As I move on to the 15-year, I find sweet vanilla on the nose as it lulls me into a state of satisfaction, yet there’s something more lurking beneath that nose of pure hedonism. It’s something rich and deep with woodsy, spice notes and a slight bitterness and kick that reminds you that this is a glass of 15-year-old scotch. It’s in its adolescence and it wants to explore; all it needs from you is a willing invitation.

But then the 18-year hits your table. You just graduated, high school is over, and it’s time to play with the big boys. The 18-year takes the sexy, sweet notes of the 12-year and marries it with the wisdom and depth of a life full of experiences. It’s richer, darker, spicier, and sweeter on the nose with citrus notes, tropical fruits, dark chocolate and cherry. It’s a scotch that challenges you by asking “are you ready to taste me?,” and when you take the plunge, it goes down like silk—you can’t quite prepare yourself for an 18-year until the moment you experience that first sip. For me, a well-seasoned, medium rare steak makes for the ultimate companion to such a spirit.

But wait! I somehow found myself so wrapped up in years that I forgot to mention The Glenlivet Nadurra. The Nadurra is a cask-strength single malt, meaning that The Glenlivet hasn’t watered down this whiskey at all before bottling it. The result is a scotch that allows you to dictate your own experience by the amount of water you choose to add. I found myself obsessing over this scotch for a great deal of time. For one reason, the nose continued to open up and change with how much water I added. At first I found apple pie and spicy floral tones, but the more I explored, the more I found as spicy orange, exotic spice, vanilla and rich pear came to the front. On the palate, it was smooth with just a prefect kick that grounded it in reality. This is a scotch that I couldn’t be left alone with—because it might be all gone when you return. It was a revelation. It was a bottle that I knew I had to own so I could continue to experiment and share it with others.

In the end, my closed-minded methods had made me blind to one of the most enjoyable single-malt scotches that I could hope to enjoy. The Glenlivet will certainly find a place in my home collection, and I can’t wait to start pouring it for guests.

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