Glenlivet 15 has something of a bad rap. Since it's Glenlivet, people assume that it's the scotch equivalent of something like Budweiser Select: a slightly upmarket version of a mass-market product.
You know: just enough love and craft to be competitive with actual craft products, but no more! "We've got a budget to maintain, you know!"
I'm not saying Glenlivet isn't a giant. You might feel your money is better spent in support of smaller distilleries and independents—that's fair. But Glenlivet 15 is very, very good, and it's one whisky that never fails to disappoint when I need something to show people new to scotch what the product category is all about. My opinion is that you'd be remiss to overlook it, and it's easily my favorite of the entire Glenlivet range (of what I've tried).
Here's the deal: when you sign on with Glenlivet 15, you're going to get apples and cinnamon. Apple is a big characteristic of the Glenlivet house style in general, but here it transmutes into a slightly cinnamon-like variation thanks to the time it spends in the French oak casks.
Is that a bad thing? Egads, no. Apples and cinnamon is such a classic combination that you'll find it in everything from tea to instant oatmeal. It's as comfortable here as it is in any other aspect of your life. A few sips on this bottle will probably transport you back to a lot of nice, homey, wholesome childhood memories. And thankfully, it's a good apples-and-cinnamon combo, with the tastes of baked apples and fresh cinnamon sticks rather than something more akin to jolly ranchers and red hots.
There isn't a tremendous degree of complexity past that. You'll find a hint of brown sugar, chocolate, and orange on the tongue if you're willing to hunt for it. The nose is a little shy, but there are also various mulling spices in addition to the cinnamon. Seasoned whisky drinkers might find this a little bit thin at 40% ABV.
That said, there's nothing wrong with sacrificing complexity for straightforwardness sometimes, and to me Glenlivet 15 represents that better than just about any other whisky. Sometimes I just want to pour the scotch right into the glass and know it's good to go. If you're watching a movie or reading a book and reach for something, sometimes you want to be reminded of what you're drinking without too much thought.
If you're like me, the 15 is going to find a permanent spot on your shelf. I guarantee it. Especially at the very fair price point of about $45.