Glenlivet Speyside Whisky Distillery
George Smith was probably distilling illegal single malt whisky for years before he took advantage of the 1823 Excise Act and decided to establish Scotland’s first legal distillery at Upper Drumin farm 20 miles south of Elgin in the remote glen of the River Livet. Although a farmer, Smith was also an educated man, a Latin and architectural scholar in his own rite.
His neighbours and fellow illegal distillers were much annoyed by his decision. Many threats against Smith and his distillery were made and he always kept two pistols, (on view at the distillery) gifts from the Laird of Aberlour on his person at all times to protect himself.
The reason for this distillers early success stemmed from the pure Highland Water taken from Josie’s well, his hard working Edinburgh agent Andrew Usher and the fact that when King George the IV visited Scotland in 1823 he requested a glass of “The Glenlivet”. For years many skirmishes took place between excise men and the illegal distillers who regarded Smith as a traitor but eventually it died down. At this time the Lowland distillers just could not compete with the quality of Speyside Single Malt Whisky’s and it became known as the “Real Stuff.
In order to keep up with demand Smith, in 1858 moved his distillery to Minmore Farm about a mile down the glen where it remains to this day.
By the year 1880 the distillery had been taken over by John Gordon and was so successful that other distillers were passing off their own products as Glenlivet. So many of the opposition adopted this strategy that the area around the Glenlivet distillery became known as “The Longest Glen”.
This was resolved to an extent in 1884 when Gordon won the legal right to be the only distiller who could call his product “The Glenlivet”. However other distilleries were allowed to use the suffix Glenlivet after their own name and this continued right up to the 1970s and 80s. For example Macallan-Glenlivet. All this in effect meant was that it was distilled in the same general area as “The Glenlivet”.
By 1933 “The Glenlivet’s” reputation had spread all over the world and it was one of the first single malt whisky’s to be imported into the United States of America at the end of prohibition.
Eventually in the hands of Seagram’s, Glenlivet was acquired by Pernod Ricard and Diageo in 2001 with the intention of making it the world’s number one selling single malt whisky. So far they have only reached number two as the top spot is still held by Glenfiddich. However 6 new stills were installed in 2009-2010 and the race continues.
The Glenlivet is a mighty single malt whisky of the lighter style enjoyed all over the world.
Taste: Polished, Malty and Smooth. One of Scotland’s really great malts.