Single malt whisky is the golden child of Scotland, so to say. Scotch whisky is known around the world for its quality and history, but it’s really the single malt scotch that so many out there crave. So, we’re going to compare the most popular single malt scotch in the US to the most popular single malt scotch in the world. That’s where Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich come in.
Which is better, Glenlivet or Glenfiddich? Which is cheaper? What do they taste like? These are all questions we’re going to answer in this article. Before we get there, let’s look at their history to see how these two single malt scotch whiskies reached such heights.
As a note, this comparison guide is between Glenlivet 12 vs Glenfiddich 12. Furthermore, when referring to scotch, it is spelled whisky, without the ‘e’.
In 1822, George Smith began illegally distilling whisky in the valley of Livet. Just two years later, though, he applied for a license to become a legal distiller, and the Glenlivet Distillery became fully legit. After a couple decades, Glenlivet became so popular that other whiskies attempted to sell their spirit under the Glenlivet name. So in 1884, John Smith, the son of George, added ‘The’ to their name to stand out. Glenlivet had become The Glenlivet.
Modern day, Glenlivet is the largest seller of single malt scotch in the US. However, their journey to get here started back in 1933. Prohibition was just coming to an end, so The Glenlivet sparked up a deal with the Pullman Train Company. They served mini bottles of Glenlivet to traveling Americans. They continued this trend in America with serving their whisky on planes. Not only were they selling their scotch to American companies and the American people, they were spreading the word of their fine scotch across America.
William Grant and his seven sons, along with two daughters, built a distillery by hand in 1886 and ’87. Once completed, he named it Glenfiddich, Gaelic for Valley of the Deer. Like most whiskies, Glenfiddich had tough times throughout the 1920’s due to prohibition. While most distilleries shut down, halted production, or slowed it, Glenfiddich increased their production. This set them up for when prohibition and the world war came to an end as they had plenty of aged single malts. In the 1960’s they began promoting and marketing their whisky outside of Scotland, which would eventually lead them to become the largest seller of single malts worldwide.
Glenfiddich is still, to this day, a family run business. Although, it’s important to note that William Grant & Sons is known for more than just Glenfiddich. They also own and produce Balvenie, Tullamore Dew, Grant’s, Hendricks Gin, and Monkey Shoulder among others.
What is Single Malt Scotch?
We’ve talked a lot about the history of Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich and single malt scotch. But what does it mean to be a scotch? What does single malt mean? First, lets take a look at what scotch whisky refers to. In order to bear the name ‘scotch’, the whisky must be distilled in Scotland, malted barley has to be used in the mash, and it must age 3 years in oak casks. Lastly, it has to be bottled at a minimum 80 proof.
If it has all of these qualifications, it can then be broken down into the type of scotch. A single malt label means that the whisky was produced at a single distillery and uses 100% malted barley for its mashbill. Johnnie Walker is an example of a blended scotch, whereas Monkey Shoulder is a blended malt scotch. Johnnie Walker, then, uses a a mixture of malt scotch whisky and grain scotch whisky from different distilleries. Monkey Shoulder blends 3 single malt scotch whiskies together from different distilleries (one of which is Glenfiddich).
Speyside Region of Scotland
Along with labels such as single malt, blended malt, single grain, blended grain, and blended scotch, you’ll also see the region the scotch was produced in. There are 5 regions of Scotland in the whisky producing world. Lowlands, Highlands, Islay, Speyside, and Campbeltown. Both Glenlivet and Glenfiddich are from Speyside which produces over half the single malt scotch in Scotland. Single malt scotch from Speyside is known to be sweeter and less smoky than other regions. While scotch isn’t as predicated by the region its made as it used to, you can check out the Scotch Whiskey Association to learn more about these regions.
Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich Taste
We’ve covered single malt scotch and these two whiskies’ histories. Now it’s time to really dive into the specifics of Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich beginning with their flavor profiles.
Glenlivet Tasting Notes
Nose: Light and fruity, citrus and pineapple.
Palate: The fruity notes from the nose peak through vanilla, brown sugar, spice, and earthy notes.
Finish: Smooth with some spice and apple.
Glenfiddich Tasting Notes
Nose: Light and fruity, heavy pear.
Palate: Heavy pear flavors with light wood and floral notes.
Finish: Light finish, not much heat. Fruity and floral with light spice.
Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich Taste Summary
Both of these whiskies are single malt and come from the region of Speyside. So, as it turns out, they are fairly similar. However, differences in distilling do provide subtle differences. Glenfiddich is heavy on pear notes and flavors while Glenlivet has citrus, pineapple, and apple notes.
So, which is better – Glenlivet or Glenfiddich? We don’t really have an answer for that. This comes down to personal preference, but Glenlivet is a bit stronger while Glenfiddich is seemingly lighter. Here at Barrel & Brew, we are split on what we like. Personally, I prefer Glenfiddich as I thoroughly enjoy the lightness and pear flavors. Ultimately, we recommend you try both! There is a reason they are the two most popular single malt scotch whiskies in the world.
Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich Price
While these two whiskies come from similar areas and have similar flavor profiles, will they be similarly priced? Let’s take a look. As a note, these are average prices and can vary upon individual store and location.
Glenlivet and Glenfiddich are similarly priced. You should be able to purchase a standard 750ml bottle for around $40. I was able to get my bottle of Glenfiddich for $32 and Glenlivet for $38 at my local Total Wine. However, a price that low is rare to find, so you should expect to pay anywhere from $38 up to $50 for a bottle.
How Should I Drink Glenlivet and Glenfiddich?
When it comes to drinking single malt scotch, you should drink it one of three ways. First, is neat or by itself. Single malt scotch is meant to be tasted and enjoyed. However, drinking whisky neat can be tough for some people, although Glenlivet and Glenfiddich are on the lighter side. Adding a splash of water is one way to dull down the alcohol which will actually help bring out the flavors more. Lastly, you can pour it over ice. The ice will chill your drink and limit the alcohol taste; however, chilling your drink can take away some flavor.
While no one is here to police how you drink single malt scotch (except your dad maybe), it is made to be enjoyed how it is. If you’re looking to pair your scotch with food, it’s best to keep the food on the lighter side to match the scotch. White meat and fish is your best bet, although you can never go wrong with a steak either.
Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich Summary
As I mentioned earlier, there’s a reason these two single malt scotch whiskies are the top selling single malts in the world. They are tasteful and reasonably priced. Whether you’re looking for a nightly or weekly drink or if you’re new to the world of Scotch, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich are the best options. They are almost stereotypical Speyside single malts, so start there and work your way into different options.
If you’re looking for more high end single malt scotch whiskies, both Glenlivet and Glenfiddich offer different selections than their standard 12 yr bottle. There’s another option as well. Try our favorite Speyside single malt, Aberlour. Here at Barrel & Brew, we love our Aberlour and it should only cost between $50-60.
Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich FAQ
Below are frequently asked questions about Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich, many of which are covered in the article above.
Is Glenlivet a Good Scotch?
Yes. Glenlivet is the most popular single malt scotch in the US. It’s a great place to start your scotch journey and it’s a reliable scotch for those who already enjoy it.
Is Glenfiddich better than Glenlivet?
This really comes down to personal preference. They are both considered high quality and there is no wrong option. Glenfiddich is a little bit lighter than Glenlivet.
What Does Single Malt Mean?
A ‘single malt’ label means that the whiskey was made from 100% malted barley from a single distillery. Single malts are not only produces in Scotland. Balcones is a Texas whiskey that distills single malt whiskey.