Glenlivet is one of the most famous Scotch single malt whisky brands in the world. It has an ongoing battle with Glenfiddich to be the world's number one bestseller. This has seen the two whisky giants vying for supremacy and changing places for the top two positions for years. Glenlivet sells an amazing 16 million bottles of whisky annually. It has been the number one selling Scotch single malt in America since the 1970s. Sales there account for 40% of all Glenlivet sold each year.
Glenlivet's popularity comes from the fact that it produces a 'classic Speyside' single malt whisky. This accessible style of whisky is soft, gentle and fruity. Orchard fruits, such as green apple and pear, dominate and are joined by floral and honeyed notes. These characteristics are particularly prominent in the younger expressions and age statements. Older expressions see these notes develop into elegant tropical fruit, delicate oak and warming baking spices.
The production at Glenlivet is on a massive scale. It was by far the largest single malt distillery in Scotland until Glenfiddich opened its new extension in 2020. Glenlivet's major expansion in 2018 increased the capacity by nearly 10 million litres. This saw a new distillery built next to the old one, which in turn had already seen capacity expanded significantly in 2010.
Two huge mash tuns are in operation. Both have a 13.5 ton capacity and there is one on each site. The resulting wort, the sugary liquid produced during mashing, is fed into one of 32 fermentation washbacks - 16 are wooden and 16 are stainless steel. Each can hold 25,000 litres. An amazing 28 stills work together as 14 pairs. Four pairs are in the original distillery, three pairs in the 2010 extension and seven further pairs in the new stillhouse. The result is a staggering annual capacity of 21 million litres.
The Glenlivet distillery was founded in 1824 by George Smith. He built it on Upper Drummin Farm, which he inherited from his father. It is located in the Speyside region within the Livet Glen. The nearest village is Ballindalloch. The hamlet of Glenlivet grew up around the distillery and is made up of distillery workers cottages. It was the first distillery in Speyside to be granted a distilling license under the 1823 Parliamentary Excise Act.
When George Smith died in 1871, his son John Gordon Smith took over. He applied for and was granted sole rights to the name of The Glenlivet. The company of George & J. G. Smith Limited was later formed and operated the distillery until the 1950s. Then, it merged with the owners of the fellow Speyside distillery of Glen Grant.
The Glenlivet & Glen Grant Distillers Limited ran for almost 20 years until it merged with two further companies to form The Glenlivet Distillers Limited. Chivas Brothers, the current owners, took control in the early 2000s. They are owned by the wider Pernod Ricard group. They have overseen massive growth for both the brand and distillery in the subsequent 20 year period.
They have also expanded the range of whiskies available. Now there are many variants of Glenlivet on offer, both core products and limited editions. The core range has age statements at 12, 15 (French Oak Reserve), 18, 21 (Archive) and 25 (XXV) years old. It also includes the non-age statement releases of Founder's Reserve, Captain's Reserve (ex-Cognac casks) and Caribbean Reserve (ex-rum casks).
These are joined by the cask strength and non-chill-filtered Nadurra range and the global travel retail Triple Cask range. Other limited editions appear regularly. At the premium end of the market is The Winchester Collection. This is named after Alan Winchester, the long-serving Master Distiller at Glenlivet. This series features very rare and expensive whiskies from some of the distillery's oldest remaining maturing casks.