The remote and isolated Livet valley made it ideal for illicit distillation. This is where our founder George Smith learned his craft. Hidden away from the Customs Officers and soldiers amongst the hills and abundant springs, George had time to distil slowly making a whisky that would soon become world renowned. In August 1822, King George IV arrived in Scotland for a state visit and asked to try a drop of the infamous Glenlivet whisky. An illegal dram it was, but even that didn’t stop the King.
1822: The Beginning
The smuggler of smugglers
Two years later and after a change in legislation, George saw his window of opportunity and rode to Elgin to get his licence to become the first legal distiller in the parish of Glenlivet. This didn’t go down well with the illicit distillers around him and he was told he would burn along with his distillery. In a bid to protect himself from these sinister smugglers, he carried a pair of flintlock pistols with him at all times, making it clear he wasn’t afraid to use them. His courage set the foundation for our whisky today.
The Whisky Business
By the late ‘30’s, The Glenlivet distillery was producing more than 200 gallons a week. This expansion meant our founder would soon need more employees. A few years later, Andrew Ushers & Sons of Edinburgh joined as sales agents, helping spread the word of the whisky.
The Rare Old Glenlivet
Our reputation spread beyond the green hills of Scotland to the Smoky skies of London. When Charles Dickens wrote to his friend urging him to try the "rare old Glenlivet", he was recommending a single malt that went beyond his great expectations.
The Story Continues
With the passing of George Smith on November 27, the job of continuing his life’s work fell to his youngest son, John Gordon Smith. He had been away training for a career in law but on the death of his father, he returned to pick up the reins of the business.
With other competitors desperate to take the name ‘Glenlivet’ for themselves to capitalise of our notoriety, John found the solution in a small but powerful three-letter word. He fought hard for the rights and in 1884 we became the one and only The Glenlivet.
When John’s second great-nephew Captain Bill Smith Grant took over the distillery in 1921, he was met by two challenges: The Great Depression and Prohibition in the USA. However, as a decorated war hero from World War One, Captain Bill rose to meet these challenges head on. Even though production dropped during these tough years, the distillery emerged in a great position in the US market after the repeal of Prohibition.
The Train Pulls In
As Prohibition came to an end, Americans came forward; thirstier than ever for fine Single Malts. Thanks to Captain Bill’s perseverance through the depression, we were in the perfect place to serve them a dram. One of our first major customers was the Pullman Train Company, who began serving miniature bottles on their routes, helping to spread our fine whisky across the continent.
The Most Popular Whisky
Thanks to trains, planes, and automobiles, the middle of the century saw The Glenlivet account for half of the Scottish malt whisky sold in the US. Thanks to new jet-setters of the 50’s, word soon spread to all corners of the world.
The New Century
The second turn of the century saw another vast expansion of our distillery, this time by our current Master Distiller, Alan Winchester. Having spent 40 years honing his craft, Alan is just the man to ensure the spirit of our founder lives on.
Almost 200 years since our distillery doors opened, we crafted something new to celebrate: The Glenlivet Founders Reserve. Created by Master Distiller Alan Winchester, this fine liquid captures the distinct, smooth, fruity taste that George Smith first envisioned in 1824, and went on to be amass highest sales volume of any new Scotch product launched in the last five years (IWSR, 2016).
To this day we continue George Smith's vision to break traditions, set new standards and move things forward; selecting exceptional unique casks, finishes and liquids and delivering unique serves and cocktails to open up the world of single malt to all.