Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old - Single Malt Scotch Review

The Glenlivet distillery produces the number one top selling single malt scotch in the United States. Turning to the rest of the world, it is the second largest seller of single malt scotch. I am guessing that Glenfiddich is number one based on its presence in all the bars I have ever been in. In any case, The Glenlivet 12 yr old is enormously popular. The question is: Is it a decent scotch? The answer is a resounding "yes!"

Nose (without water/ice)
A gentle floral scent will waft out of your glass like apple blossoms and vanilla extract.

Palate (without water/ice)
Medium bodied, chewy, dark toast, cinnamon rolls, fresh bread, a little apple, and plenty of dark plums.

Finish (without water/ice)
Fresh ground pepper on the finish with gentle sherry notes and a maltiness that hangs on the palate for quite a while.

General Impressions
I like this! There is a reason this is the number one selling single malt in the United States and number two in the world, it's damn good! Now, it is not the finest single malt scotch in the marketplace, but it doesn't pretend to be. It is not the best 12 year old single malt, but it is in the top ten.

This is a scotch that has no offensive edges. No alcohol burn. Pretty smooth except for some pepper on the finish.

I tried it with some water and did not find that there was an improvement. Some scotch improves with the addition of water, but not this one. Its' older sibling, the 18yr old certainly benefits from the addition of one or two teaspoons of distilled or Artesian water. Not the case with the Glenlivet 12 year old. The addition of water just seems to dull all the flavors, whereas the addition of water to the 18yr old brings out a unique complexity of flavors.

The Glenlivet 12 yr old provides great value for money. The price is very reasonable for the flavor profile. Its' chief rival is Glenfiddich 12 yr old and in a head to head tasting competition the Glenlivet comes out on top.

Another great point to make about this single malt scotch is that it is amazingly consistent from batch to batch. No change in the flavor profile and not known to have spoiled or flawed bottles. In a word, the quality assurance is A-1.

This is a single malt that I would not hesitate to serve at a party. It is particularly appropriate to serve to the casual scotch drinker or a crowd where you are unsure of everyone's tastes.

It is reasonably priced and of good quality. Something of interest to the serious scotch drinker and at the same time a pleasant experience for the novice.


© Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved.


  1. i've tasted it a few times. all i can say it's a good dram, but kind of anemic for me...
    i prefer the 15 year old, 18 year old... which are so different.

  2. Granov, I agree that the 15 yr old and the 18 yr old are better, but for a 12 yr old single malt, it holds up rather well.

    Thanks for posting. By the way, I visited your website and looks very inviting on the topic of food and wine. Unfortunately, I cannot read Hebrew. Maybe consider a translation feature, if one exists.


  3. I have inherited an unopened, paper seal still on, bottle of 12 year old Glenlivet Singel Malt Scotch (most likely orig. purchased in the late 1960's
    Is there a way to date when this bottle was produced and does that
    make any difference with regard to its
    I'd like to find what if anything there is to know about it.

  4. sorry i left an unfinished sentence in my comment

    is there any way to date when this bottle was produced
    and does that make any diff. w/regard to its taste, value, etc.?

  5. Hi! Yes, I think you can probably determine the age of the bottle and even its value! Two ways to go about it. First, you can email Glenlivet directly. Just visit theglenlivet.com and there should be a link on the site to contact them via email. Email them a picture of your bottle. Be sure to all labeling. They can tell easily when it was produced.

    I have on occasion corresponded with distillers and have found them to quickly respond to queries.

    What the people at The Glenlivet probably cannot tell you is the value of your bottle.

    In order to determine the value, I would visit Royal Mile Whiskies (royalmilewhiskies.com). I have a link to them at the bottom of each page of my blog. Search "Glenlivet" and you will find various bottlings. I believe some are from the 1960's. I also some on wine-searcher.com with a value of around $250 U.S. However, some of those bottling are done by companies like Gordon & McPhail who basically bottle 30 yr old scotch from barrels supplied by Glenlivet. That's a little different from what you have.

    The other action you could take is email Royal Mile Whiskies directly and inquire to see if they would be interested in buying it.

    Finally, if you visit the Whisky Magazine website forum section and post a question about what members think, I suspect you will get a quick answer. Be sure to include a picture also.

    As to what would happen if you simply popped the bottle and had a drink, I think it would taste good. To make it a proper experiment, I would pick up a new bottle of Glenlivet 12 year old and pour a tumbler of each scotch and try them one after the other. If done in that manner, you can compare the old with the new. Be sure to drink some water between each though so that your sense of taste is compromised.

    As long as the cap is cork or metal and keeps out air then there should not be a negative impact on the scotch. Where air has gotten past the cork or the cap, then you have a problem.

    Hope this helps.


  6. Thank you so much!
    I'll follow your leads and see what I can find out~

  7. Hi Jason, this is Charles I posted about 9 months ago in your Redbreast article and we had a brief discussion about Irish whiskeys. I've been out of it since then until about a month ago due to medication induced liver issues and my doc had said no alcohol :(. Bad timing since I'd just found your page, but I'm back now.

    Anyway, thanks, for the info on this one. I tried this about 3 years ago when I was first trying to get into Scotch and other whiskeys. I was trying it on ice though because I didn't know better at the time. I don't remember being too impressed with it at the time but I just picked up a bottle tonight to try out. I'll let you know what I think.

    Just curious, do you actually buy everything you are reviewing or do you taste it in a pub/bar first?

  8. Hi Charles! Sorry to hear your health has not been A-1 in the recent past. I trust that is all behind you now. Welcome back!

    Sometimes I will go to a local bar specializing in whisky to sample a particular spirit before taking the plunge and buying a bottle. It's a strategy I use to avoid wasting money on poor whiskies. If the whisky is intriguing I will buy a bottle and after several tastings I will draft areview that appears on this blog.

    I never post a reiew based on a single tasting in a bar. Why? It is not reliable. Depending on what I ate earlier in the day, the head cold I just got over, time of day, etc, my palate may be off. Ever notice a whisky one day is incredible and the next mundane? It may have to do with what you ate. Spicy food may dull the palate, etc.

    If I have posted a review on here that refers to a tasting in a pub, it is consistent with subsequent tastings.

    Anyway, bottom line, I generally pick up a bottle. I do not accept samples from distilleries or their marketing agents because I believe it is a conflict of interest.

    In any case, hope your health improves!


  9. Thanks, well I tried the Glenlivet 12yr. the other night and am definitely going to keep it in my stable now. I think part of it was knowing more about how to drink it now (no ice) and a few years of refining my whiskey palate off and on.

  10. Jason have you ever tasted GLENLIVET FRENCH OAK 15 YR and if so what is your impression? I personally think it is one of the finest $60 - $70 (LCBO) bottles in existence. It’s right up there with Cragganmore 12yr

  11. Al, I have not yet had the Glenlivet French Oak 15yrs. It is one that I intend to get to in the near future. Especially so if it is up there with Cragganmore12.

  12. Can someone tell me if the G12 is non chil filtered?
    Can someone tell me what makes a whisky creamy or/and with creamy finish and then you get that fruit coming out of that cream? Awesome!!!!!!! I detested TANGY/Fizzy/ SERBET like and want to know is this from a sherry cask or something else? Also why do some make you real flat (BAD) others make you RELAXED (GOOD) and other make you feel UP ( want to DANCE. Want to RUN. Energy) Thank you this would help a lot.

  13. This was my first single-malt scotch. I love it! And I really need to get another bottle of the Glenlivet 12. It's something I'd always want to have on hand to offer to guests or company. It's hard not to like.

    I don't like to make absolute statements, but if you don't like the Glenlivet, either you are a peat-head or you ... just don't like scotch.

  14. What is the best way to enjoy single malt Glenlivet 12 years? I mean with soda/water or plain on the rocks...I will really appreciate the advice.

    1. Hello Sandir,

      The best way to enjoy Glenlivet 12 yrs is whichever way you enjoy it most. There are no hard and fast rules.

      When I was new to Scotch, I preferred my whisky like this and others with a single ice cube as I found the tastes to strong, but soon afterwards (a couple of months) I was adding a little water (ie. a teaspoon) and then after that just drinking it neat.

      Your tastes and preferences will evolve over time. Deep down, you know what you enjoy most, and so I would recommend starting there.


  15. Thanks Jason for the answer! Cheers!!

  16. Jason,

    I just tried the Glenlivet 12 and I entirely agree with you -- what a very approachable and enjoyable whisky!

    I particularly notice a licorice flavor at first nosing, and a vanilla and bread dough at the finish.

    While I am certain that there are those who turn up their noses to whatever happens to be a popular choice, I am with the crowd on this one...try this whisky!

    Thank you for recommending it.

    1. I am always glad to read when someone is willing to give a chance to the widely available Glenlivet 12. While others turn their noses up, you and I can enjoy this dram for a reasonable price!

    2. I entirely agree with you ... and this is one of the reasons I so much enjoy your website. It (ironically) takes courage to recommend what is widely appreciated, and your objectivity concerning quality and value is much appreciated.

      Thank you.

  17. Jason I really appreciate this article. Thanks for posting it. I bought a bottle of this one and I could realize how much I like single malt.

    Wich other single malt option would you consider to be the next one to try after this?

    Thanks in advance!
    Francisco from Argentina

    1. For a very smoother, maybe a little more refined, and certainly more sherried flavor profile, please consider The Balvenie Doublewood 12 years. It should be around the same price. Another option is Oban 14 years, but it is more expensive and distribution is not as wide. Yet another option is Macallan 12 (it is being discontinued, but some bottles still in distribution).

      If Balvenie is not available, let me know and I will suggest something else.


    2. Jason,

      Thanks for your quickly answer. I'll be looking for the options you are telling me.

      Thanks again!


  18. Hi. Never tasted this Whiskey, but I like Dalmore 12 year, so compared with Dalmore you would say that Glenlivet 12 year is...?

  19. I'm a novice scotch drinker. this was very first single malt and the only other i have to compare to is McClelland's(no age specified). something i found very appealing about McClelland's is the peaty smokiness however other than that i found it ultimately quite dull. on the other hand I loved the Glenlivet 12 year old because of its complexity and the variety of tastes it offers. now, as i said i am a novice, i have only tried two single malts. So if anyone would be so kind as to give me a suggestion of where i can find this desired smokiness with a complexity as offered in the Glenlivet, i would be very thankful.

    1. Glenlivet is not known for its smokiness in general. It is there but is subtle.

      A cheap blend to consider for a lot of smoke in a sweet seaweed way would be Islay Mist 7 yrs. Nice stuff. White Horse is another, but hard to find.

      A single malt with toffee, caramel and smoke notes would be Highland Park 12 yrs, but it is a big dog malt, so take tiny sips.

    2. thank you for your suggestion. i will definitely take those into consideration.
      as it is i am enjoying the Bowmore 12 year old, as a friend of mine suggested. im finding it quite to my liking. your review on it also gave me some perspective in advance before buying it.