Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. Yamazaki 12

People often ask me what I think about one whisky or another. Far be it for me to deprive the world of my opinion, I often comply with these requests. Comparing and contrasting one whisky versus another aids in these discussions. Many of these conversations find their genesis in the person’s desire to choose their next bottle carefully. Giving a reference point facilitates the decision-making process. Most of these discussions revolve around Scotch but I like to point out that Japanese whisky is a worthy contender. This brings me to today’s Showdown! The popular Glenlivet 12 goes up against a strong contender, the Yamazaki 12.

I added but a few drops of water prior to tasting the two whiskies bottled at 40% abv for the Glenlivet and 43% for the Yamazaki.

In appearance, one is challenged to tell them apart. Nearly identical in colour and consistency, the two can most likely only be told apart at the point of pouring.

The nose on the Glenlivet is soft and smooth against a slightly stronger Yamazaki. Side by side, I would say the biggest difference between the two is that the Glenlivet is more lemony while the Yamazaki is stronger on caramel.

The palate on the Glenlivet is soft and silky while the Yamazaki is spicy and bold. The Glenlivets fruits and honey and softer than the similar notes on the Yamazaki. The Yamazaki proves to be richer on the palate.

The finish on the Glenlivet is again smooth and silky and contrasts with the Yamazaki, whose spice and bold flavour continue into a long and satisfying conclusion. Honey and melon continue long after consuming the Yamazaki and transform into sweet spice.

Overall, the Yamazaki delivers a bolder, richer, more complex and more intense experience than the Glenlivet. The Glenlivet is still a nice whisky and versatile as a whisky for all occasions, but the Yamazaki is the clear winner for the traists menitoned above. If you can find it, the Yamazaki is a bit more expensive that the Glenlivet. However, the quality of the product merits its price point. I believe I picked up my bottle for about $65 at the SAQ in Quebec. I have not seen it in Ontario or New Hampshire recently. The Glenlivet 12 is commonly found at any store that sells fine spirits.


Crown Royal

My long awaited first entry for a Canadian whisky is a popular brand and Canadian classic. I speak, of course, of Crown Royal.

Canadian whiskies are almost all blended and Crown Royal exemplifies the spirit of Canadian distillers in its use of a varied mash bill. Crown Royal was created by Montreal’s own Sam Bronfman, of the famous Bronfman family. Sam Bronfman made his vast fortune by bootlegging alcohol to the United States during the prohibition and turned out some interesting, if not fine, whiskies in the process. He acquired Seagram’s in 1928 and turned the company into the biggest liquor company in the world. In 1939, to commemorate King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Sam Bronfman created Crown Royal. The distinct bottle was sold in a purple velvet bag, making it one of the most distinct bottles on the shelf and resulting in a successful marketing campaign. Crown Royal sold extremely well as a result and continues to be a volume leader in the United States. The whisky is now produced in Manitoba. By the mid-90s, Edgar Bronfman Jr., through a series of inept and ill conceived maneuvers, began to engineer the fall of the mighty Seagram’s empire, leading to the eventual selling for spare parts of the company. The mighty Seagram’s empire, globally headquartered in Montreal, was weakened significantly by Edgar’s desire to move the company into entertainment. Edgar’s purchase of the Universal family of companies, including the theme parks, was the beginning of the end and resulted in the loss of a huge part of the Bronfman family fortune. This also represented a loss of a Montreal institution and I believe the Seagram’s head office building in downtown Montreal was recently acquired by McGill University. The building bearing Sam Bronfman’s name also houses McGill’s business school.

Now to the tasting. Note that a little water was added prior to the tasting. This is a 40% abv whisky and I prefer to take it with water at all times.

Crown Royal is a pleasant yellow/gold colour. The spirit runs slowly with thin legs down the side of the glass.

On the nose, a strong and pleasant experience of sweet vanilla provides a mouth watering introduction.

The palate is slightly sour at first, but turns sweet and spicy. There’s vanilla, fruit, a hint of dried mango, and the memory of oak.

The finish is short and sweet. It leaves a sense of oak and vanilla with a twist of citrus.

Overall, a nice whisky. This is surprising for its rich feel and pleasant texture. Crown and Coke is a popular but Crown Royal is a fine whisky on its own.