Glenlivet’s Mysterious Spectra Series Earns High Marks

Glenlivet is one of the world’s most popular single malt scotches, due largely to its approachable 40% ABV and its house style, which is defined by light, fruity flavors. But Glenlivet also takes a more adventurous path with its “mystery” limited series, each release challenging tasters by offering no information about the whisky except for its ABV. The series originated in 2013 with Glenlivet Alpha, and was followed by Glenlivet Cipher in 2016, Glenlivet Code in 2018, and then Glenlivet Enigma, which won the No. 8 spot on our Top 20 Whiskies of the Year in 2019.

In May 2020 came Glenlivet Spectra, a three-pack of 200-ml bottles. Our tasting panel continued to be impressed, scoring the three “mystery” whiskies between 92 and 93 points. Each expression aims to explore the spectrum of flavors that single malt scotch can achieve. While the bottle sizes are small, they contain enough to taste a few times and share with a friend. Read Whisky Advocate’s tasting notes below—or look behind the curtain as Glenlivet has since unveiled the details of Spectra with notes of their own.

Glenlivet Spectra Series Tasting Notes

Glenlivet Spectra (Bottle 1)
93 points, 40%, $120/3 200-ml bottles

Sherry and American oak-matured Spectra 01 offers notes of hay, lemon zest, mint, pineapple, and melon. The palate reveals darker fruit notes as well as baking spice, chocolate-chip cookies, and tiramisu, leading to a creamy finish of honeyed pastries and angel-food cake. —David Fleming

Glenlivet Spectra (Bottle 2)
92 points, 40%, $120/3 200-ml bottles

The second Spectra expression in the trio was finished in peated casks. Fragrant whiffs of woodsmoke, fresh meadow, and pleasant waxiness, then lemon cake, ripe mango, green apple slices, green grapes, and manuka honey. It’s delicate and only lightly smoked, with layers of blackberry jam, chocolate, blueberry pie, vanilla cream, poppy seeds, and baking spice. A gentle finish of lemon, green apple, and vanilla. Engaging, with intriguingly subtle peat. —David Fleming

Glenlivet Spectra (Bottle 3)
92 points, 40%, $120/3 200-ml bottles

Bottle 3 of the Spectra series was finished in double-charred casks. Light notes of lemon sorbet, fresh pineapple, and strawberry shortcake on the nose, set against gentle oak. A honeyed palate has soft flavors of apple tart, cooked pears, dark chocolate, baking spice, and back notes of black currant. Superbly balanced, lightly spiced, with hints of green banana and lemon peel. A smooth, delicate finish offers honeysuckle, melon, vanilla wafers, almond, and lemon cake. —David Fleming

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