Glenlivet French Oak Reserve 15 Year Old

So, even though I haven’t had a bottle in my cabinet for quite some time, The Glenlivet holds a bit of a special place in my heart… as far as whisky goes, anyway. The Glenlivet 12 was one of my very first “favourite” scotches, back in the formative years of my single-malt snobbery. Then, the 15 year old French Oak Reserve became my  first fancy bottle – a Christmas gift from my parents, probably about a dozen years ago. (Funny how 3 years and about $20 elevated my opinion and expectations… Marketing!!)

These kinds of memories are probably why I kept glancing back at the 15-Year during my latest visit to the bottle shop. I actually went in looking for bourbon but ended up perusing the Scotch aisle and eventually decided to renew acquaintances and do a proper review of this old friend. So let’s get after it… The Glenlivet 15 is bottled at 40% abv and goes for approximately $75 in my neck of the woods. 

To the Eye

Deep, deep golden honey. I’ve read that this whisky is completely naturally coloured, which is impressive. That French Limosine oak must be some good stuff! The swift, skinny legs slipping down my Glencairn already have me suspicious that a higher abv would be nice. 

In the Nose

With the glass breathing several feet away, vanilla and a sweet-spiciness still find their way to my nostrils. Once I actually try to give my dram the attention it deserves, I can pick out the typical Speyside aromas: juicy green apples, pears and other orchard fruits, along with some fresh-cut grass. There’s a bit more there too, though. Stawberries and a hint of orange zest mingle nicely with caramel, cinnamon and a lovely floral, heathery aroma.

On the Tongue

It’s light, but not nearly so light as the 12 year old. The fruits that showed themselves in the nose are still there but they’re no longer green… Dark sweet cherries, raisins and canned plums. I get sherry, but not nearly as obvious as it can be in some whiskies. Cinnamon again, along with oak and a few cracked pink peppercorns. There’s something uniquely vegetal and spicy in this whisky, a little bit like nasturtium petals and I wonder if this is the influence of the Limosine Oak. The finish is medium-longish, surprisingly so, actually, with lingering raisins, graphite, and some of that fresh pepper hanging around, waiting for the next sip. 

Final Thoughts

Quite delicious, actually! The Glenlivet French Oak Reserve 15 Year Old is one of those interesting-yet-approachable drams. I can’t call it overly complex, but neither is this a one-note dram. While not quite exciting, it’s impossible to dislike this whisky, I think, and I do really find that mysterious floral-spiciness intriguing. Still, I can’t shake my initial wonder about what this whisky might be at something like 46% abv… Imagine those rich, juicy fruit flavours at that strength! Regardless, this is a good-value whiskey that should never again see such a long hiatus from my cabinet!

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