The tides changed for Scotch whisky makers in 1823, when the Excise Act passed, allowing them to obtain legal distilling licenses in Scotland for the first time. The Glenlivet, a Scotch brand that dates back to 1822, jumped at the opportunity — becoming the first legal distillery in the small, isolated town of Glenlivet in 1824.
In the nearly 200 years since The Glenlivet became an officially licensed distillery, it has grown into a global best-selling Scotch brand. With 27 whisky offerings and a series of limited-edition releases, there’s a Glenlivet whisky option for almost every palate and price range.
Now that you know the basics, here are nine more things you should know about The Glenlivet.
Its story starts with a bit of shameless illegal activity.
The reason behind The Glenlivet’s distillery location is twofold. The remote Livet valley that Glenlivet calls home is tucked away in Scotland’s Speyside region, one of the most popular Scotch regions in the country (it’s home to 50 whisky distilleries). It was also a location that was far away from the prying eyes of government authorities in the 1800s. This was important for Glenlivet founder George Smith. who started honing his craft in 1822, a year before legal distilleries were permitted.
The first four letters of the brand’s name aren’t exactly unique.
If you’re a Scotch drinker, you’ve probably tasted at least one brand with “Glen” in its name. Glenlivet, whose name translates to the “Livet valley” its distillery is based in, is just one of a slew of Glen-titled brands. It’s a fact that’s famously pointed out by Jon Favreau’s character, Mike Peters, in “Swingers,” whose drink order is, “a Scotch on the rocks, please. Any Scotch will do, as long as it’s not a blend, of course. Single malt, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich perhaps, Glen Galley, any Glen.”
But why do so many Scotch distilleries have Glen in their names? Glen, the Gaelic word for valley, seems to be such a popular name choice because most whisky brands throughout the country rely on nearby valleys for the rivers that provide fresh water to their distilleries.
An archeologist dig unearthed Glenlivet’s original distillery site.
Over 25 years after surveying the site of the very first Glenlivet distillery, the National Trust for Scotland returned to excavate the original building’s footprint, along with bottle glass and ceramic shards that were likely used at the distillery. The dig was part of an effort to find and protect the historic location, whose founder helped shape whisky making in the region for centuries to come. The site, located only 1 kilometer from the distillery’s current location, is complete with a monument that details the location’s significance in the world of whisky.
King George IV and Charles Dickens were Glenlivet fans.
When he paid a visit to Scotland in 1822, the king himself didn’t mind that legislation hadn’t yet passed to allow The Glenlivet to operate legally. He just wanted to try the whisky. The king in question, King George IV of Great Britain and Ireland, was in Scotland on a state visit when he tried Glenlivet for the first time, setting in motion a royal love of Scotch for centuries to come.
Famed English writer Charles Dickens also opted for Glenlivet whisky. His first time sampling the drink, in 1852, was so pivotal for the novelist that he wrote to a friend and praised the brand, even sending along a sample with the letter. If writing hadn’t worked out, it sounds like Dickens could have been quite the whisky salesman.
The brand is racking up sales in America and beyond.
The Glenlivet is a best-seller in the U.S. and beyond. In the States, it was the 16th most popular whisky brand in 2022. It holds its own among the best-selling Scotches of the world, too. With 1.2 million cases sold in 2021, it came in at No. 20 on the planet.
It’s a pro-approved whisky choice.
The Glenlivet is more than just a best-seller: It’s a whisky that the pros enjoy drinking, too. It regularly makes the list as a best Scotch whisky brand and is lauded for its great value for the price.
The oldest single malt Scotch in the world used to be a Glenlivet.
“Used to be” isn’t exactly the most glamorous title for a brand to hold, but Glenlivet does deserve some credit for aging the (now second) oldest single malt Scotch in the world. In 1940, Glenlivet Cask 340 was sealed, and it wasn’t reopened for 80 years. In 2020, 250 decanters were filled with the rare whisky, which sold for over $90,000 a bottle. At the time, it was a history-making Scotch, aged longer than any other single malt on the market. One year later, in 2021, The Macallan opened up its 1940 cask, officially making 81 years the age to beat.
A unique Glenlivet product release drew internet attention — for the wrong reasons.
All press is good press, right? The Glenlivet seemed to think so when it released a limited line of edible whisky pods in 2019. The pods, which were released two years after the Tide Pod eating craze, and its accompanying dangers, took the internet by storm. Social media quickly made the comparison of Glenlivet’s whisky pods to laundry detergent capsules, and the new release became a bit of a Twitter laughingstock. The good news? It at least got people talking.
The Glenlivet has taken to the skies.
The Glenlivet gained steam in Europe in the 1930s when it was added to Pullman Train Company’s drinks menu. The Glenlivet eventually made its way from the train to the plane, with airlines like British Airways and American Airlines carrying the brand in the early 2000s. While Glenlivet disappeared from most airline menus and was replaced by other whisky brands in the 2010s, American Airlines has officially re-added a Glenlivet option back to its menu. If you find yourself flying American, you can indulge in a Glenlivet 15-year mini bottle, just like the old days.