Hello, Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve

Glenlivet Distillery

A few weeks ago I wrote an article lamenting the loss of Glenlivet 12yo from the UK, having just discovered that it was to be replaced, as of this month, with a new NAS alternative. Was I apprehensive? Yes. Did I fear a Macallan-esque let down? Certainly. Have I been proven wrong? Most definitely… and here’s why.

For years, possibly decades, Glenlivet 12yo has been a constant presence in many drinks cabinets, shelves, bars and hip flasks across the UK. She was there at the end of a long, hard week to sooth your aching limbs, and she was there as a source of commonality when meeting your new girlfriend’s father. She was there to toast the birth of your son, his 18th birthday and the day he got married. She was the dram you toasted at countless Burns Suppers and the dram you raised in memory of passed loved ones. It’s easy to take something so constant for granted.

There does, however, come a time when she must retire.

That time must be chosen wisely, for if it comes prematurely then the legacy is of wistful thoughts of “what if” and “what might’ve been”, but if that time comes too late, then the final memories are of a fading legend, past their prime. Chivas have chosen this month to pay tribute to their most reliable asset, Glenlivet 12yo, and send her off with a 21 gun salute. There has been much debate in recent months of the importance (or lack thereof) of age statements in today’s modern whisky world. Are they necessary? Are they restrictive? Do they stifle creativity? While all these points are up for discussion on various forums and blogs on an almost daily basis, one thing is for sure: more and more NAS whiskies are making their way onto the market and are either placed alongside their numbered counterparts, or more poignantly, are there instead of them.

In the latter circumstance, does this mean a distillery is running out of aged stock? Do they think the UK is less important than another market? Will the age statement-ed whisky ever return? These questions have been rattling around the internet for quite a while now, but perhaps the more pertinent question is this: is the new whisky any good? If the point of drinking a drink is for enjoyment, shouldn’t the foremost question concern the sheer damn tastiness of a liquid?

Having spend a couple of days in the company of Ian Logan and Alan Winchester up in Speyside last week, it certainly appears to me as though the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is an example of how to do an NAS whisky properly. Think Aberlour a’bunadh or Ardbeg Uigeadail and apply the same level of quality to the Founder’s Reserve and you’re more or less on the money. Yes, the Aberlour and the Ardbeg may play an Oscar-worthy ‘best supporting actress’ role to their respective 10yo expressions, but as whiskies in their own right they are stonkingly good liquids. With the Founder’s Reserve, all the facets of Glenlivet are there: the tropical fruitiness is beautifully complimented by the sweet vanilla tones from first-fill bourbon casks, and the smooth toffee notes are perked up by zesty orange flavours. There’s a nod back to tradition balanced with a steely-eyed gaze into the future.

My trip up north reflected that very sentiment. One afternoon I was standing at the rather remote Upper Drummin, the site of the first Glenlivet distillery which was established in 1824… and the next I was in Edinburgh with Mike Aikman at Bramble, one of the most pioneering cocktail bars in the world, being shown the versatility of Founder’s Reserve and how it can be used as the core ingredient in some molecularly spectacular cocktails.

I suppose my whisky shelf at home reflects that too. Currently there’s a bottle of Glenlivet 12yo there, but once she’s taken her final bow, there’s a bottle of Founder’s Reserve waiting to step right into those well worn shoes.




  1. I do agree with you that it’s a shame that we are seeing less and less whiskies with age statements on them. Sometimes giving the whisky a fancy name just doesn’t seem as nice as a good age statement. There’s a place in the whisky industry for fancy names, but I’d like to see whiskies with age statements staying

  2. Having just tried this, it’s probably the 2nd worst whisky I’ve ever tasted. Only bested by the Haig. This is not a good representation of good Glenlivet

  3. You asked a lot of the right questions, but it’s too bad you didn’t provide any answers – they’re just all “debatable”, but not to be debated by you while this example of NAS marketing gets the nod based on “it’s a nice whisky” and having spent a couple of days with Ian Logan and Alan Winchester.

    There is no such thing as NAS whisky, so the real debate begins there, not whether or not “it’s done right”, whatever that would mean; NAS only reflects a labeling decision, NOT a whisky production process of any kind, not even multi-vintaging. An age statement of 12 years at least reflects a maturation process of a minimum of 12 years in oak. NAS only reflects that, for any given product, the producer just doesn’t want to talk about the age.

    Regardless of the quality or the bottle content, there is no defense for removing age information unless it can be argued that the development of the whisky itself isn’t affected by time. Every cask that Glenlivet stored to make Founder’s Reserve had its age information recorded somewhere, so there’s no evidence that even Glenlivet thinks that “time doesn’t matter” with this or any other NAS-labeled product. The question(s) with NAS isn’t “is the new whisky any good?”, it’s “whether it’s good or not, how does that justify withholding age information from the consumer on some products but not on others? Because Founder’s Reserve would somehow taste better without that information, or because it will sell better without that information?”.

  4. Well put, Jeff!

  5. Shame on Pernod ! This is not Glenlivet .. I have drunk Glenlivet for 40 years .. This is a sham .. An un aged raw over pear drop flavoured upstart which in the past would have been shipped to the blenders . This is so they can churn out 1000s of bottles for the Asian market .. Fool them but not us . Other distilleries beware what happens to your tradition when you sell out . after 40 years I have drank my last Glenlivet . Very sad

  6. So far from what I know and loved about Glenlivet whiskies, this is an abrupt departure and, as I commented on another site. like losing an old friend, so sad.

  7. to Jeff
    April 16, 2015 at 4:46 pm (There is no such thing as NAS whisky)

    What??? You should go to spec savers!

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