The Glenlivet Vs Macallan Single Malt Whisky

The Glenlivet Whisky vs Macallan Whisky – The Speyside’s definitive single malt Whisky

The Glenlivet Whisky & Macallan whisky are the important single malt whisky of Speyside region. Being from the same region they have different loyal fan base. Click to know the comparison between the two to settle The Glenlivet Vs Macallan battle once and for all.

From the many, many malt distilleries that call the Speyside their home, there are only a few that are as illustrious as the two distilleries we shall be talking about today, The Glenlivet and Macallan. Together, both these single malt whiskies outnumber most in sales figures, revenue and many other statistical comparisons. But of what interest are numbers to a lover of uisce beatha, the water of life?

It is true that numbers and percentages are of no value to whisky connoisseur that only depends two of their senses to embrace their leisure they have come to love so dearly. So without further ado, let us ask the question that needs to be asked.

The Glenlivet or Macallan – Picking the definitive Speyside single malt Whisky

Let’s get a refresher course about the history of both brands, before we draw a compare and contrast between them to see who triumphs, and is declared the definitive Speyside single malt, a benchmark that all other Speyside single malt are measured against.

The Glenlivet Whisky vs Macallan Whisky

For starters, The Glenlivet was the first in Scotland to obtain a license for their distillery in 1824 after the Excise Act of 1823 came into effect. Prior to this, founder George Smith’s Glenlivet and nearly every existing distillery in the Speyside ran an illicit operation.

George Smith chose the name Glenlivet as the distillery was situated in the Livet valley, in the parish of Glenlivet. Smith’s ‘Glenlivet’ single malt is often cited as the ‘single malt that started it all’. The whisky even came to a level of infamy that when King George IV visited Scotland in 1822, he asked to try the illicit Glenlivet whisky. Some even argue that a part of the reason the Excise Act of 1823 was drafted and passed was because of George Smith’s exceptional product.

Macallan Whisky

Now Macallan, like Glenlivet, obtained their license around the same time in 1824. Nothing more was known about the brand before Alexander Reid obtained the license for his distillery. Reid named his facilities ‘Macallan’ by combining two names.

He took the name ‘Magh’, meaning fertility in Gaelic, and combined it with ‘Ellan’ from the name of St. Fillan, an Irish monk that helped spread Christianity in Scotland. Reid was associated with Macallan until 1868, after which the distillery was owned by James Stuart. Eventually, Roderick Kemp became the owner of the distillery in 1892, and the distillery was under his family’s ownership until 1996.

Now that we have an understanding of both brands that began their journey into the world of whisky simultaneously, shall we find out who wins the right to call themselves the definitive Speyside single malt?

George Smith

George Smith, founder of The Glenlivet Distillery

The Glenlivet, throughout its history has been an iconic single malt Scotch, inspiring a level of fame and admiration unlike many brands can even today. George Smith, followed by his kin ran the distillery for much of its 200 year old history. Exclusively producing single malt Scotch only, The Glenlivet has been around in its current form since the very beginning.

Macallan on the other hand was prominently used for blends, and didn’t have much renown as a single malt until a few decades ago. Primarily used for blends, the Macallan single malt appeared on the scene far too recently. Macallan has done well for itself since then, becoming one of the Speyside’s third bestselling single malt whisky, behind The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.

Yet surprisingly, even after the Speyside was officially recognized by the Scotch Whisky Association as an independent whisky distilling region, Macallan have continued to refer to their whisky as a Highland single malt.

For The Glenlivet, it has been one of the most important institutions, perhaps one of the few that led to an influx of distilleries in the region aiming to recreate its success. It could be argued that the Speyside finally received its official status because of something George Smith began back in 1824!

The Glenlivet Distillery

Lantern shaped stills at The Glenlivet Distillery.

All right now that we have discussed the aspects that do not matter much, let us move on to the distilleries, their methods and techniques, their stills and the spirit they produce. The flavours, the aromas and the true test of just how great a whisky brand can be.

The Glenlivet and Macallan are both known to use unique, specifically designed copper stills that play a huge role in how their whiskies turn out. George Smith designed the tall, lantern shaped stills still used at The Glenlivet Distillery, whereas the Macallan copper stills are short, onion-shaped.

Macallan Distillery

Stills at the Macallan Distillery.

How does this matter? Well, the taller the stills, the lighter, more pleasant the whisky, and the shorter the stills, the more intense and heavily bodied a whisky can be. This puts both The Glenlivet single malt and Macallan single malt in direct contrast with each other.

The core flavour notes of single malts from The Glenlivet are light, floral and grassy, praised by critics and whisky lovers for its complex character. Flavours of freshly cut fruit and toffees make it one of the best single malts to be served neat. The Glenlivet has been famously been popular not just with veterans and collectors, but also with beginners who find its qualities attractive and pleasant.

Macallan 18

Now with the Macallan, their short, stout stills lock in most of the spirit’s character, and the distillery’s practice of only using a small portion of the distilled spirit is quite special. Most Macallan single malts are quite different than Speyside whiskies. As we mentioned before, their intense flavours and aromas of fruitcake, spice and oak make them very different from their contemporaries belonging to the same region.

The Glenlivet 18

Characteristically, it would make more sense to place Macallan closer to another Highland whisky which curiously sounds like a Speyside distillery, but isn’t. The Glenmorangie is a compatriot of the Macallan single malt in terms of profile and characteristics

Both single malts could not be more different than each other, although the traits they share are shockingly similar. Both brands are immensely successful single malts, both in Scotland and overseas. They belong to the same region, and even obtained their license in the same year.

But who takes the title of the most definitive Speyside single malt Scotch?

The Glenlivet

The Glenlivet’s light, mellow aromas and flavours, coupled by their immensely diverse portfolio of single malts represent the complete breadth of flavours and aromas that the Speyside is typically associated with.

The Whiskypedia believes that no other brand represents and embodies the iconic Speyside personality better than The Glenlivet, a brand that is not only synonymous with the Speyside region, but can also be called the flagbearer of everything the Speyside stands for.