The Glenlivet 12 Year Old Illicit Still is a limited-edition single-malt scotch whisky that kicks off the brand’s “Original Stories” range. The expression draws its inspiration from The Glenlivet founder, George Smith, who illegally distilled whisky in hand-crafted, small copper stills in a hidden away structure in the remote Glenlivet valley in the 1800s. It was there that Smith learned his craft, eventually distilling what would become one of the most popular single-malts in the world.
The whisky is non-chill filtered and bottled at 48% ABV, both nods to how whisky was made at that time. Even the packaging plays up the heritage. The label design is inspired by the oldest bottle in the brand’s archives and features copper highlights that represent the old stills used to produce the whisky in the 1800s. It looks good on a shelf, but I’m more interested in what’s inside.
The Glenlivet Illicit Still bursts with fresh fruit and florals on the nose—both traits are representative of The Glenlivet’s house style, but here they are dialed up to 11. Citrus, pineapple, green apple and pears lead the way, accented by notes of sweet honey, vanilla, caramel and custard. On the palate, the fruit turns richer, with syrupy poached pears and cooked pineapple. Sweet almond—let’s call it marzipan—flits in and out, providing a delightful diversion from the fruit and oak. The whisky finishes long and warm, and the sweetness is tempered by dry oak spices.
I wasn’t around in the 1800s, so it’s hard to know how closely The Glenlivet Illicit Still hews to whiskies of yore. But regardless of era, this dram is just plain good and eminently quaffable. The proof and lack of chill filtration intensifies the aromas and flavors, but the whisky never feels out of balance.
— 48% ABV