The Glenlivet Distillery Visit


History Illicit distilleries were commonplace throughout the Speyside area from medieval times but were largely made redundant with the passing of the Excise Act in 1823. It was under this legislation that legal distilleries could be formed, subject to holding a license. Alexander Gordon, 4th Duke of Gordon, was allegedly instrumental in the passing of this legislation. Although there is no historical record of his involvement in the issue, his tenant, George Smith, who was operating an illicit distillery at the time, became the first person in Glenlivet to apply for and receive a license to legally produce spirit. This would prove to be an unpopular decision; every other distiller was operating illegally at the time and hoping the new Excise Act would be repealed, something which would not happen if some distillers accepted the new law. Threats were made against George Smith, so George Gordon provided Smith with two pistols to be used to ensure both his own safety and that of the distillery. In 1824, The Glenlivet distillery was established at Upper Drumin by George and his youngest son John Gordon Smith. George Smith established a second distillery during 1849, named the Cairngorm-Delnabo Distillery but by 1855 or 1856, both distilleries were running at full capacity, and were unable to meet rising demand. The operation of two separate sites was also proving difficult and expensive, so plans were formed around the same time to build a new, larger distillery further down the hill at Minmore. Construction of this new distillery was underway when the old Upper Drumin distillery was destroyed by fire during 1858. Construction of the new Minmore distillery was sped up and salvageable equipment from the Upper Drumin distillery was transferred to the new Mimmore distillery. The Delnabo distillery was closed at the same time and the best parts of the equipment were also transferred to the Minmore plant. Production commenced at the new plant during 1859 and it was around the same time the legal entity of George & J.G. Smith, Ltd. was formed.

George Smith died in 1871 and his son John Gordon Smith inherited the distillery. The quality of the product from their distillery had resulted in the other distilleries in the area renaming their products to “Glenlivet” and by the time of George’s death, several distillers were doing so. J.G. Smith decided to take legal action and tried to claim ownership on The Glenlivet name, this legal action was only partially successful – the verdict forced other distillers in the area to stop calling their whisky Glenlivet and gave J.G. Smith and the blender Andrew Usher sole permission to use the brand, but permitted other distilleries to hyphenate their distillery name with the “Glenlivet” name, which resulted in new distillery names such as The Glen Moray-Glenlivet Distillery, a distillery which is situated nearby. The distillery remained open throughout the Great Depression, an event which affected many other distilleries; it wasn’t until the Second World War that the distillery was mothballed for the first time, by Government decree. In the aftermath of World War Two, Britain was heavily indebted and needed to export large quantities of goods to earn foreign revenue (mainly United States dollars). Distilling was an ideal industry with whisky much in demand overseas. Distilling restrictions were rapidly lifted and output from the distillery was at pre-war levels by 1947, despite ongoing barley, fuel, and manpower limitations. Bread rationing was retained until 1948 in order to ensure supplies of grain for the distilleries.

Glenlivet Distillery (George & J.G. Smith, Ltd.) merged with the Glen Grant Distillery (J. & J. Grant Glen Grant, Ltd.) in 1953 to form The Glenlivet and Glen Grant Distillers, Ltd.. The company would go on to merge with Hill Thomson & Co., Ltd. and Longmorn-Glenlivet Distilleries, Ltd. in 1970 before changing their name to Glenlivet Distillers Ltd in 1972.[12] The company was then purchased by Canadian drinks and media company Seagram in 1977. Seagram’s alcohol production interests were acquired by Pernod Ricard and Diageo during 2000, with ownership of Glenlivet Distillers passing to Pernod Ricard. Glen Grant Distillery was sold to Campari Group in 2005. The Glenlivet is the best selling malt whisky in the United States, and the fourth best selling in the UK with a 7% market share. The Glenlivet is the world’s second best selling single malt whisky, and current global sales total 6 million bottles per annum.

The Whiskyphiles tasting notes

Official Bottling
  • the-glenlivet-12-excellence Glenlivet 12 Years Old Excellence (2016) - The Glenlivet 12 Years Old Excellence (40%, OB, 2016) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: The Glenlivet Distillery Bottling: Pernod Ricard ABV: 40% Cost: £38.80 from The Glenlivet Distillery What they […]
  • the-glenlivet-15-year-old-french-oak-reserve-whisky Glenlivet 15 Years Old French Oak Reserve (2015) - I really enjoyed this expression. I have a fondness for French Oak and I love my red wine to be particularly oaky too. It can easily be overdone  and my concern was The Glenlivet spirit being too soft and gentle, I needn't have worried. This is really well put together, balanced and not too deep in flavour as to be challenging. 85/100
  • the-glenlivet-16-year-old-nadurra-batch-0813y-whisky Glenlivet 16 Years Old Nadurra (2016) - Quite spicy but in a really good way. Reminded me of gingerbread and cake. In fact a multitude of sweets and desserts appear in my tasting notes as I chewed my way through the sweetness in this expression. The proof is obviously in the pudding with this whisky! 85/100
  • The Glenlivet 18 Years Old Glenlivet 18 Years Old (2013) - The Glenlivet 18 Years Old 43% ABV, £50 for 70cl Score: 81/100 What they say: Character: The balanced and elegant one Colour: Old gold with apricot hues Nose: Rich fruit aromas and […]
  • The-Glenlivet-Archive-21-Years-Old Glenlivet 21 Years Old Archive (2015) - The Glenlivet Archive 21 Years Old, small batch, plenty of sherry maturation and simply delicious. There is a real polished nature to this throughout indicative of its 21 year maturation. This hasn't been selected for power but more finesse and it has polished up beautifully. If you want to spoil yourself then a bottle of this is a must when the next batch is released! 86/100
  • the-glenlivet-caribbean-reserve-whisky Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve (2022) - Drinkable and well-textured (light & silky or smooth) as expected from The Glenlivet. Filled with plenty of fruit, some tropical, with a touch of syrup and spice to help it along. A refreshing alternative to The Glenlivet's classic 12 Year old expression for example and in similar price bracket. 83/100
  • he-glenlivet-cipher-whisky Glenlivet Cipher (2017) - The Glenlivet Cipher (48%, OB, 2016) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: The Glenlivet Distillery Bottling: Pernod Ricard ABV: 48% Cost: £200 What they say: Cipher Experience The Glenlivet Cipher is […]
  • The-Glenlivet-Nadurra-Oloroso Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso Batch OL0614 (2015) - Massive fruit and nut chocolate bar of a dram - everything I love about Oloroso casks and whisky! Presented at slightly mental strength means even better value for money as this waters down a long way! This here NAS whisky is a lively challenger to Aberlour's A'Bunadh series - if you like those then you'll love this! 87/100
  • The Glenlivet 18 Years Old 1996 Distillery Exclusive (2015) - The Glenlivet 18 Years Old 1996 – Distillery Exclusive (50.7%, OB, 2015) Speyside single malt scotch whisky 50.7% ABV, £100 for 70cl Score: 85/100 What they say: Exclusive to The Glenlivet Distillery, […]
  • The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve (2015) - The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve(40%, OB, 2015) Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Glenlivet Distillery Bottling: Official – Pernod Ricard ABV: 40% Cost: £22 Score: 84/100 What they say: The Glenlivet is […]
  • The Glenlivet XXV (2014) - The Glenlivet XXV (43%, OB, 2014) 43% ABV, £190 for 70cl Score: 90/100 What they say: Character: The intense and opulent one Colour: Rich amber with ripe gold hues Nose: Dark chocolate […]
Independent Bottling
Gordon & MacPhail
  • cc-glenlivet-2002 Glenlivet 15 Years Old 2002 Connoisseurs Choice (2018) - Glenlivet 2002 Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength whisky review: An intense Glenlivet, masses of 1st fill bourbon influences up front but these gently peel away in layers revealing the fruity and grassy Glenlivet spirit character underneath. The whole experience is quite marvellous. It's a pleasant surprise to be reminded why Glenlivet has the reputation it does once in a while. 87/100
  • Glenlivet1948SC Smith’s Glenlivet 1948 Speyside Collection (2017) - Smith’s Glenlivet 1948 (43%, Gordon & MacPhail, first fill Sherry butt #54, 2010) Whisky Review Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Glenlivet distillery Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail, Speyside Collection ABV: 43% £3150.00 […]
  • Glenlivet-1974-Rare-Vintage-GM Smith’s Glenlivet 1974 Rare Vintage (2016) - Christmasy, woody and a somewhat crystalline or purified essential oil flavours with tannic red fruits. Definitely one for red wine lovers! 86/100
Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • SMWS 2.90 Flower meadows and patisseries (2015) - Glenlivet 10 Years Old 2003 2.90 Flower meadows and patisseries (60.2%, SMWS, Refill Bourbon Barrel, 208 Bottles, 2014) Single malt scotch whisky 60.2% ABV, £48.40 Score: 85/100 What they say: Cask No. […]
  • glenlivet-9-year-old-2006-cask-901043-unchillfiltered-collection-signatory-whisky Glenlivet 9 Years Old 2006 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (2018) - Glenlivet 9 Years Old 2006 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection whisky review: Flavour-filled and quite malty as you would expect from a relatively young expression matured in an active 1st fill butt. I actually found this still a little too spirity and feisty at 46% but it takes water well and revealed a delicious milk chocolate note under all the dried fruit and tannins. 84/100
  • Glenlivet 17 Years Old 1996 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (2015) - Glenlivet 17 Years Old 1996 The Un-Chillfiltered Collection (46%, Signatory, 1st Fill Sherry Butt #165161, 817 Bottles, 2014) Speyside single malt scotch whisky 46% ABV, £44 for 70cl Score: 89/100 What they […]
That Boutique-Y Whisky Company
  • glenlivet-27-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whisky Glenlivet 27 Year Old Batch 1 (2018) - Oh yum yum yum yum! An old, elegant Glenlivet, a delightfully aromatic nose and then pure pleasure on the palate with wonderful fruits, malt and oak. 92/100
The Spirit Still
  • Give-N-Tell-25-year-old-1992-The-Spirit-Still The Spirit Still Give’N’Tell 25 Years Old 1992 (2018) - The Spirit Still Give'N'Tell 25 Years Old 1992 Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review: A wonderful floral nose hints at vanilla pastries and desserts, the palate is much livelier and fruitier and dry pine overcomes the drying and tannic finish, a whisky that takes you on a bit of a journey and epitomises the distillery from whence it came. 89/100