‘We’re pushing flavour boundaries’: the distillery twisting single malt traditions


Imbibing a dram of fine single malt scotch has always been something of a ritualistic pursuit. Purists will insist that the spirit should really only be sampled neat, or perhaps with a splash of water. It may even be acceptable to drop a cube of ice or two into your tumbler. Adding anything else could be deemed to diminish the flavour and the subtle notes of the spirit. And using premium single malt with a mixer? Some would consider that sacrilege.

But things have been changing at many of Scotland’s more traditional distilleries over the past decade or so. For example, take The Glenlivet, the original producer of the Speyside style of fruity and floral single malt. Being the first distiller to take out a licence to distil legally in the Livet Valley in 1824, as well as the first to import its scotch into the US following the end of prohibition in 1933, gives this classic Scottish distillery a storied heritage. However, when it comes to flavour, The Glenlivet hasn’t been afraid to add some contemporary twists to its classic style over the past few years.

“A decade ago the biggest debate when it came to scotch whisky really was: ‘Do you drink it neat or with water?’” says Alex Robertson, The Glenlivet’s head of heritage and education. “But now I think that single malts are seen as being exciting, energetic and modern – and I think that’s a global view these days. In the case of The Glenlivet, we’re pushing our flavour boundaries in different directions to satisfy that new, dynamic audience.”

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