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an unpopular decision; every other distiller was operating illegally at the time and hoping the new Excise Act would be repealed, something which would not happen if some distillers accepted the new law.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. 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.
Glenlivet Whisky Reviews:
- Glenlivet 10 Years Old 2003 2.90 Flower meadows and patisseries ~ 60.2% (SMWS) - Glenlivet 10 Years Old 2003 – 2.90 Flower meadows and patisseries Single malt scotch whisky 60.2% ABV, £48.40 for 70cl Score: 85/100 What they say: Cask No. 2.90 The nose told us that scythes had just been through the flower meadow and that children had just been through the patisserie (vanilla slice, fruit scones, strawberry […]
- Glenlivet 17 Years Old 1996 Cask #165161 ~ 46% (Signatory) - Glenlivet 17 Years Old 1996 Cask #165161 Speyside single malt scotch whisky 46% ABV, £44 for 70cl Score: 89/100 What they say: Distilled 5th November 1996 and matured a full 17 years in a first-fill ex-sherry butt #165161, this was bottled as part of Signatory’s Unchillfiltered range at 46% ABV on the 2nd October 2014 […]
- Smith’s Glenlivet 1948 Speyside Collection ~ 43% (Gordon & MacPhail) - Whisky Review: Smith’s Glenlivet 1948 Speyside Collection Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Glenlivet distillery Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail, Speyside Collection ABV: 43% Cost: £10,495.95 from Master of Malt available individually for £3150.00 from Whisky Online What they say: Speyside Collection Leading whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail has launched an exclusive Speyside Collection, offering customers the chance […]
- Smith’s Glenlivet 1974 Rare Vintage ~ 43% (Gordon & MacPhail) - Review: Smith’s Glenlivet 1974 Rare Vintage Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: The Glenlivet Distillery Bottling: Gordon & MacPhail Distillery Own Labels ABV: 43% Cost: £420.67 from Master of Malt What they say: Colour Dark amber. Body Medium to full. Finish Lingering. Cask Type Refill American & refill Sherry casks. Style Well balanced and […]
- The Glenlivet 12 Years Old Excellence ~ 40% (Pernod Ricard) - Review: The Glenlivet 12 Years Old Excellence Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: The Glenlivet Distillery Bottling: Pernod Ricard ABV: 40% Cost: £38.80 from The Glenlivet Distillery What they say: This 12 year old Glenlivet ‘Excellence’ is to commemorate founder George Smith’s Original pairing of the balanced signature style of Glenlivet with selective maturation […]
- The Glenlivet 15 Years Old French Oak Reserve ~ 40% (Pernod Ricard) - Review: The Glenlivet 15 Years Old French Oak Reserve single malt scotch whisky The Glenlivet Distillery – Pernod Ricard 40% ABV £38.77 for 70cl from Master of Malt Score: 85/100 What they say: Character: The rich and exotic one Colour: Deep and intense gold Nose: Creamy and rich with buttery notes Palate: Fruity, nutty flavours […]
- The Glenlivet 16 Years Old Nadurra Batch 0813Y ~ 56.1% (Pernod Ricard) - Review: The Glenlivet 16 Years Old Nadurra Batch 0813Y Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: The Glenlivet Distillery Bottling: Official – Pernod Ricard ABV: 56.1% Cost: £42.45 from Master of Malt [sold out] What they say: The Nadurra series is Glenlivet’s range of 16 year old single malt Scotch whiskies, which have been matured […]
- The Glenlivet 18 Years Old 1996 – Distillery Exclusive ~ 50.7% (The Glenlivet Distillery) - The Glenlivet 18 Years Old 1996 – Distillery Exclusive Speyside single malt scotch whisky 50.7% ABV, £100 for 70cl Score: 85/100 What they say: Exclusive to The Glenlivet Distillery, this bottle-your-own edition was distilled in 1996 and was matured in an ex-bourbon cask for 18 years before bottling. What I say: Dram #2 presented at […]
- The Glenlivet 18 Years Old ~ 43% (Pernod Ricard) - The Glenlivet 18 Years Old (Official Bottling) 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 toffee notes Palate: Wonderfully balanced, with bursts of sweet oranges Finish: Long, with spice and moist raisin notes Craft facts The […]
- The Glenlivet Archive 21 Years Old ~ 43% (Pernod Ricard) - Review: The Glenlivet Archive 21 Years Old single malt scotch whisky The Glenlivet Distillery – Pernod Ricard 43% ABV £106.99 for 70cl from Master of Malt Score: 86/100 What they say: Character: The mature and debonair one Colour: Amber with sparkling copper shades Nose: Aromas of dried fruit with a sherry influence Palate: Cinnamon and ginger […]
- The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve ~ 40% (Pernod Ricard) - Review: The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve Category: Speyside single malt scotch whisky Origin: Glenlivet Distillery Bottling: Official – Pernod Ricard ABV: 40% Cost: £22 from Amazon Score: 84/100 What they say: The Glenlivet is proud to introduce The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve, a new single malt that has been almost 200 years in the making. Created to […]
- The Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso Batch OL0614 ~ 60.7% (Pernod Ricard) - Review: The Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso Batch OL0614 single malt scotch whisky The Glenlivet Distillery – Pernod Ricard 60.7% ABV £45.46 for 70cl from Master of Malt Score: 87/100 What they say: Nàdurra in Gaelic means natural. Nàdurra whisky is bottled and released in small batches using traditional 19th century methods, and each bottle is filled at natural cask strength. It […]
- The Glenlivet XXV ~ 43% (Pernod Ricard) - The Glenlivet XXV ~ 43% (Pernod Ricard) 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 with scents of dried sultanas Palate: Silky, sweet and caressing with cinnamon notes Finish: Incredibly long, rich and balanced Craft facts The […]