In the early 1800’s Glenlivet was considered to produce the best in whisky in the world. This was mostly due to a visit to the area by King George IV in 1822 who supposedly asked for Glenlivet by name.
Strictly speaking, producing and selling whisky was illegal when the king visited, but it still happened as an illicit industry in Scotland and as a result the tough landscape had become a turbulent battleground for illicit distillers evading the tax man. To get some control over the situation in 1823 the UK government introduced new rules, fairer taxes and lowered the price of a distillery license.
One of the first distillers who legitimately apply for that license was George Smith who had rented a small farm from the Duke of Richmond and Gordon. He had actually started distilling whisky when it was still illegal but not in anything like the volumes that were required to make a decent profit.
Subsequently In 1824 he was granted the first legal licence to distill in Glenlivet. From this date on and knowing the commercial value of the Kings accolade, only his whisky had the right to reference Glenlivet. However many other distilleries in the area used spurious geographical reference to promote their own product as being from Glenlivet and even after a 1884 court battle that defended ‘the passing off of an inferior product’ had secured the title rights for Glenlivet distillery alone, others continued to us it for a number of years afterwards.
The Glenlivet Distillery sits in the village of Drumin, about 10 miles south of Dufftown. The distillery has been widely expanded over the years with the last major refurbishment in 2010 when current owners Chivas Brothers extended the stills and refurbished the buildings, adding a new visitor centre. Today Glenlivet is internationally recognised as a definitive Speyside malt and the only one produced in the Livet Valley. It’s the best selling Scotch in the USA and the fourth best selling in the UK, with annual sales totalling 6 million bottles.
A further investment is due to be completed in 2021 which will further increase production and provide a new visitor experience.
As the River Livet doesn’t supply enough water to satisfy production volumes, the distillery draws water from the historic Josie’s Well a short distance away. The whisky produced here exhibits the characteristic soft, round note of Speyside Whiskies and is also used in Chivas’ own blends.