Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Limousin Cask Finish
WHISKY RIVER REGION
Tucked into the northeast corner of Scotland is the country’s most densely packed whisky- producing region, Speyside. The River Spey, or ‘Whisky River’ as it has come to be known, gives the region its name and runs 107 miles providing fresh, crystal clear water to some 50 or so distilleries. The river is unique in that its flow continues to increase in speed even as it nears the sea. With an average speed of around 36 mph, the River Spey is Scotland’s fastest flowing river.
The whisky regions are laid out by the Scotch Whisky Association and are usually plainly stated on every bottle of single malt Scotch. The region gives us consumers a general sense of what part of Scotland the whisky is from and a vague sense of what we can expect from the spirit. I say vague because you may read ‘Speyside Single Malt Scotch’ on the label and expect a fruity, honeyed dram but get punched in the mouth by a smoky, dry whisky from distillers trying to set themselves apart. For that reason I don’t rely too heavily on region for my decision-making but seeing one of the five regions on the bottle does give me a sense of assurance of quality.
In the 1800s illicit distilling was all the rage in the Livet valley and the Smith family were no stranger to the art. The valley’s remoteness made it a chore for customs officers to come snooping around, which gave distillers plenty of time to hone their craft. Keep in mind that these were farmers who would distill for personal consumption and then sell off whatever they wouldn’t drink themselves. It wasn’t a big business by any stretch.
George Smith, and his father before him, rented a farm from the Duke of Gordon. Knowing that most if not all of his tenants were running illicit distilleries, the Duke figured that it was probably best to collect taxes on this product rather than policing its production so he helped push through the 1823 Excise Act. For unknown reasons, George Smith applied for the very first license to legally distill in Scotland; we can imagine that the Duke’s muscle and leverage had something to do with this. Whatever the reason, The Glenlivet is the country’s first legal distiller of whisky.
WHOSE GLENLIVET IS IT ANYWAY?
News of George Smith’s success spread throughout the valley and well beyond it. By the 1860s the Glenlivet name was being used more as a region than a brand name, a fact that no doubt irked the Smiths who had trademarked the name. In 1881 the Smiths set out to settle this matter once and for all and sued every distillery using the Glenlivet name. In the end they reached a compromise where all others could hyphenate their name with “-Glenlivet” but only the Smiths could call their whisky “The Glenlivet.”
The Glenlivet 15 French Oak Reserve is a chill filtered single malt Scotch from the Speyside region. On the nose this whisky is crisp and sweet with notes of apple, toffee, and a delightful touch of floral. TIP: Give the whisky a moment to rest after pouring before you nose it, you’ll get much more from it. The palate starts a bit tight, giving flavors of oak and vanilla, but adding a couple of drops of water changes everything. The sweetness gets amped up incorporating beautiful brown sugar, cinnamon, and pear.
CIGAR PAIRING: Fonseca by My Father Cigars
This whisky, with its balanced profile of sweet and astringent notes, is extremely flexible for pairings; in fact so is the Fonseca by My Father. The cigar’s creamy and nutty profile complemented by soft earth and pepper provides the perfect base for the French Oak Reserve’s brown sugar and fruit. As the whisky lingers on your palate, every puff of the Fonseca takes on a new slightly sweeter dimension that wasn’t present before, a perfectly harmonious coexistence.