The Glenlivet Cipher

A Tasty Dram Whisky Blog tasting notes

A few weeks ago I was a guest at a small scale event from The Glenlivet. The concept was minimal and pure. Almost comparable to their latest feat: The Glenlivet Cipher single malt.

It is all about - don’t look too far - deciphering. They named the whisky The Glenlivet Cipher for a reason. You start out with very little information. No tasting notes, no age statement, no cask details. Only the strict legal minimum. Apart from Alan Winchester and perhaps one or two lucky few, even the people from Glenlivet are kept in the dark about the exact recipe.

No age statement, no offical tasting notes, not cask information. Nothing, nada, niks... It's up to you to decipher the whisky...

It’s all up to you to try and describe the flavours in the glass. By means of an interactive micro site you can try to solve the code in almost genuine Alan Turing style. Master Distiller Alan Winchester guides you through the videos (and might even give you a cryptic hint). Once your nose and mouth have done the job, you can try to decipher the code. With two flavour wheels one can try to pinpoint the flavours and aroma’s one has savoured. At the end you are given a total score indicating how close you came to the official tasting notes.

The score at our table was 55% with me scoring just a bit lower (my best shot was 54%). Once you start tasting blind, you better make sure that nose your nose and mouth are in top shape to detect and describe the flavours. Lesson learned: you mind wants to play tricks on you…

Belgium is one of the final countries in the marketing efforts from Glenlivet. From now on Alan Winchester and his companions can start giving out small hints and tasting notes on the single malt.

Identity Card The Glenlivet Cipher

  • The Glenlivet Cipher
  • The Glenlivet Distillery, Ballindalloch(Speyside)
  • Alcohol: 48% ABV
  • 150 bottles for Belgium, 33.000 bottles worldwide
Colour: Dark gold. It looks like they left out the e150 colouring. Always a good sign. And the chill filtration (meaning the whisky gets hazy when water is added.) Thin and fast legs leave a slightly oily coating on the glass.

Nose: The Glenlivet has been known for creating accessible single malts and Cipher is no different. A very soft and sweet nose. I'm thinking wine gums and liquorice. And two classic Glenlivet flavours: pear and vanilla. Fruity with a touch of spiciness. A hodgepodge of butter, banana and apricots. Through all these flavours, a large amount of malt persists on the nose.

Taste: creamy and soft in the mouth. A spicy honey cake. Pear, cinnamon and fudge or caramel toffee. Ginger chocolate, pineapple and golden syrup.

This is only the first official Glenlivet I've tasted (Note to self: crack open that Founder's Reserve and compare it with a sample of this whisky.) The story around the whisky has been cleverly crafted, although being it slightly gimmicky. The interactive website adds up to the mystery and the experience. As far as I'm able to detect, I'd say The Glenlivet is mostly a vatting of first-fill bourbon casks and an occasional virgin oak cask. But I'm totally guessing here.

It's a solid whisky reminding you that flavours and aromas are very personal. My vanilla can be your cupcake... I'm still curious to see the complete picture created by the marketing people (and Alan Winchester) once everything has been revealed.

Thanks to the people from Famous Relations and Pernod Ricard for giving me the opportunity to come and taste The Glenlivet Cipher. Since it’s absolutely no use lying to one’s self, opinions expressed in this review are of course my own honest opinion.