In early 2015 whisky blogger and malt maniac Oliver Klimek set out to do a wide-scale comparison between NAS and age statement expressions, all done blind and with 35 tasters per pair of whisky. The results are very interesting with a near-draw between the entry-level malts and their NAS counterparts. Head over to his site dramming.com for all details on the challenge and the results!
Here are my original tasting notes on the thirdd pair of whiskies: The Glenlivet 12yo vs. their NAS Founder’s Reserve. All notes are original as written during the blind tasting phase.
A3A: Glenlivet 12yo
Bottler: Official Bottling
The nose opens with a delicate, sweet note of vanilla and honey. Summer fruits as well, although subdued. Oranges, sweet pears, red apples, ripe white grapes and a slight spice (ginger?) in the background. The palate is equally light with a pronounced honey sweetness (as sweet as it can be at most likely 40% ABV…). Vanilla is there, yes, and so are the light summer fruits. Apples, apple peel, green pears, hints of peach, a tea-like herbal component, some marzipan and a slightly yeasty touch. The medium long finish has an initial alcoholic burst followed by light summer fruits, diluted honey and also a grassy, yeasty, malty aftertaste.
We’ve had whiskies like that one before in this blind tasting comparison – I’m thinking about the A1 samples here. A light, fruity, summery dram – classic highland style with fruits, honey, vanilla and slight herbs. To be honest, this reminds me strongly of the Glenmorangie 10yo, but that can’t be because the only current NAS whisky from this distillery this could be paired with is the Tùsail and that one would be out of budget…
(Nose: 78 Palate: 77 Finish: 78 )
A3B: Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
Bottler: Official Bottling
Colour: the exact same shade of gold
The nose shares similarities with A3A – a light, refined, delicate nose. The honey is there, the vanilla is also there, but there’s also a darker, richer note. Dark summer garden berries – brambles, strawberries, red gooseberries. Ripe pears, ripe, sweet apples and grapes are there too. Do I detect a bit more oomph in the bottling strength as well? The palate has a bit more oomph as well, definitely more alcohol. Sweeter too – just like on the nose there are more red berries – strawberries, red gooseberries, light brambles on top of the vanilla and honey. A slight hint of cask influence too – finished in red wine or port casks perhaps? It is still light-ish in style, no mistaking for a full-on sherry maturation, therefore some of the lighter fruits are there as well – ripe apples, apple peel, pears and the herbal note reminds me of a Kiwi and Kiwi seeds. The finish feels like it’s masking a younger spirit, but the darker notes balance it out, even giving it a slight edge over sample A3A. The medium long finish is quite a bit more rounded and mellow, not as nippy upon swallowing, dark-ish summer fruits, honey, fructose candy, vanilla and a hint of spices. A very slight yeasty note at the very end, but far less than in A3A.
This noses and tastes like a wine cask finished version of the previous dram with a bit more alcohol. Not as mature, but the finish masks the youthfulness very well and gives it an additional layer of depth and a much improved finish.
(Nose: 80 Palate: 79 Finish: 81)
Well, I stand by my words, or rather tasting notes: Against the judgment of many (the 12yo version won hands-down) I preferred the NAS version of the Glenlivet, which is to replace the 12yo. I did get it right, though, I correctly identified the NAS version as the younger one (which it most likely is). Will I buy a bottle? Probably not for my drinking stock, but maybe for a tasting starter some time.
Now for a fun fact: When I tasted the 12yo Glenlivet, as mentioned above, it strongly reminded me of a whisky I had just recently tasted, the Glenmorangie Original 10yo. I even poured a glass of that one during this blind tasting to do a side by side comparison and they were identical. The really subtle differences there were could be natural batch variation, they were so close. I’ll let you make up your own mind about that…