Glenlivet distillery

This was the first ever Highland distillery to obtain a license much to the anger of neighbouring illicit distillers, who considered this treacherous behaviour. The resultant threats to George Smith and his distillery were so numerous that he took to carrying a pair of pistols, presented to him by the Laird of Aberlour, with him night and day. Robert Lockhart in ‘Scotch: The Whisky of Scotland in Fact and Story’ recounts only one story of the guns ever being used and even then preventatively!

Amusingly, and confusingly, twenty seven other distilleries use, or have used the -Glenlivet suffix. Perhaps in part this was an attempt to bask in the reflected glory and good name of The Glenlivet, however the other distilleries argued that the name had become a byword for the Speyside style whiskies in much the same way Islay referred to peated whisky. After £30,000 and 400 affidavits had been served, an agreement was reached that ten distilleries

  • would be permitted to use the -Glenlivet suffix and refer to their blends as ‘Blended Glenlivet’. The historical curiosity of the -Glenlivet suffix is generally a good way to differentiate between official and older/independent bottling

The Glenlivet is widely available in supermarkets across the UK, usually in the guise of the Founders Reserve NAS (No Age Statements) which replaced the Standard 12 expression. Internationally the 12 is still available. Otherwise bottles are still fairly easy to come by, and older bottles such as the Archive are well worth trying. The brands more recent range of NAS whiskies has unfortunately generally displaced rather than complimented the existing line up, often for a higher price the removed age statements.

  • Glenrothes, Glenlossie, Macallan, Aberlour, Benrinnes, Cragganmore, Linkwood, Glen Grant, Mortlach and Glenfarclas

Glenlivet factsheet

Name Pronounced AKA Region Country of Origin
Glenlivet glen*livv*it Speyside Scotland
Status Active Whisky Type Website Tours Available
Active 1824 - Present Malt Glenlivet Tour Link
Manager Distiller Blender Owned by Parent Group
Alan Winchester Chivas Brothers Ltd.

Glenlivet Timeline:

1774: Andrew Smith begins distillation on his farm site

1817: Andrew Smith dies leaving his farm and distillery to his son George

1824: Following the Excise Act of 1823, much to the displeasure of his neighbours, themselves operating illicit stills George Smith takes out a license and establishes Glenlivet distillery at Upper Drummin farm. The first distiller in the Highlands to do so

1840: George buys Delnabo farm near Tomintoul and establishing Delnabo distillery (renamed Cairngorm Distillery in 1850)

1845: George leases another 3 farms establishing distilleries at Minmore on land obtained from the Duke of Gordon

1858: The Upper Drummin distillery was closed during 1858 due to fire damage though the bulk of the equipment was saved and consolidated into the Minmore site

1859: The Delnabo distillery by this point renamed Cairngorm Distillery is closed and its equipment is also consolidated into the Minmore site. The site is renamed Glenlivet

1864: George Smith goes into business with Andrew P. Usher the noted blender and distiller and begins exporting Glenlivet with considerable success

1870: Glenlivet is registered as a trademark

1871: George Smith dies leaving the business to his son John Gordon Smith

1875: The Smith’s solicitor when re-registering the trademark, added a graphic rather than just the word itself

1880: John Gordon Smith applies for and is granted the sole rights to the name 'The Glenlivet'

1882: John Gordon Smith and his agent Andrew Usher begin their court case with individual affidavits being served distillers to prevent them using the -Glenliviet suffix.

1884: Agreement is reached, only John Gordon Smith may use the name 'The Glenlivit' in exchange ten distilleries:Glenrothes, Glenlossie, Macallan, Aberlour, Benrinnes, Cragganmore, Linkwood, Glen Grant, Mortlach and Glenfarclas were granted permission to use the -Glenlivet suffix

1890: A fire ravaged through the site and several of the buildings need to be replaced

1896: The distillery is expanded with a further two stills

1901: John Gordon Smith dies

1904: George Smith Grant the nephew of John Gordon Smith takes over the site

1953: George & J.G. Smith amalgamate with J.& J.Grant of Glen Grant Ltd to form The Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distilleries Ltd.

1966: The floor maltings are closed

1970: The Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distilleries Ltd. Is amalgamated with Longmorn-Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd. and Hill Thomson & Co Ltd. to form The Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd.

1978: The Glenlivet Distilleries Ltd. Is purchased by the Seagram Company Ltd of Canada. The Eight stills are upgraded to gas fired. A dark-grains plant & visitor centre is added to the site

1996: The visitor centre is expanded

2000: The French and American oak 12 year oldf Single malts are launched

2001: Seagram Company Ltd. are sold to Pernod Ricard

2004: The 15 year old French Oak replaces the 12

2009: Four more stills are added

2011: A further two stills are commisioned bringing capacity up to 10.5 million litres per annum

2015: The 12 year old is removed from the UK market to be replaced by a NAS The Glenlivet Founder's Reserve, A further expansion of the distillery is currently underway

Useful Glenlivet links:

Glenlivet at GreenWellyStop

Glenlivet at MaltMadness

Glenlivet at MasterOfMalts

Glenlivet at SMWS

Glenlivet at Whisky

Glenlivet at WhiskyExhange

Glenlivet at WhiskyPortal

Glenlivet at Whiskybase

Glenlivet at Wikipedia

Glenlivet at Wormtub

Interesting Glenlivet links:

Andrew Usher

Glenlivet Distillery at Canmore

Glenlivet and the exorcised spirit

Glenlivet at the Whisky cyclist

Why other distilleries are called Glenlivet

Can I tour Glenlivet?

Yes Glenlivet distillery is tourable. On Trip Advisor the distillery has been rated as excellent by 544 of 796 tours to date. This gives Glenlivet an overall rating of 4.5

Latest reviews

Wonderful Tasting by Andrew at Glenlivet by Gianr1201

We booked the Single Casks Tasting. The guide, Andrew, talked us into the history and process of the Glenlivet whisky. He was very knowledgeable and answered with details all the (many) questions we had, he really knows his whisky!He chose for this tasting 4 drams, exploring the effect of different casks on the whisky maturation. These were a 12 years old ex-sherry cask, two 16y/o (ex-bourbon and ex-sherry) and finally a 18y/o (ex-sherry, but 2nd fill). This was a great whisky exploration which we thorougly enjoyed. The renovated visitor center is very beautiful. There is a wide choice and price range of Chivas Brothers' owned distilleries single casks, and of course all the Glenlivet expressions.

Glenlivet Poor Experience by Dave P

This was the final tour of a two day whisky experience we thought we had saved the best to last as the refurbishment of the VisitorCentre has been recommended. Ha gad Sadly this experience did not come up to our expectations.1 Our tour guide although clearly experienced in the whisky industry was a very poor communicator and one of our party had to leave the tour .2 The technical issues during the presentation were disruptive and distracting.3 Very disappointed that we were not given any access to any part of the whisky production process and that the mash tun experience was artificial and patronising.4. At the end of the experience we were asked if we enjoyed the tour to which we gave an open and frank response.We hope Glenlivet will take time to rethink their approach and style of presentation of this tour.From our experience we would recommend the Glenfarclas experience that is informative and free if you make a contribution to their local charity which is the local foodbank.

The Renovation…WOW by Jenn

The distillery renovation is spectacular, what a beautiful place. The tour guide Anna knew so much and clearly loved her job. Answered all our questions and was incredibly knowledgeable during the tasting. The whole place has a feeling of home but such class. It’s really obvious a lot of thought has gone into it. The bar had a good selection of cocktails, drams and snacks for after our tour, we enjoyed the atmosphere. Bought a couple of bottles in the shop which was well stocked and staff on hand to taste before you buy as well as answer any questions. You can even take a wee quiz to see which whisky they recommend. All in all a lovely afternoon in a stunning location!

Rating Reviews
Excellent 544
Very good 189
Average 40
Poor 16
Terrible 7