Glenlivet’s spirited new single malt

The distillery’s Captain’s Reserve whisky has a “first fill” in former sherry casks and is finished in second casks once containing cognac

The Glenlivet single-malt Captain’s Reserve, from £45 for 70cl
The Glenlivet single-malt Captain’s Reserve, from £45 for 70cl

If you're a whisky lover who is of the belief that the original is always the best, you probably won't need much of an excuse to seek out the latest offering from The Glenlivet, the Scottish distillery established by George Smith in 1824 that became the first of its kind in the Speyside parish – an area that has since become home to more than 50 other distilleries. The new expression from The Glenlivet is a single malt of unspecified age called “Captain’s Reserve” (from £45 for 70cl) that’s named after Captain William Smith Grant, the great-grandson of Glenlivet’s founder.

Aside from the regal (and festive) purple packaging in which the Captain’s Reserve arrives, its most intriguing feature is that after maturing in American oak and former sherry casks, it is selectively finished in casks that originally held cognac. For me, tasting a whisky created in this way is a new experience – and one that has proved intriguing, to say the least.

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According to the distillers, the idea behind using cognac casks is not only to impart a distinct colour to the whisky (which is actually paler than I expected), but to imbue it with a raisin-rich flavour that doesn’t truly open out until the “finish”, before which there’s plenty of honey and spice to warm the cockles on a winter’s night – and a fair bit of fruit to keep things lively.

What I most appreciated about the “Captain’s Reserve”, however, was its remarkable smoothness. Something I feel the urge to remind myself of right now...

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