The Glenlivet was the first Scotch whisky to carry “Glen" in its name and has been synonymous with quality for more than a century.
The tale of this Speyside distillery – which lies in the valley of the River Livet, after which it is named – is intertwined with that of Scotch whisky. In 1822 King George IV is said to have insisted on a whisky from the valley of Livet upon his arrival in Edinburgh. It was the first distillery to gain a licence in 1824 following the Excise Tax of 1823 – something which made founder George Smith wholly unpopular amongst his illicit distilling contemporaries.
In 1853, the distillery released the first branded Scotch – Ushers Old Vatted Glenlivet – thanks to the ingenuity of Smith’s agent Andrew Usher. By the 1880s whisky-makers were using the name “Glenlivet” because of its notoriety and it became interchangeable with “Speyside”. George Smith’s son took the matter to the courts who ruled in his favour. Other distilleries were allowed to add the term as a suffix (eg Aberlour-Glenlivet), but Smith’s distillery was the only one permitted to use the definitive article (The Glenlivet).
The distillery survived the whisky crisis in the 1930s and remained family-owned until 1953, when they joined with Grants from Glen Grants to form The Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distilleries. This later merged with Longmorn and was purchased by Seagram in the late 1970s.
Pernod Ricard bought the distillery in 2001. A significant £10m expansion – including construction of a new still house to hold 14 stills, a plant room and tun room – followed. Production increased by 75% following the investment, making it the largest whisky producer in Scotland, with 22 million litres flowing from the stills each year.
Some of the most exclusive, long-aged Glenlivet bottlings have been released by Gordon & MacPhail.