Due to the remote nature of the Livet valley, illegal distillation was rife. George Smith, the founder of The Glenlivet Distillery, first plied his trade in this valley as it was the perfect location to hide from soldiers and Customs Officers. In between the vast amount of springs and hills he learned the art of slow distilled whisky, with his stills later becoming world renowned. In 1822 during a state visit to Scotland, even King George IV wanted to try the infamous Glenlivet whisky, despite it being illegal.
A change in legislation during 1824 allowed for George to acquire a licence, making him the first legal distiller in the Livet valley. Twelve or so years later, the Glenlivet distillery was producing more than 200 gallons a week. The reputation of Glenlivet whisky reached far and wide with it even getting a mention from Charles Dickens in a letter to his friend urging him to try the ‘rare old Glenlivet’
27th November 1871 saw the death of George Smith. His son, John Gordon Smith, abandoned training for a career in law in order to continue running the business, carrying on his father’s life’s work. Due to the large success of the Glenlivet brand, many companies wanted to ride on the coat tails of the name. To differentiate themselves, John fought for the rights to a three-letter word and in 1884 they became ‘The Glenlivet’.
Captain Bill Smith Grant, John’s second great-nephew, took control of the distillery in 1921. He was a decorated and experienced World War 1 hero and managed to steer the company to success despite tough challenges such as The Great Depression and Prohibition in America. His perseverance was rewarded in 1933 when Prohibition ended and Americans were desperate for single malts and The Glenlivet were perfectly placed to provide. On the back of this large clients were landed such as the Pullman Train Company who sold miniatures on all routes across America, spreading the brands reach even further.
By the mid 1900’s The Glenlivet made up half of the Scottish malt whisky sold in America. With the 50’s also bringing a big increase in commercial flight, word spread to all corners of the world about this whisky. 2010 and another huge expansion took place under experienced Master Distiller Alan Winchester. The Glenlivet is the pace setter when it comes to Speyside single malts and all other distilleries are measured against it.