Unlocking the Cipher


Please take into account that these are my personal tasting notes and personal experience, as such you may interpret this whiskey differently from me.

This sample was bought from The Exclusive Dram – a company whose aim is “to allow anyone the chance to sample some of the most unique and expensive whiskys without breaking the bank!”

Advertised as “The World’s most Mysterious Whisky” The Glenlivet Cipher invites you to test your whisky tasting abilities and to see if you have what it takes to be a Master Distiller.


The Glenlivet Cipher is an enigma. A whisky without tasting notes, its secrets are hidden within a black bottle. What subtle flavours and elusive aromas are contained within? It’s up to you to decide.

Now I’m a huge fan of blind tastings as you go into the whisky with no pre-conceptions about it. Obviously this isn’t quite a blind tasting experience as you know who the distillery is and if you know about them then you’ll have an idea of their general profile. However the fact that there are no tasting notes means you really are put to the test. They also take this one step further with an online experience where you can input your choices and try to unlock the cipher. Here’s what I came up with:




I was slightly disappointed by only getting 60%. I know I’m not “Master Distiller” material but I had hoped to do a little better than that. Overall I enjoyed the challenge and the idea of trying to unlock the tasting notes is a great idea. I do have a few small issues with it though:

  1. Whisky tasting is subjective – yes you might have some key notes however each person might interpret it differently based on their perception and what aromas and flavours they recognise.
  2. I got some notes that weren’t listed as options (e.g. oak and apple). I know they need to limited your options otherwise it might end up being impossible to unlock however it does limited you and someone who doesn’t understand how subjective whisky tasting can be might end up thinking they’re completely wrong and giving up.
  3. Picking out key notes was okay, but ranking them in strength makes it much more difficult. It would be interesting to see a simpler version where you just pick the aromas/flavours to start and get a score and them move onto strengths for a more advanced section.
  4. The whole experience was great however maybe I’d have enjoyed this more if I hadn’t been so set on unlocking the cipher instead of just enjoying the whisky.

Official tasting notes are now available and can be found after  my full tasting notes (including some things not listed in the interactive experience) here.

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