Whisky Mystery – The Glenlivet Cipher
If you read about whisky anywhere close to half as much as you drink it, you’ll have noticed not one but several brouhahas recently. A notable one is the rise of ‘non-age statement single malts’: i.e. non-blended whiskies that eschew the tradition of specifying a year, instead choosing to name their expressions after monosyllabic natural occurrences, elements or favourite Bond villains.
Okay, maybe not the last one (yet). But without wading into a lake of opinion, my general point is there is good reason to approach ‘NAS single malts’ with caution. Happily less caution is needed when approaching The Glenlivet Cipher, as even if sceptical of lack of clarity, gimmicks, or sexy black bottles for that matter, it is hard to deny that it is an extremely tasty, well-balanced and complex dram.
The ‘gimmick’ – if you care to call it that – is the lack of clarity itself. The information given on the bottle of Cipher is the bare legal minimum, and the information provided otherwise is as opaque as the bottle it comes in. Instead one is led to the website, where the amicable creator Alan Winchester talks the taster through a short, enigmatic game offering encouragement to pick up key flavours and notes, in hope that one will come close to Alan’s personal tasting notes, thereby ‘unlocking’ the mystery and coming closer to the greatness of the master distiller himself.
Clearly the game wasn’t working properly. I didn’t quite score a cipher, but neither did I score very highly, and so I shall leave my exact score as mysterious as the liquid itself. As I will my personal tasting notes, because that surely will take the fun out of it when you get around to buying one of the 33,000 limited edition bottles.
One might be cynical about the concept, but I’d suggest rather than scowling into your whisky try lightening up and playing along. I found myself taking much more time tasting the liquid than usual, and any ‘gimmick’ that encourages one to think a bit more about what you are tasting cannot be a bad thing… especially this.
The Glenlivet Cipher is part of the Chivas Brothers portfolio of malt whiskies. www.theglenlivet.com.