The Glenlivet Distillery is situated right beside the Livet River in Speyside, twenty kilometres north of the town Tomintoul. Officially Glenlivet was founded in 1824 when George Smith was the first distillery in the area to receive its licence. In those days there were close to 200 illicit distilleries in the vicinity of Glenlivet. After the Excise Act was passed in 1823 the local government came down hard on the illicit distilleries and by 1834 only The Glenlivet Distillery remained in the area. Needless to say Smith’s neighbours felt that Smith had sold out to the government and he received many threats from his former friends. The Laird of Aberlour actually presented him with a gift of two pistols for protection which he allegedly brought with him wherever he went
The eradication of the competition was of course very good for The Glenlivet and as a result they were able to increase their production volume continuously. In the early 1830s production at Glenlivet exceeded 2000 litres of whisky per week. After several attempts to increase production sufficiently Smith finally leased further land from the Duke of Gordon at Minmore and built a new distillery a few hundred meters from the original one. Some of the original buildings are still in use at The Glenlivet.
In the beginning of the 1860s Glenlivet started a partnership with Andrew P Usher (one of the first commercial blenders). Usher became an agent for The Glenlivet and introduced the idea of exporting their whisky. The export venture was very successful and the distillery was hard pushed to try and meet the increased demand. George Smith died in 1871 and the distiller was passed on to his son John Gordon. John understood the power of marketing and the importance of the name ‘The Glenlivet’ and therefore applied for the exclusive right to use the name. He was successful in this attempt and it was ruled that other distilleries who wished to use the word ‘Glenlivet” in their marketing had to put a hyphen between their own name and ‘Glenlivet’. From that day there has only been one distillery with the name ‘THE Glenlivet’. This fortunate marketing strategy soon allowed Glenlivet to install two additional stills in order to meet the ever increasing demand.
In 1921 the company was bought by Bill Smith Grant who ran it successfully for over 50 years. In 1978 The Glenlivet was acquired by Seagram’s who are currently owned by Pernod Ricard.
Production at The Glenlivet
The water is soft yet rich in minerals and is taken from Josie’s Well which lies close by. Glenlivet used to malt their barley themselves but have bought their malt since 1966. The malt is delivered slightly peated from the Pauls of Buckie malting company. The stainless steel mash tun holds 12 tons. The eight washbacks are made from Oregon pine and each hold 60 000 litres. The distillery has four wash stills with a capacity of 15 000 litres each. The four spirit stills are steam heated and hold 10 000 litres each. All stills are lantern-shaped with long, narrow necks. The whisky is stored on site in ten warehouses with a capacity of 65 000 casks each. Bottling is done in Newbridge outside of Edinburgh. A staggering four million bottles are produced every year which makes The Glenlivet the third best-selling malt whisky in the world.
Contact The Glenlivet
The Glenlivet Distillery
Banffshire, AB37 9DB
Phone: +44 (0) 1542 783 220
Manager: Bill Lamb
Visitors: Open April–October Monday-Friday 10am-4pm, Sunday 2.30pm-4pm. The modern visitor centre stood ready in 1997, has a café and has received a five star rating by The Scottish Tourist Board. Guided tours begin every fifteen minutes, admission is free. The gift shop is well stocked with everything from CD records to whisky.
Owner: Chivas Brothers Ltd / Pernod Ricard