The Glenlivet Finished Its Latest Single Malt Scotch In Bourbon And Rum Casks

The Glenlivet’s Rum and Bourbon Fusion Cask Selection seeks to elevate fine whisky with unexpected flavors.

(The Glenlivet)

The way Scotch whisky meets and interacts with wood barrels is a time-honored tradition stretching back centuries, but as it turns out, there’s innovation to be found everywhere. Case in point: The Glenlivet’s new Rum and Bourbon Fusion Cask Selection, which takes the traditional barrel and turns it inside out, so to speak.

The Glenlivet Fusion Cask breaks new ground by using bespoke casks incorporating wood from both first-fill rum and bourbon barrels. The twist? Rather than moving from one barrel to another, the casks boast both wood varieties at once in a selective finishing process.

(The Glenlivet)

The labor-intensive undertaking saw The Glenlivet’s expert coopers dismantle and reassemble casks in a quest to elevate The Glenlivet’s fruit-forward character in distinct fashion.

More specifically, The Glenlivet swapped the heads of each cask, with one cask featuring the body of rum staves and the heads of a bourbon cask, for example, and another cask featuring the opposite build.

(The Glenlivet)

The process delivered the balance, flavor and interaction the Scotch maker was searching for throughout, said Kevin Balmforth, The Glenlivet’s cask expert, during an exclusive tasting last month at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

“We do a lot of experimentation, we’re very big on that. There was a little bit of unknown, how it was going to react,” Balmforth said. “You get amazing flavor when it’s maturing in the same cask… rather than just doing it separately. We try all these things out — this one worked out quite well.”

(The Glenlivet)

The difference is noticeable in distinct ways, all the while retaining The Glenlivet’s signature style, Balmforth said. Compared to, say, a flagship offering like The Glenlivet 12, the new Fusion Cask features more tropical notes of pineapple and poached pears, for instance.

“We never want to overpower. We could make the rum flavor really strong if we wanted to, but … we wanted complexity, balance and additional layers of flavor. We don’t do one-dimensional flavor,” Balmforth added.

(The Glenlivet)

As to those flavors, the Scotch is a vibrant, bright and rich one on the palate, with peach and even cinnamon spice giving way to an orange-tinged finish.

The best of both worlds in terms of rum and Scotch seems an apt comparison, and the Scotch is a premium yet accessible offering with an MSRP of $99.99.

(The Glenlivet)

The innovation is a first in the Scotch category, and Balmforth noted there’s a balance to be struck, while at the same time staying true to form.

“It’s a very flavor-led innovation,” Balmforth said. “It gives us flexibility. It’s all about how those flavors combine.”

Already, The Glenlivet has future cask innovations in the works, but Balmforth noted there’s nuance to the process, as the whisky maker needs to work within casks of the same size. Within those limitations, there’s still plenty possible.

“We’re well down the route coming out with some new fusion casks,” he said. “I think people want something a little bit different.”