The Glenlivet Code is another bottling from the Scotch whisky superstar released without any cask information or tasting notes. MoM travelled to the launch night at Black Rock Bar in London to see if we could help decipher this dastardly dram.

Tinker, Alpha, Cipher, Code

They’ve only gone and done it again. This is not the first time the legendary Glenlivet distillery has released a mysterious single malt Scotch whisky, as those who remember the the intriguing Alpha and Cipher expressions can attest. The Glenlivet Code is the third instalment in a series that simply places an opaque black bottle before the industry and general public and invites them to see if they have what it takes to ‘unlock the spirit’.

The idea behind the project is that the total lack of information will allow a drinker to experience the whisky without any potential preconceived notions about its flavour and character. You can’t simply look at the cask information, or the colour, to fill in the gaps. All we know about the mysterious bottling is that it was created using malted barley and it was made at the Speyside distillery.

The quiz before the code

Keeping the code theme in mind, The Glenlivet decided that the launch night should entail a series of tests to see if various leading lights from the world of whisky, and myself (wait, what?), could ‘crack the code’, so to speak. In attendance was Glenlivet master distiller Alan Winchester, who gave a welcome speech which assured us all that this was not simply a way for his team not to do any work. It also wasn’t too far away from the promotional video above, released earlier that day and featuring Winchester, which has some serious James Bond villain vibes.

He then set out the task that lay before us. We would begin with an eight-question quiz, which was conducted in a very modern style. All the questions were sent out via the @TheGlenlivet Twitter handle at 4.30pm. The designated Team Captain would then respond directly to the tweet with the answer using the hashtag #TheGlenlivetCode to signify their effort. Several ‘Team Guardians’ were nominated from the Glenlivet team present and were able to confirm and verify correct answers.

An extra dynamic was added to proceedings because the distillery had enlisted the help of remote industry types, like Robin from World Whisky Day, Anne-Sophie Bigot from The Whisky Lady and Great Drams’ Greg Dillon. While they were not in attendance, each team could consult them over Twitter, at which point they could very much take part and play The Imitation Game to my dashing Da Vinci Tom Hanks (stop laughing).

Universally challenged

Glenlivet CodeDiscussion is rife regarding The Glenlivet Code
Of course, I wasn’t alone. On my team were Melita Kiely (our captain) and Matt Evans of The Spirit Business and fame respectively. The purpose of the quiz was to decide who would have prime access to the new bottling. Whoever answered all eight questions could lift the black cloth, unveil the hidden bottle and open The Glenlivet Code tasting kits. The winner would be allowed to taste the spirit first and thus have the longest time to decipher the dram, so there was everything to play for.

We ambled through a round of questions so obscure and difficult Jeremy Paxman couldn’t even manage to be smug about them. Kiely and Evans came up with more answers than the back of a crossword book, and our remote digital team was in much the same form. Once we found out our scores (my team came second, which is where we wanted to come anyway), we arrived at the business end of proceedings: the tasting. Through the dimmed lights and air of anticipation came The Glenlivet Code tasting kit, and it’s really quite something.

The Glenlivet Code revealed

Glenlivet CodeThe Glenlivet Code and briefcase
The kit is essentially the briefcase a Bond villain would house nuclear weapons in, continuing the theme from Winchester’s message prior to the event. But the case is not of interest to us; it’s what’s inside that counts: a miniature of the bottling, a rather stylish opaque black tasting glass (so we couldn’t be influenced by the whisky’s colour), a set of keys (unlock the code!), and a tasting wheel.

The latter was filled with different suggestions of aromas and flavours, from which we could only choose four aromas and four flavours from thousands of possible combinations. Each taste or aroma also had to be rated for its potency, on a scale ranging from mild to intense.

I gave the tasting my best shot and tried to crack the code, but I didn’t fare much better than the quiz round in all honesty. But that’s fine, because I’m completely over it and don’t even really care, so I’m not sure why you brought it up. In spite of this, I have written a tasting note, which you can see below.

Glenlivet CodeThe Glenlivet Code
Tasting Note for The Glenlivet Code

Overall: From ??? to !!!

Allow me to explain because there’s a reason why I’ve deliberately left it vague.

Cracking The Glenlivet Code

Glenlivet CodeThink you’ve got what it takes to crack The Glenlivet Code?
The whole experience of cracking this particular labyrinth of flavours is not just for those ‘in the industry’. Everyone is encouraged to join in, taking inspiration from famous British codebreakers, testing their knowledge and understanding of single malt whisky and retaining a community spirit through the interactive digital experience provided.

Scan the code on the back of each bottle of The Glenlivet Code using the Shazam app and you will enter a virtual underground room. Here, you’ll be greeted by a hologram of Alan Winchester, who will set the challenge to decode the taste of the liquid using the same process we did at the launch event.

Participants will be scored on their efforts, and you can even post the results on social media to see how you rank against your competitors. The Glenlivet won’t release official tasting notes until the end of the year to give enthusiasts enough time to discover and enjoy the liquid themselves.

Give The Glenlivet Code a shot

Glenlivet CodeMaster distiller Alan Winchester invites you try your best
My professional pride aside, it has to be said that this is a genuinely fun way to experience a tasting and one that I would recommend. The process wasn’t reduced to egos and competition; in fact, the team aspect gave the whole evening a welcome sense of community. People discussed ideas, got their geek on, experienced a new spirit and did all of the above in smashing company.

So, The Glenlivet invites you to try it yourself. The Glenlivet Code has launched globally across 28 markets, and you can buy it here, stock permitting.

Update: Bottles are winging their way to MoM Towers, so keep an eye out!