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Issue 10 - Whisky from the wild side (Glenlivet)

Whisky Magazine Issue 10
June 2000


This article is 18 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Whisky from the wild side (Glenlivet)

The spirit of innovation has always been a part of distilling at Glenlivet. Dave Broom charts ahistory shot through with passion, rebellion and imagination.

And in the Highlands the A939, Cockbridge to Tomintoul, is blocked. This was the way that the onset of winter was traditionally announced in Scotland.

Travel this road and you can see why this would be the first place to be snowbound. The pine forests and fast running waters of gentle Deeside have been left behind as you suddenly veer into the Grampian massif. Trees disappear, grouse peek out from the side of the road and make suicidal dashes under the car wheels. As you travel up the impossibly steep hill from the austere Corgarff castle you enter a different land. A hard, high land of heather, rough pasture and plenty of weather. There is a sense of isolation, space and loneliness.

According to the whisky maps, this is Speyside but it isn't the Speyside of popular imagination. This is Glenlivet. The coachloads of tourists wending their way from Dufftown in the north to The Glenlivet distillery must wonder at times if their driver has made a mistake. This is not what Speyside is meant to look like. But then Glenlivet has always been slightly different to its neighbours. After all, when people wanted high-class whisky in the 19th century they did not ask for a Speyside, they called for Glenlivet.

To be strictly accurate they wouldn't have called for it, because the stuff that had made that long trek south over those remote, snow-filled winter passes was technically illegal. That did not stop them paying a premium for it. In the 1820s, illegally produced Glenlivet was fetc...

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