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    Glenlivet Single Malt Whisky

    Glenlivet was the first legally licensed distillery in Scotland and is now one of the biggest selling single malts in the world. Founder George Smith had, like many others around that time, been distilling small volumes of whisky illegally, but he was the first to apply for a license once the 1823 Excise Act was put in place. Many illegal distillers disagreed with the act and subsequently made threats to Smith’s life, but he persisted, and famously carried a set of pistols for protection. These pistols, said to be a gift from the Laird of Aberlour, are now displayed at the distillery.

    Despite the many threats to his life, Smith was producing a spirit of such high quality that it became internationally renowned and many other distillers began using the Glenlivet name on their own whisky. This continued for many years and in 1876, John Smith (son of George and heir to the distillery) filed a request to trademark the Glenlivet name. After a series of court battles, the distillery was granted exclusive rights to the name ‘THE Glenlivet’. Translated from Gaelic, the name means ‘valley of the smooth-flowing one’.

    The reputation of The Glenlivet was cemented when, following the lifting of prohibition in the United States in 1933, it was one of the first scotch whiskies to be exported internationally. With an envious reputation and a steady supply both at home and overseas, The Glenlivet developed into the household name we know today. The site is now owned by Pernod Ricard and produces 5.8 million litres of pure alcohol each year.

    Charles MacLean:

    On September 22nd, The Glenlivet launched the first expression of its ‘Winchester Collection’ of 50 year old malts from this most distinguished distillery. It is planned that this will be followed annually (or occasionally?) by other 50 year olds. The next one will come from 1966. The inaugural edition of only 100 bottles has been drawn from casks filled in 1964 and beautifully packaged. Alan Winchester is The Glenlivet’s highly distinguished Master Distiller. A local man, he joined the company thirty-five years ago and rose through the ranks. He is universally respected in the whisky industry, both for his skill and experience and for his profound knowledge of the history of whisky, and of Speyside in particular.
    Led by America, there was a phenomenal increase in the demand for Scotch during the 1960s. In 1960 exports to the U.S. stood at 12 million proof gallons; by 1968 it was 33 mpg. All but a tiny amount of this was blended Scotch, and that tiny amount was The Glenlivet. In August 1963, the company appointed Barton Distilling, to distribute The Glenlivet in the USA and the Caribbean. At the time 3,000 cases were being sold in the United States each year, primarily in New York and California. Bartons planned an advertising campaign to expand this, under the headline: ‘The Scotch That Stayed Single.’
    To meet the growing demand, out-put at all Scottish distilleries increased slowly until 1963/64, then began to accelerate rapidly from 29m proof gallons to 51m proof gallons in 1967. The Glenlivet matched this, steadily increasing production during the decade: by the 1970-72 season, output had almost doubled (from 380,778 proof gallons in 1960-61 to 744,785 in 1970-71). The size of the distillery, its plant and processes remained the same, however, with one change: the old floor maltings were closed in 1966, and now malt was brought in from independent maltsters, lightly peated to Glenlivet’s specification. This was happening throughout the industry; slow and labour-intensive floor maltings simply could not produce enough to meet the distilleries requirements.
    So this first expression of the ‘Winchester Collection’ provides an opportunity to taste a whisky distilled from malt made at the distillery. I asked Alan about this and he acknowledged that although the malt specification did not change, and although the malt supplied by the new centralised maltings was more consistent in quality, the very variability of malt made on site – whether at Glenlivet or elsewhere – was part of the whisky’s charm. “And don’t forget”, he added, “that 1964 was the year we began to use Golden Promise barley, which for so long was the variety of choice for Scottish malt distillers, producing a heavier, more oily, more flavourful spirit.
    Finally, I asked Alan how he saw his role as Master Distiller. “I have ultimate responsibility for the quality and consistency of The Glenlivet. Although the position of ‘Master Distiller’ was only created in 1997, I am the heir to a long line of managers and owners stretching back to George Smith, who founded the distillery in 1824. As you know, I have a deep interest in the history of whisky, so it comes naturally to me to have an eye on the past – but my other eye is on the future”. 

    Read more about The Glenlivet Whisky and Distillery...

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