In the world of single-malt Scotch whiskies, two names stand tall and command the utmost respect: Glenfiddich and Glenlivet. These iconic distilleries, nestled amidst the lush landscapes of Scotland, have captured the hearts and palates of whisky enthusiasts worldwide.
The main difference between Glenfiddich and Glenlivet is that the corner has a more subtle, softer flavor profile, which makes it easier, and in some cases, smoother to drink.
However, these single-malt whiskies both hail from the Speyside region, making them fairly similar. However, some other differences may sway your opinion based on personal preferences. Let’s get into it!
In 1886 and ’87, William Grant and his children built Glenfiddich distillery by hand. Despite Prohibition hardships in the 1920s, they increased production, ensuring aged single-malts for later.
By the 1960s, they expanded their whisky marketing beyond Scotland and became the largest seller of single malts globally. Today, Glenfiddich remains a family-run business.
In 1822, George Smith began illegally distilling whisky in Livet Valley. Two years later, he obtained a license, making Glenlivet Distillery legit. By 1884, other whiskies tried to sell under the Glenlivet name, so George’s son added ‘The’ to stand out.
Glenlivet became The Glenlivet. Today, it is the top-selling single-malt scotch in the US. In 1933, during the end of Prohibition, The Glenlivet partnered with the Pullman Train Company, serving mini bottles to Americans. They continued this trend on airplanes, spreading the word of their scotch across America.
Glenlivet’s fermented liquid is distilled in traditional copper pot stills that resemble lanterns. They have different-sized stills, including wash stills and spirit stills, which contribute to the light and smooth texture of their whisky. The distillation process at Glenlivet focuses on preserving the fruity and floral characteristics of the spirit.
On the other hand, Glenfiddich also employs copper pot stills for distillation, but they’re shadows like swan necks. They have a unique combination of differently shaped and sized stills, including large wash stills and relatively smaller spirit stills. This combination is said to contribute to the richness and complexity of their whisky.
While both distilleries use copper pot stills, the variations in the size and shape of the stills, as well as other aspects of their unique production methods, can result in subtle differences in the flavor profiles.
Glenlivet offers a warm and spicy palate with hints of oak. It transitions into a vibrant citrus taste accompanied by fruity notes and maple syrup.
Glenfiddich presents creamy notes, dried fruit, wood, and toffee flavors, complemented by a subtle touch of vanilla. It delivers a sweet and fruity profile, providing a lighter sensation.
Glenlivet’s aroma delights with a bright citrus scent and subtle undertones of golden apples. There is also a pleasant sweetness reminiscent of maple syrup.
Glenfiddich carries a gentle fragrance of dried fruits, whipped cream, and the enticing sweetness of brown sugar, akin to Glenlivet.
Glenlivet boasts a lengthy and velvety finish, reflecting its commitment to quality and innovative techniques. The employment of large stills contributes to their signature smooth texture, which extends across all spirits produced by Chivas Brothers brands.
Glenfiddich also offers a prolonged and mellow finish. Despite employing traditional methods, they carefully distill the cut points three times, allowing the spirit to mature and develop a light texture. Glenfiddich is notably softer, devoid of any harsh flavors.
The 12-year-old single-malt displays a captivating golden hue, representing Glenfiddich’s core range.
These single malts derive their distinct flavor profiles and specific shades from aging in American bourbon and Spanish sherry oak casks. The 15-year-old Solera Single-Malt Scotch exhibits a rich golden amber color.
Glenlivet’s color varies, presenting shades of bright and vibrant gold. The specific hue may subtly shift with age, but not significantly.
While Glenlivet entered the industry slightly earlier, they offer fewer variants than Glenfiddich.
Glenlivet has seventeen variants, whereas Glenfiddich boasts twenty-three, including rare editions and vintage bottles.
Glenfiddich whisky undergoes maturation in a variety of casks, including American Bourbon casks, Spanish Sherry butts, Caribbean Rum casks, and more. In contrast, the aging process of Glenlivet whisky takes place in either European or American oak casks.
Although both Glenfiddich and Glenlivet are single-malt Scotch whiskies crafted from malted barley, they differ in their sources. However, the processes involved in creating their mash bills are similar. In this process, the powdered barley, known as grist, is carefully mixed with water until it transforms into a consistency similar to dough.
|Warm with spicy notes Oak Dried fruit/citrus Toffee Vanilla Pineapple Floral
|Creamy Dried fruit/citrus Toffee Wood Pear Floral
|Long and smooth
|Long and mellow (light)
|Light and citrusy, with a hint of golden apples, maple syrup
|Light and citrusy, mostly pear, brown sugar
|Vibrant golden hue
|A rich (slightly darker) golden hue
|23 (includes some vintage and rare editions)
Glenfiddich, despite being a newer distillery, adheres to older whiskey-making methods. On the other hand, Glenlivet, as the older distillery, employs newer whiskey-making methods.
Other than that, there are subtle differences between these whiskey brands, but they’re not so far off from one another. The color, taste, aroma, and varieties available are comparable to one another. The prices are also nearly the same, except for the 21-year-old bottle, which costs about $100 more for Glenlivet.
So, when it comes to the question of which is superior – Glenlivet or Glenfiddich – there isn’t a definitive answer. It ultimately depends on personal preference.
However, it can be noted that Glenlivet tends to have a bolder profile, while Glenfiddich is often perceived as lighter in character. For those just getting started with single-malt whiskey, you may want to start with the Glenfiddich version, but both brands are of the highest quality. Enjoy!