Glenlivet 12 Double Oak – Blue Lake

GLENLIVET 12 Double Oak – BLUE LAKE

The Whisky: Glenlivet 12 Double Oak

Country of Origin: Scotland (Speyside)

The Location: Blue Lake, Kosciuszko National Park

For the most part Australia is a flat, arid country fringed by greenery towards the coastlines. But in a few places the hills reach an altitude capable of attaining snow and it’s to one of these regions, the Kosciuszko National Park, that we’re headed for our first serious adventure away from home this year.

Named after Australia’s highest mountain – which in turn is named after a Polish-Lithuanian freedom fighter (General Tadeusz Kosciuszko) – Kosciuszko National Park is home to a rolling mountain range of peaks that just surpass 2000m. In winter it becomes a snowy playground and has several ski resorts to cater to the masses – and an expanse of backcountry for the more adventurous. It’s into this ‘backcountry’ that K and I are headed, for a few days of roaming the snowy hills in search of some climbable ice. Australia has very few locations where climbable water ice reliably forms, but Blue Lake, close to Mt Kosciuszko is one of the more consistent locations.

Early one winter morning we leave the car in the overnight parking at the base of Guthega ski resort, step into our snowshoes, heft our packs and start out into the icy wilderness.

It’s perfect weather – blue skies, low wind. The snow cover isn’t great, even by Australian standards, but it’s hard packed and covering the undergrowth, giving us a solid, level surface perfect for snowshoeing.

We cross a couple of small bridges and pass the iconic Illawong hut, gradually ascending a ridgeline leading toward Mt Twynam. After a few hours we reach an ideal campsite tucked into some trees in one of the higher treelines. Sheltered from the wind and level it’s also positioned to capture the early morning sun. We set about making camp before spending the rest of the afternoon exploring parts of the area we haven’t visited before. As darkness descends we head back to camp and our cozy tent.

The next morning see us up early, striking out towards a wide saddle that separates Mt Twynam from the smaller peak of Little Twynam. Over the saddle lies Blue Lake, our destination, via a steep, snowy couloir. We descend, keeping an eye out for skiers dropping in from above us and watching for any sign of potential avalanche risk. Partway down I remove my snowshoes while K swaps hers for crampons and we plunge step our way down to the frozen lake.

Blue Lake is one of only a handful of cirque lakes on the Australian mainland. The other three (Cootapatamba, Albina, and Club) are located nearby, scattered across the Main Range only a few kilometers from Blue Lake. Blue Lake is fringed by hard granite cliffs, eroded by ancient glacial movement and is a testament to how much this landscape has changed over time. The gullies and clifflines are striking against the rounded topography of the surrounding hills and are mostly hidden from view until you enter the basin itself. This isn’t the first time whiskyography has visited Blue Lake – we also walked past in warmer months when we reviewed the Nikka Miyagikyo NA.

The north-western to north-eastern walls provide almost day long shade in the colder months, helping to form and maintain ice flows that attract the adventurous to scale the heights with ice axes and crampons.

When we arrive we see that other climbers have beaten us there, but it’s still mostly empty, the long walk in deterring all but the most committed. The alpine cirque offers a variety of alpine conditions and it’s almost as fun to watch others ascend the ice flows, gullies and couloirs as it is to climb on them ourselves. We find a few patches of ice to play on and relish the opportunity to sink the axes into solid ice.

The scenery is epic, with glistening white snow and soaring ice clad cliffs meeting a pure azure sky. It’s an incredible, otherwordly place to spend the day and it’s inspiring to watch the other climbers enjoying the conditions. The other groups are competent and friendly and everyone is deeply respectful of the special place that has brought us together.

After a while we being to tire and it’s time to find a comfy place for lunch – and a whisky.

Today I’ve brought a small bottle of Glenlivet 12 Double Oak – yet another whisky claiming that it’s double…. something. In this case it’s to do with the maturation in both European and American oak.

As far as I can tell this is the same, or very close to, what was previously the Glenlivet 12 (with no reference to oak). To me it tastes the same as I remember the 12 tasting – speyside fruit with vanilla and oak.

Glenlivet is a Speyside distillery and the 12 has been a popular flagship product for the brand for many years.

The nose is oakey, lightly spiced baked pears (the spices are vanilla, cloves, nutmeg and a little powdered ginger). I get some dried banana too and it’s a bit floral. There is only the barest hint of the supposed smoke – if I didn’t know it was in there I think I’d have missed it.

Being only 40% abv the mouthfeel is thin but not as much as expected. The flavor profile on the palate matches the nose closely although the oak is more muted and the sweetness is tinged with honey. The flavors are strong enough, making it across the palate and they are reasonably well defined with some fruitiness, creaminess and a clean oak note. The ginger is still there too. There’s more heat than expected for the 40% abv and it gets into the chest, although it’s fairly mild. There’s no sharpness though and no unpleasant flavors.

It finishes short with a little sweetness and slightly fruity oak. There’s really not much more to say.

What does it remind me of:

Glenfiddich 12 – another ‘mainstream’, high volume production Speyside single malt with a 40% abv that has prominent vanilla and oak notes.

What do I think?

It’s good and I think it’s a good value, easily available single malt that will appeal to a wide range of drinkers. While it lacks anything particularly intriguing or exciting for the seasoned whisky lover it does deliver a benchmark single malt experience without any major flaws. I think this is aimed at whisky drinkers stepping up from cheaper single malts or popular blends and it’s perfect for those drinkers. It’ll also appeal to those wanting a quality, but more affordable age statement single malt, especially one with a recognisable brand name. But it’s also good for those who want an easy drinking single malt that doesn’t put up a fight. The low abv lends this softness and while it compares unfavorably (for many of us) against a higher abv whisky with more flavor it’ll satisfy drinkers who want to stay as far away from cask strength as possible. For such a low abv (the absolute minimum really) it still has a good level of flavor and feels complete. It’s fine neat but starts to fall apart with ice, losing flavor quickly and it soon becomes too watery to be enjoyable. It makes a tasty highball but barely has the presence to carry this off.

Personally I think the Glenfiddich 12 has more going on and more flavor – making it a bit better for a newer whisky drinker to explore the flavor profile, but the Glenlivet 12 Double Oak is still a fine, mild Speyside that competes solidly with other whiskies in its price bracket (and several beyond it).

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