There are rare things that are deservedly cherished. Spotting a roe deer amongst the trees in Cairngorms National Park. Coming together with family after years and miles apart. Your great, great grandfather’s pocket watch which has been passed down through generations. And The Glenlivet’s historic expressions.
Our exclusive Reserve Collection is a series of limited release expressions that capture The Glenlivet’s signature style with the influence of Speyside evident in every dram. We’d love you to join us in the Drawing Room, settle down in a wingback chair, and let us tell you more about what makes our rare whiskies so special.
And once you’re done, there’s plenty more to explore on The Glenlivet virtual tour. Head to the History Room to listen to the stories of the family behind our world-famous whisky and find out how the past is still present in every bottle of our scotch. Or make your way to the Warehouse to learn the secrets of the casks.
What makes a whisky rare?
Most of us know what the word rare means but when it comes to whisky, what gives it this label? Well, several factors contribute to rare whiskies. One of the first is its availability. If it is an expression that is exclusive, limited in quantity or not released every year, then this increases its rarity. This is because it means that not everyone will have the opportunity to obtain it. If there are only 300 bottles made, for example, there aren’t many to go around.
The type of cask the whisky is matured in also plays a part. Sherry casks are rarer than bourbon casks, with less than 10% of all whiskies aged this way so they generally command more interest.
Carrying on from that, age does impact how rare a whisky is but doesn’t necessarily equate to a desired bottle. However, if a whisky has been aged for decades in quality casks by expert distillers (like ours here at The Glenlivet), then it is likely to be more sought after.
Whiskies from silent distilleries can also be in high demand. Silent distilleries are those that are no longer in operation and this is why their whisky expressions are rare; there won’t be any more produced.
The Glenlivet rare whiskies
The Distillery Reserve Collection comprises nine different limited release expressions, all with their own unique character but still unequivocally the product of The Glenlivet’s 200-year history. Each single cask scotch whisky is non-chill filtered and bottled at natural cask strength. But what sets them apart from one another? Well, we’ve picked four of our rare whiskies from the shelves of the distillery to share with you in more detail. Let’s pour a few, shall we?
The Glenlivet 8 1st Fill Barrel
Bottled on the 10th of March 2020 after being aged for 8 years, The Glenlivet 8 year old single malt scotch spent its days in 1st fill American bourbon barrels. Made from virgin oak, these barrels were originally filled with bourbon whisky. The bourbon impacts the qualities of the wood, and in return, the wood imparts its characteristics to the spirit. Then, when the barrel is filled for the first time with The Glenlivet, the whisky is influenced by both.
With 336 bottles filled, this scotch is beautifully golden and has a wonderful mix of sweetness and spice. When you raise your glass to your nose, you’ll be greeted with sweet clementines, vanilla ice cream and just a hint of warming cinnamon. Take a sip and the clementines will still be there as will the vanilla, but these notes will be joined by spice reminiscent of ginger snap biscuits. The spice lingers on a slightly dry finish.
The Glenlivet 16 1st Fill Sherry Butt
Aged for 16 years in European sherry butts, the 900 bottles of The Glenlivet 16 year old single cask scotch reveal their past with the dark and sultry colour of the spirit they hold. And its flavour tells a tale too as nutty and dried fruit notes from the sherry are revealed.
Sweet bread and butter pudding with raisins and cloves and a touch of black pepper excite the nose while tangy plum jam, liquorice, ginger and heather dance on the palate. The finish is long and spicy, so you remember this rare whisky long after you take your final sip.
The Glenlivet 18 2nd Fill Sherry Butt
We filled 720 bottles of The Glenlivet 18 year old single malt scotch in 2019 after leaving the whisky to age since the 12th of October 2000 in 2nd fill European sherry butts. It is the strongest of our Reserve Collection, at 60.8% vol, and has a complexity that makes it rather extraordinary.
The nose is an alluring combination of cherries, orange marmalade and sugared almonds. The flavour is predominantly sweet fruits and gentle spices, but poached pears, dark chocolate and subtle spice are all experienced on the palate. A slightly dry finish is woven with more warming spice.
The Glenlivet 25 2nd Fill Sherry Butt
Spending a quarter of a decade inside 2nd fill European sherry butts has given The Glenlivet 25 year old scotch plenty of time to develop a distinctive character. Before you even open one of the 600 limited release bottles, you’ll notice the whisky’s striking amber hue.
When you pour a measure, you’ll be hit with aromas of ripe fruits such as apricots and sultanas along with the scent of sweet oak which was gifted to the whisky from the sherry butt. The fruitiness continues into the flavour with fresh citrus, red toffee apples and ginger marmalade topped with a long, nutty finish.
If you’ve enjoyed learning about The Glenlivet’s rare whiskies, we’ve got plenty more to share with you about the intricacies that make our scotch what it is. Find out about the types of whisky casks that we use at our Speyside distillery or delve into how scotch whisky is made.