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No: 2
Producer: Seagram
Region: Highlands
District: Speyside(Livet)  -   Multimap view
OS Sheet 36 ; Map reference NJ 195 290 ; Latitude 57 20° N, Longitude 3 20° W
Founded 1824 ; Operating Status (1999): operating

The only whisky allowed to call itself "The Glenlivet" is historically the most famous Speyside malt. The appelation "The Glenlivet" is restricted even further in that it appears on only the "official" bottlings from the owning company of the distillery, Seagram. These are branded as The Glenlivet with the legend "Distilled by George & J.G. Smith" in small type at the bottom of the label, referring to the company set up by a father and son that originally founded the distillery.

The independant bottlers Gordon and MacPhail have made something of a speciality of older and vintage-dated examples, in a variety of alcoholic strengths, from the same distillery and these are identified as George & J.G. Smith's Glenlivet Whisky. This range changes according to availability.

The glen of the Livet is also the home of two other malt distilleries, the unconnected Tamnavulin and Braes of Glenlivet, which is owned by Seagram. In the adjoining Avon valley the Tomintoul distillery is also generally regarded as belonging ot the Livet district . It is, indeed in the parish of Glenlivet. All of these distilleries use the sub-title Glenlivet on their labels as an appellation of district. So, stretching a point do about a dozen from other parts of Speyside. This practice, now in decline dates from the glen's pioneering position in commercial whisky production. Merchants in the cities wanted whisky "from Glenlivet" because that was the first specific producing district that they knew by name.

The glen of the Livet has clean spring water that makes especially delicate whiskies. Among the distilling districts it is the one most deeply set into the mountains. Its water rises from granite and frequently flows underground for many miles. The mountain setting also provides for the weather that whisky-distillers like. When distilling is in progress the condensers work most effectively if they are cooled by very cold water, and in a climate to match.

There was much illicit production in the days when commercial distilling was banned and is a significant reason for the renown of the glen. There are said to have been a couple of hundred illicit stills in the wild, mountain country around the Livet in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The district was also a haven for whisky-smugglers on their way over the mountains to the bigger cities and ports, in the Midlands and south of Scotland.

At that time, partly because of grain shortages but also for reasons of political vindictiveness the Highlanders were permitted to distill only on a domestic scale. The modern distilling industry began after the Duke of Gordon proposed more accomodating legislation. One of his tenants Geoge Gow or Smith, already an established illegal distiller was the first to apply for a new licence in 1824. It has over the years been thought that the family had supported Bonnie Prince Charlie but recent research suggests that this was not the case. George Smith founded the distillery that became The Glenlivet. His son John Gordon Smith assisted and succeeded him.

After distilling on two other sites nearby, the Smiths moved in 1858 to the present location. In 1880 the exclusive designation "The Glenlivet" was granted in a test case to distinguish it from the 18 or so other distilleries which at one time or another appended the name to their own. The company remained independant until 1935, merged with Glen Grant in 1952 and was acquired by Seagram in 1977.

Not far from the hamlet of Glenlivet, the distillery stands at a point where the grassy valley is already beginning to steepen toward the mountains. Some original buildings remain and the offices occupy a handsome 1920s house.

Far from its mountain home and helped by the marketing power of Seagram, The Glenlivet has become the biggest-selling single malt in the large American market.
© Michael Jackson 1994

Distillery rating: 5*

Glenlivet, Ballindalloch, Banffshire, AB37 9DB
Tel: 01542-783220


SMWS bottling 2.16 Glenlivet 15yo:
Was not really to my taste. It was rather harsh, and needed quite a bit of added water to get it to "settle down". [bh]

Glenlivet 12 yo
I find this to be a bit rough and lemony: I'm not alone but I might well be in a minority. Drinkable, but not brilliant. [tr]

Hear "Glenlivet" pronounced in AU or WAV format
Search Dr. Do'g's index for the history of Glenlivet
There just might be some news about Glenlivet in The "Scotsman" newspaper