Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Comparing Glenfiddich and Glenlivet Scotch whiskies can be over one’s head, knowing that their staggering sales and popularity worldwide are almost similar. But which whisky tastes better? Which one is smoother?
We’ll answer your questions in this detailed comparison between Glenlivet vs Glenfiddich.
Glenlivet & Glenfiddich Compared
Glenlivet’s business began earlier than Glenfiddich’s, but their methods are more contemporary.
They believe in trying new innovative options. Glenlivet’s flavor profile leans more on the sweetness of orange and vanilla.
On the other hand, Glenfiddich began their trade forty years later, but they used more traditional ways to make their whisky.
Glenfiddich has wood and a creamy palate with creamy pear notes and strong grassy notes. You will also taste vanilla with hints of dried notes.
How Glenlivet and Glenfiddich Differ
George Smith started with Glenlivet in 1822. He pursued his passion with his family regardless of the violent reactions of the illegal distillers in their locality.
It did not take long before their single malt Scotch whiskies rose to fame. Even King George IV  appreciated it and dubbed it “The Whisky.”
Meanwhile, the history of Glenfiddich began in 1886 when William Grant and his family decided to put up their distillery.
On Christmas Day of 1887, the first bottle of whisky flowed out from the still, which started their rise to stardom. They are the first to market their Single Malt whiskies worldwide.
Glenlivet distillery was established in 1824. This is the oldest legal distillery in the area that remained open throughout the Great Depression until World War II.
It resumed operation after the war and produced the biggest selling single malt whisky in the US.
Glenfiddich was established in 1886 when William Grant hand-built their distillery with his seven children.
They only had second-hand equipment until around 1957-1959, when they bought their in-house coppersmiths and built a cooperage.
They became the “First Single Malt to be Marketed to the World” in 1963.
There is no better process between Glenfiddich vs Glenlivet since distillation is almost the same.
The mash is gathered and placed inside copper pot stills. Glenlivet’s fermented liquid is distilled in lantern-shaped stills.
Meanwhile, Glenfiddich whiskies are distilled in swan neck stills. Both spirits go through a two-distillation process for that light and smooth texture.
After producing the mash bill, they cool down the syrupy wort before transferring it to fermentation tanks. Both use water from natural springs, but their sources differ.
Glenvilet’s source is Josie’s well, while Glenfiddich’s water is from Robbie Dhu spring. They pour this into giant vats and mix it with yeasts.
The barley sugars are converted to liquids with 8-9% ABV. Glenlivet ferments its whisky in Oregon pine washbacks.
Most distilleries use stainless steel, but Glenlivet’s pine is said to add extra flavor to their Scotch.
Both brands use chill-filtration to produce a clearer liquid with less haze.
These whiskies are placed in different casks, which influence their colors during maturation.
The two brands use the same basic process in aging their whiskies. Some differences contribute to the distinction of their products.
After the spirits leave Glenlivet stills, these are either stored in American or European oak casks.
In contrast, Glenfiddich ages their spirits inside ex-bourbon casks before they bottle it.
It is common practice with Chivas Regal, another competitor in the blended whisky market.
Read: Glenlivet 12 Full Review
Both brands use malted barley, though their source differs. However, they have the same process used in producing the mash bill.
The powdered barley, called grist, is turned into a mash. Grist is mixed with water which forms into a dough-like form.
It produces starches which turn into a sugary syrup called “wort.” Most single malt brands use this process in creating their best-selling single malt whisky.
Glenlivet’s malts were famous and known to be the best type in the Glen area. It is why multiple brands carry the name.
However, everyone gave credit to Glenlivet since they were the first to produce single malt Scotch with a license.
Glenfiddich’s single malt Scotch also has a great contribution to this market. In the earlier days, Speyside whisky bottles are unknown outside of Scotland.
They were the first to take a huge and risky move in introducing Single Malt whiskies to the US and other outside countries.
The Glenlivet Estate Visitor Center is on Main Street of Tomintoul Square, now owned by Pernod Ricard.
Everybody can use the woodland adventure playground, wildlife, ponds, and amenities. There is also the Glenlivet Discovery Centre and the Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre.
Meanwhile, Glenfiddich is located in the Scottish highlands, where everybody can find their barley fields.
Their visitor center is also in the same area in Dufftown, Keith, United Kingdom. It is where Glenfiddich produces its world-class single malts.
Glenlivet tastes warm with spicy notes and oak upon touching the palate.
The American and European oak casks influence this. It transitions to a strong citrusy taste with fruity notes and maple syrup .
Glenfiddich has cream notes, dried fruit, wood, and toffee with a light touch of vanilla. Glenfiddich tastes sweet and fruity, influenced by European and American oak casks.
However, these are aged in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, which explains the fruitiness and lightness of the alcohol.
Glenlivet, to the nose, has a bright scent of citrus with light hints of golden apples. It has a sweet scent of maple syrup too.
Glenfiddich has the light scent of dried fruits, whipped cream, and the sweet scent of brown sugar, almost the same as Glenlivet.
However, the subtle differences between the two are only to the nose.
The 12-year-old single malt has a golden color with Glenfiddich’s core range.
These single malts are aged in American bourbon and Spanish sherry oak casks to achieve the desired flavor profile and a particular hue.
The 15-year-old Solera Single Malt Scotch has a rich golden amber color.
Glenlivet’s color is a varying shade of bright and vibrant gold. The hue changes slightly depending on the age, but it is not too much.
Glenlivet has a long and smooth finish. The Glenlivet name is known for its quality products using innovative tools.
The huge stills used attributed to their smooth texture, a trademark to all spirits under Chivas Brothers brands.
Glenfiddich also has a long and mellow finish. They distilled the cut points three times despite using traditional methods, allowing the spirit to mature and have a light texture. You will also find Glenfiddich softer with no harsh flavors.
Glenlivet started in the industry a few years earlier, but they have fewer variants than Glenfiddich.
They have seventeen variants. Glenfiddich’s total variants are twenty-three, including rare variants and their vintage bottles.
Glenlivet whisky has an impressive range of bottles. They have the XXV 25-Year-Old and the 18-year-old, 16,15,14, and 12-year-old whisky.
Glenfiddich has four core ranges – the 21-year-old, 18-year-old, 15-year-old, and the 12-year-old single-barrel whisky. They also have rare and experimental bottles.
Whiskies from William Grant’s distillery only go through second distillation, but they have variants that have higher alcohol contents.
They range from 80 to 126 proofs or 40% to 63.1% ABV.
Glenfiddich, on the other hand, is 80 to 103 proof. A bottle contains 40% to 51.7 %.
The two brands are great Scotch whisky with a generous amount of alcohol content. But how many calories are in Scotch whisky?
Pairing Glenlivet is very easy because of its subtleness and smoothness. It is a good Scotch paired with smoked salmon or meat.
It is also perfect to pair with desserts or even appetizers such as cheese.
Glenfiddich whiskies are perfect with entrees such as ducks, oily fish, sashimi, or even fatty meats.
These Scotch whiskies are smooth but a bit subtle. You do not want to pair whiskies like these with something that can overpower its flavors.
If your personal preference is Glenlivet, you’d be pleased to know that the price range is not that high. Its 21-year-old single malt Scotch is priced roughly at $267.99 – $399.99.
Their 18-year-old is sold for roughly $148.79 – $199.99, and the 15-year-old is roughly $75.99 – $99.99. The youngest whisky, which is the 12-year-old, is roughly $39.79 – $46.99. All prices are for 750 ml bottles.
Glenfiddich has their 21-year-old bottles sold roughly at $279.59 – $299.99. The 18-year-old from this single distillery is priced at roughly $170.99, and the 15-year-old bottle is around $62.99.
The 12-year-old bottles are priced roughly at $50.99, and these are all in 750ml sizes.
*Average prices are based on Drizly online. Prices may vary in local liquor shops.
The competition between the two is because they produce the same whisky types. Glenlivet began with single malt whiskies.
They practically started Speyside whiskies that became the trademark for their region.
Glenfiddich also has the same types of whiskies under their brand. However, they produce spirits in small batches.
Both brands are from the Speyside region of Scotland.
Regardless if you prefer Glenfiddich or Glenlivet, you can be sure that they are using the best grains in the highlands of Scotland.
What Defines A Speyside Scotch Whisky?
A Speyside Scotch whisky is a whisky that is made near the river Spey. These whiskies are without peat but abundant with fruit.
The usual flavor expressions are honey, vanilla, apple, pear, and spice, common in the Speyside region. Commonly, these whiskies are aged in sherry casks.
Are They Single Malt Whiskies?
Yes, the products of either Glenfiddich or Glenlivet are single malt whiskies.
The malted barley processed by both brands develops into a special component that results in the unique taste of their whiskies.
These single malt whiskies have a complex process. However, the flavors of these Scotch whiskies are exceptional.
Are Glenlivet and Glenfiddich related?
No, Glenlivet and Glenfiddich are not related. Glenlivet is now owned by Pernod Ricard, while Glenlivet remains privately owned by William Grant and his family.
Both brands are leaders in the industry, in sales and following. However, there is no significant relationship between the two other than the biggest rivals.
Which is smoother, Glenfiddich or Glenlivet?
Glenfiddich is smoother than Glenlivet because its flavors are softer and more subtle, making it easier to drink.
However, if your personal preference is Speyside whiskies with more taste of oak and stronger aroma and flavors, Glenlivet might be the best choice for you.
Which is Better, Glenlivet or Glenfiddich?
Our comparison between Glenfiddich and Glenlivet was very precise. It is not the easiest task because they are both institutions in the whisky-making industry.
The taste of these Speyside whiskies is almost similar but is distinctly different. Both invested all of their knowledge which set them apart from the rest.
However, for us, Glenfiddich is the better brand. Over the years, they managed to compete with big names but continued to be family-owned. That proves how much dedication they have.