The Glenlivet Distillery

Will the real Glenlivet please say ‘Cheers?’ The largest selling single malt whisky in the American market is The Glenlivet by Seagram, but there are numerous others with the word Glenlivet in their name. Only the official bottlings of the owning company are allowed to use the appellation ‘The Glenlivet’. The most famous of Speyside single malts, has a further distinguishing phrase on its label which reads ‘Distilled by George & J.G. Smith’. This refers to the father and son who first founded the original distillery.

What of all the others with the same name? There are two other malt distilleries in the glen of the River Livet and another in the neighboring Avon valley which also falls in the district of Livet. They use the subtitle Glenlivet on their label and so do a number of other distilleries in Speyside. The independent bottlers Gordon and MacPhail do have whiskies of differing vintages from the original distillery and label their bottles as George & J.G. Smith's Glenlivet Whisky.

In 1824 George Smith, who was one of the several hundreds of illicit distillers in the area got a license to start a distillery. This distillery became The Glenlivet where his son, John Gordon Smith assisted and succeeded him. The distillery was set up in two other sites before the Smiths moved to the present location in1858. It is quite close to the hamlet of Glenlivet at a slight elevation, from the grassy valley where the early slopes head up toward the mountains. Thus it is higher than most other distilleries.

It got its exclusive name ‘The Glenlivet’ in 1880. It remained an independent distillery until 1935 and later merged with Glen Grant in 1952. Seagram acquired the distillery in 1977. Some original buildings of the distillery are still in use. The offices are housed in a beautiful building from the 1920s.

The makers attribute the special flavor and smoothness of The Glenlivet to its altitude, remoteness which has traditionally meant unhurried distilling, cold climate and natural elements. The clear mineral rich water from Josie’s Well that runs near the distillery is acknowledged to be a major contributor to the subtle flavor.

The copper stills designed by George Smith were a unique lantern shaped – and are still unchanged today. The special American Oak casks have previously held bourbon and are specially charred from the inside. This leaves a layer of carbon which acts as a filter and allows the whisky to breathe. All these are major contributors but perhaps it is the tradition of distilling here for several centuries that makes The Glenlivet so special.

The well known single malt range has a core range that includes the 12 year old, the 15 year old French Reserve and the 18 year old. The premium range has the Archive 21 year old and the Cellar Collection 1972 Cask Strength. The 12 year old, 15 year old and the 16 year old Nadurra are part of the duty free retail. The taste is indescribable!


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