Glenlivet Distillery

History: The area around the remote Livet valley in the Scottish Highlands was the perfect location for creating illicit whisky at the beginning of the 19th century. High taxes put on by the English government sent Scottish whisky-makers underground to escape paying the customs officer’s levy. When King George IV arrived in Scotland for a state visit in 1822, Glenlivet creator George Smith asked him to try a drop of his infamous whisky. An illegal dram it was, but that didn’t stop the King. Around two years later the tax was lifted and George quickly capitalised, got a licence and became the first legal distiller in the parish of Glenlivet. For more than a century, the business stayed in the Smith family’s hands and became one of the world’s biggest brands, with many trying to steal the name. This led to a landmark case in 1884 that ruled in favour of their single malt being the only one that could call itself “The” Glenlivet. Today the whisky is owned by Pernod Ricard and is still one of the best-selling single malts in the world.

The whisky: Glenlivet is a real crowd-pleaser and while some whisky snobs may turn their noses up, I find it a very easy-going dram. Its style is soft and smooth with sweet summer fruits and floral notes. New expressions are constantly being released, including the Nadurra Batch series, which I have enjoyed, particularly the 16-year-old.

Why visit? The distillery is fully set up for visitors with tours available all year round. The “Classic” tour offers an informative and in-depth insight into how the spirit is created. If you are really into your whisky and food, you can splash out £95 per person and go on The Glenlivet Whisky Food Safari where you will be joined by award-winning writer and broadcaster, Ghillie Basan, for a unique culinary safari at her home in a whisky-smuggler’s glen. There, you will be led through the concepts of aroma, flavour and texture. Together you will prepare spice mixes and dishes, working with flavours from around the world, to pair with several Glenlivet whiskies before enjoying the meal you have created.

Interesting fact: When George Smith became the first in the area to get his licence to legalise his whisky production, it did not go down well with the some of his neighbours. Many of the nearby distilleries were illegally run and involved in smuggling. The owners became angry at George Smith for running Glenlivet legally. Such was the strength of feeling that he had to carry a pair of pistols for protection.