Friday, June 7, 2013

Booze Dark Thirty - A Glenlivet Alpha Tasting

This week I was invited for an exclusive tasting of Glenlivet Alpha - a new release from the Glenlivet portfolio with only 3,500 bottles available worldwide.  Alpha is a unique expression - it does not have any information about how long the whiskey has been aged, and is bottled in a black mysterious bottle with handsome and minimal branding.  

Glenlivet Alpha
This evening's tasting was to be served in complete darkness - just like the bottle itself.  The theory being that once one of our senses was deprived it would heighten our senses of smell and taste, thereby making the experience of the whiskey that much greater.

We were assigned a waiter for the evening, one waiter for every two guests.  Our waiter led us down stairs, and behind the black out curtains, into complete darkness.  He was lucky enough to have on a pair of infrared goggles, so he led us  to our seats and was in charge of getting this precious whiskey into our mouths and not on the floor.

The Tasting Room - Gorgeous Ambiance
The tasting was led by Glenlivet ambassador Craid Bridger who led us first through a nosing and then a tasting.  We were first to smell the whiskey (what torture, we say) - sweet and fruity on the nose, with hints of toffee and baking spices.  We then were given three different flavors to nose that are found in the flavor profile of the Alpha: Cinnamon, Freshly Baked Oatmeal Cookies, and Vanilla Extract.  We then nosed our precious Alpha again, now able to smell these flavor notes much more distinctly.

Nosing - Photo Courtesy of Glenlivet
Alpha is 50% ABV, or 100-proof, and not for the faint of heart.  Alpha is aged in first fill Scotch conditioned casks, which is rare in the scotch world, since scotch typically is aged in bourbon or sherry conditioned barrels.  It is the rarity of these first fill scotch casks that makes Alpha so exclusive, and it gives the Alpha its bright color, and vibrant fruity flavors.

Be-Goggled Waiters - Photo Courtesy of Glenlivet
Onto the tasting - we were allowed one small sip of our Alpha ambrosia, and then told to put it down.  I refused to put it down so quickly, and was scolded by my waiter.  But I am a whiskey lover, I proclaimed.  It fell upon deaf ears.  We then were given three nibbles for their flavor notes: toasted almonds, fresh pineapple, and a tiny banana cream pie.

We then tasted the Alpha again, now able to taste the bright fruit flavors, the rich flavors of creamy crème brûlée, and the baritone of the marzipan almond.  I also tasted flavors of pear predominantly, date, plum, and a hint of salty butter.  It's a wildly complex whiskey - every smell and every taste reveals different flavors in a wonka-like magical way.

We were then led back upstairs, our eyes adjusting to the light.  Stumbling around a bit, we were led to a back room where more Alpha was being served (thank goodness!) and we were able to enjoy a few drams.

With only 3,500 bottles produced, it was a privilege to be able to be one of the first to taste it here in the US.  This bottle is bound to be a collectors item - a unique and covetable expression that is well worth the investment.


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