Photograph: Chris Bainbridge

Glenlivet Distillery

The Glenlivet Distillery is a distillery near Ballindalloch in Moray, Scotland that produces single malt scotch whisky.

The Glenlivet distillery is the oldest legal distillery in Scotland; it was founded in the same year that distilling was legalised by the Government, and it has operated almost continually since. The distillery remained open throughout the Great Depression and it’s only closure came during World War II. The Glenlivet distillery has grown in the post-war period to become one of the biggest single malt distilleries in order to keep up with global demand; The Glenlivet brand is the biggest selling malt whisky in the United States and the third biggest selling single malt brand globally.

Today, the distillery is owned by the French alcoholic beverages company Pernod Ricard and they oversee the distilleries production of 5,900,000 proof litres per annum. The majority of this – enough for 6 million bottles – is sold as The Glenlivet single malt, with the remainder being used in Pernod Ricard’s blended whisky brands.


The distillery draws water from Josie’s Well, a short distance from the distillery. Barley is delivered slighted peated from Greencore’s Buckie maltings and Glenlivet’s stills are lantern shaped with long, narrow necks, all of which helps to produces a light tasting spirit. The distillery has 4 wash stills each with a capacity of 15,000 litres each and 4 spirit stills with a capacity of 10,000 litres.

Spirit from the distillery is then matured in oak casks formerly used to mature bourbon (ex-bourbon), as is normal throughout the industry, with some products being finished in casks previously used to store sherry and port.

Glenlivet is categorised as a speyside distillery. The standard range of products are bottled at 12 Years, 15 Years and 18 Years, with a number of premium products bottled at 21 Years and older. Glenlivet also produces a range for the travel retail and duty-free shop markets, which differs slightly from the normal range.

The main product range from the distillery is The Glenlivet range of single malt scotch whisky, but whisky from the distillery is also used in the production of Pernod Ricard’s other brands, including the well known and popular Chivas Regal and Royal Suite brands.

Bottling of The Glenlivet and associated blended brands takes place at Chivas Regal’s bottling plant at Newbridge just outside of Edinburgh.


Illicit distilleries were commonplace throughout the Speyside area from medieval times but were largely made redundant with the passing the Excise Act, in 1823. It was under this legislation that legal distilleries could be formed, subject to holding a license. George Gordon, 5th Duke of Gordon, was instrumental in the passing of this legislation and his tenant, George Smith, who was operating an illicit distillery at the time, became the first person 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 Glenlivit distillery was established at Upper Drumin by George and his youngest son James 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 James 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 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 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.[1] 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 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. Current global sales total 6 million bottles per annum.

October 27th, 2009

Hi Cor van Wijngaarden!
Did it taste like salmon or did you drink it with salmon?
Nice that you liked it!

October 27th, 2009

yesterday I bought your Glenlivet 12 years old single malt.

Nosing and tasting , and with salmon.

My wife and I have enjoyed

greets from holland-Purmerend