The Glenlivet 12 Year

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Class:  Speyside Single Malt Scotch


Reviewer:  Andrew Owen

The Glenlivet 12 Year is a single malt that needs no introduction.  If you have heard of 1 or 2 single malts in your entire life, chances are this is one of them.  You can find it in every grocery store and gas station, and you can buy it by the liter for less than $40.  Quite simply put, this is about as widely distributed of a single malt whisky as there is.  For many whisky drinkers, it serves as a cautious tip toe into the ocean of scotch - a trepidatious first sip of the stuff you watched your grandpa drink when you were a child, or of the bargain brand of the stuff your geeky scotch friends drink. Or, its the stuff that you, the knowledgeable and sophisticated scotch drinker sticks up your nose at.  It's the mass-produced, no-attention-to-craft-quality stuff that "those uneducated folks" dump over ice or in their seltzer or flaunt so that you know they have a scotch in their cabinet too.

Well, lets actually give this malt a chance - as a simple enthusiast who drinks whisky neat and looks to have an enjoyable experience with just an ounce or two at a time.  Does this malt have anything to offer?  I intend to find out.

First, since this is my first Glenlivet post, I've got to give you some accessory details.  The Glenlivet is one of the biggest distilleries in Scotland and uses 14 (!!) pot stills to produce a tremendous volume of whisky.  It was founded in 1824 by George Jones, and has produced whisky continuously since then, except for a brief stint during World War II.  Since the war, The Glenlivet has burgeoned in popularity, and the 12 Year is currently the number 2 highest selling single malt whisky in the world behind Glenfiddich 12.  The Glenlivet is currently owned by French industry giant Pernod Ricard.

As you can guess by its appeal to the masses, The Glenlivet distills and bottles it's whisky to be as inoffensive as possible.  It sources its malt completely unpeated and uses lantern shaped stills with very long necks to produce a lighter and fruitier spirit.  The Glenlivet then ages its spirit in a small city of dunnage style warehouses on site using both American and European Oak casks.  The 12 Year is the introductory whisky in a wide core range of bottlings, which include many age stated and a few NAS releases.


  • Aged in 2nd and 3rd fill ex-bourbon casks
  • Most definitely chill filtered, and very likely enhanced with artificial coloring.
  • Bottled at the legal minimum 40% ABV.

Nose: Strong initial notes of bright green apple and vanilla cream/marzipan.  Next up is a white wine note – like green grapes. Some non-astringent oak and some floral notes linger in the background. Very fresh, light, and fruity. Its really a pretty enticing aroma.

Palate: Grain forward. Soft barley and semisweet vanilla cream greet the palate upon entry, alongside blanched almonds and green apple skins. Slightly bitter. There are faint hints of some underlying oak and golden raisins. The body is a bit thin, but surprisingly soft and silky.

Finish: Toasted oak and green grape skins. Tart and slightly sour. Medium length.

Score:  69/100

Buying Recommendation:  Worth buying a pour.  Lets clear the air:  despite the stigma surrounding The Glenlivet 12, this is a perfectly drinkable pour.  Sure, its fairly thin and anything but complex.  But its fruity and inoffensive, which is a win for a $30 scotch.  Where selection is limited, I'd be fine getting a pour of this.  I'd also be fine keeping this in the cabinet to serve to guests or drink on the nights where I want to do as absolutely little thinking as possible.

The Rating Scale

At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:

1-49: Varying degrees of bad

55: Average

60-69: Better than average

70-79: solid/good

80-89: excellent

90+: truly exceptional

All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.


All Time Favorite Whisky: Balblair 1990 2nd Edition

Daily Drinkers: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Springbank 10 Year

A former craft beer enthusiast, Andrew fell in love with whiskey after tasting a pour of Laphroaig 10 year and being amazed that such a flavor could exist within a liquid. With a college background in biochemistry and a passion for history, Andrew quickly grew to love the science of whiskey making, the history of different distilleries, and the exploration of flavors within a dram. To Andrew, whiskey is more than just a drink; it is a fascinating mix of art and science – an intricate beauty to be pondered and appreciated. Besides this, Andrew has found that a nice bottle of whiskey has an amazing ability to bring people together and unite people from all different backgrounds together as friends.

While Andrew can be found drinking any style of whiskey from any region around the world, he has a particular affinity for spice-laden bourbons and coastal scotches. Besides drinking whiskey, Andrew also enjoys weight lifting, road biking, and cooking.

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