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The Glenlivet is one of the most popular scotch whisky brands in the world, producing a range of single malts that run the gamut from classic age statements to special innovations. The latest from the distillery falls into the latter category, a non-age statement whisky called the Glenlivet Rum and Bourbon Fusion Cask that is finished in reassembled barrels. We got an early taste, and it’s a good whisky.
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There are a couple of points to clarify here, none of which takes away from this single malt’s unique character. Just a portion of the whisky in the blend is finished in these special casks, not the entirety of the liquid. And the casks were created by interchanging heads—putting rum barrel heads on bourbon barrels, and bourbon barrel heads on rum barrels—as opposed to building new casks using both types of staves. Still, the effects are pronounced and the whisky is quite good, with a strong honey flavor on the nose that follows onto the palate, along with notes of brown sugar, tropical fruit, vanilla, espresso, and spice.
We spoke to Glenlivet cask expert Kevin Balmforth, and he said that this innovation is a first for the category. “You’ve got a first-fill rum cask, a first-fill bourbon cask, and you’ve deconstructed them to create new casks,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of experiments prior to this with fusion casks, mixing up staves, etc. We have to figure out what the right ratio is to create the flavor. We have a huge amount of experience in finishing whisky, and we never want it to be overpowering. If it doesn’t work, we don’t release it, but this was one of our successes.” He pointed out that they could have matured separate whiskies in rum and bourbon barrels and blended them together, but it wouldn’t have yielded the same flavor. “You have to be careful with rum,” he said. “You can start to lose the scotch whisky character. That’s why this works—you get the right balance and ratio.” He won’t reveal how long the whisky was finished in these casks, just that it was “significant.”
The Glenlivet Rum and Bourbon Fusion Cask is available to purchase now, along with the rest of the distillery’s lineup, from websites like ReserveBar.
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