Glenlivet is seen as the distillery which kick-started legal whisky distillation in the Speyside region. It was the first distillery to be licenced in the parish of Glenlivet when George Smith established it in 1824, with the aim of creating a whisky by which all others could be measured. Smith certainly succeeded in this area, with many distilleries trying to piggy back on his success by using the Glenlivet name on their own bottles. To help protect the brand, George Smith’s son, John Gordon Smith, was granted sole rights to the name in 1884. The name does still continue to crop up on the labels of other distilleries; however, other brands must hyphenate it with their own name.
Today, the distillery has a capacity of 5.8 million litres per annum and has come to define the Speyside style of whisky. Its size has allowed it to assume the position of the world’s second-best selling single malt, as well as being the top seller in the US. So as the daddy of them all, it’s only right that the distillery should return to its roots with the special edition Nàdurra.
Chivas Regal brand ambassador Rachel Macdonald introduced me to the Nàdurra during a tutored tasting in Edinburgh, describing it as the true and authentic expression of the founder’s vision. From the Gaelic for natural, Nàdurra is The Glenlivet stripped back – matured in first fill American oak casks, non-chill filtered and bottling at cask strength. This is whisky in its most natural state, with nothing added (i.e. caramel!) and nothing taken away.
As the whisky hasn’t been chill filtered, it has a much richer texture and mouth feel, although expect it to go cloudy if you add water or ice, due to the oils which remain. And sitting at 55.3%, it could do with a couple of splashes of water. The nose swings from fresh floral flavours to intense toasted oak. This contrast continues on the palate, with soft fruits and honey sitting alongside strong vanilla notes; a result of the first-fill ex-bourbon casks used during maturation. The finish is dry and oaky, with the cask-strength ABV stretching it out.
This is a dangerously drinkable whisky at cask strength, but if that’s the way that Mother Nature intended it to be, then who am I to argue with her.