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Glenlivet vs Macallan – Comparing the Two Iconic Scotch Brands

Rebecca Hanlon
Last Updated: February 28th, 2023

Speyside is a small area in Scotland located near the Highlands. It is famous for producing more than sixty percent of all the single malt scotch available in the global market.

Alcohol from Speyside is an ideal selection of scotch for a beginner because of its age and the diverse selection of flavors.

Glenlivet and Macallan are two of the most renowned scotch brands representing Speyside. They are an example of the versatility of Speyside alcohol and are ideal for people still experimenting with their flavor palate.

In this article, we’ll uncover more about the contrast between the two varieties of scotch and in the Glenlivet vs Macallan debate who wins.

Glenlivet vs Macallan – History and Origin



The first distillery in Scotland to legally start producing alcohol was The Glenlivet. It obtained a legal license for production in 1824 after the government introduced the Excise Act in 1823.

The founder of the company, George Smith, opted for Glenlivet as the name. This was because the distillery was present within Glenlivet in the Livet valley. People believe that this single malt company fuelled the success of other distilleries in Scotland.

It continued operating since its inception and was open even during the Great Depression. It closed temporarily during World War II. After the war ended, The Glenlivet distillery gained more fame and expanded into one of the largest distilleries supplying single malt whiskey.

The United States now recognizes the Glenlivet brand as the forefront in marketing single malt whisky. In terms of global sales, it is the second-largest brand supplying single malt whiskey.

Presently, the French company Pernod Ricard has sole ownership of Glenlivet.



Macallan, also acquired its legal license in 1824, around the same time as Glenlivet. However, the brand remained obscure before Alexander Reid, the founder, managed to obtain the license. He incorporated parts of two words to name his company Macallan.

He sourced the word Magh from Gaelic, which means fertility, and merged it. This was a derivative of the name of an Irish monk called St. Fillan. Reid maintained control over Macallan until 1868, after which James Stuart took ownership of the distillery.

Later, in 1892 Roderick Kemp acquired control of the distillery, and it remained a part of his family till 1996.

Glenlivet vs Macallan – Production Process

The Macallan and Glenlivet both implement a unique strategy to produce their beverages. They incorporate precisely crafted copper stills in their distilleries which impact the flavor and aroma of their whiskies.

The founder of Glenlivet, George Smith, installed tall copper stills shaped like lanterns at The Glenlivet Distillery. However, the Macallan distillery uses copper stills which are shaped like onions and short.

Steps of Production


Fermentation of alcohol takes place in wood pine washbacks, which instill some flavor of ester and resin to the whisky.

Using tall copper stills for distillation gives the whiskey a more pleasant taste and lighter texture. It also improves the purity of the distillate.

Before packaging the whiskey, Glenlivet performs Chill Filtration on all the bottles to clear any foggy or murky deposits from the dram. Furthermore, as the alcohol cools slowly, the undesirable particles stick together, and experts remove them, which gives a cleaner dram.

To age the spirits, the company uses specific oak casks.

Some people argue that this is a contentious method of producing whiskey. Experienced drinkers feel that manufacturers of Glenlivet should leave the sediment because it develops the flavor and gives character to the whisky.


There are a few essential differences in the production process of Glenlivet and Macallan, which results in their widely varied flavor profile.

Contrary to Glenlivet, Macallan uses small copper stills in Speyside to ensure maximum contact between the distillate and the copper walls.

However, Macallan has a much lesser cut time. They incorporate only 16% of the alcohol in the distillate. When this merges with the effect of using short stills and sharply angled pipes, it locks in the intense flavor of the whiskey.

The whiskey comes out with a spicy aroma, an oily feel, and the richness of oak.

Similarly, Macallan is well-known for using distinctive and sturdy casks that experts craft using Spanish oak. The company imports these casks and maintains them at the site of the Macallan distillery.

Often these casks carry the scent of Sherry to instill extra spice in their scotch. Macallan values the unique effect of their Sherry-seasoned casks on their scotch, so it is the only company to hire a Master of Wood to oversee the quality.

Moreover, while some distilleries use color in their whisky, The Macallan does not. It lets the scotches obtain all their color from the wood casks, in which they age.

Glenlivet vs Macallan – Taste Profile


Glenlivet promises the beautiful taste of Speyside scotch. It has a light and refreshing flavor profile. It also has hints of zestiness from blossoms and orchard fruits.

You can easily detect the lively notes of pear, orange, and apple. There is also a touch of fresh green grass or leaves of orange intermixed with the rich scent of wood.


Macallan delivers the darker side of the regular Speyside scotch. It does not have any fruity or grassy notes in its flavor profile.

On the contrary, Macallan conveys a rich and intense flavor with strong notes of caramel. It also carries the richness of vanilla beans and nuts, especially if you purchase a more mature variety.

The scotch matures in casks of Spanish Oak, which experts dip in premium quality Sherry. Hence, Macallan scotch also has hints of spice.

Also, if you strain hard enough, you can probably detect some essence of grass deep in the bottle.

Things to Pair with Glenlivet

Connoisseurs of wine have toiled hard to determine things that best complement the unique flavor of Glenlivet to help you enjoy your glass of scotch to the fullest.

Experts suggest pairing Glenlivet with Salmon, Asparagus, Spinach, Pork, and Artichokes as the main course meal.

Likewise, types of cheese that pair best with Glenlivet include Camembert, Brie, and Crumbly Blue Cheese. And desserts that are excellent with Glenlivet are Apple Tart, Apple Pie, Apple Crisp, and Bread Pudding.

Things to Pair with Macallan

Ideally, consider pairing light foods with Macallan so you enjoy the contrast between the lightness of food and the intense richness of Macallan scotch.

According to experts, Venison, Caramelised Onions, Roasted Vegetables, and French Onion Soup are perfect with a glass of Macallan scotch.

Similarly, Gruyere, Pecorino, Gouda, and Manchego are the varieties of cheese that nicely pair with a glass of Macallan. Desserts like Spice Cakes, Creme Brulee and Gingerbread are also best enjoyed with Macallan.

Famous Varieties of Macallan

famous varieties of macallan

Quest Collection

It includes products called Terra, Enigma, Lumina, and Quest. Macallan produced this collection for duty-free sale, and their bottles do not carry any information about their age. They are the least expensive variety of scotch distilled by Macallan.

Sherry Oak

This liquor is 12 years mature and carries the richness of wood, the spice of dried fruit, and hints of vanilla. It is easily Macallan’s most renowned variety because of its unique flavor.

It has a distinctive taste and aroma because it ages in Spanish oak casks, which manufacturers first dip in Sherry. This collection features Macallan 18, 25, 30, and 40 depending on their maturity and variable prices.

Famous Varieties of Glenlivet

famous varieties of glenlivet

The Founder’s Reserve

Manufacturers make this variety using the traditional methods which the founder introduced. Since it incorporates the purest ingredients in a clean atmosphere, Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve has a refreshing and smooth flavor that consumers love.

The 12-year-old

People have referred to this variety in a lot of ways, calling it lively, fruity, and even complicated. The Original Malt Whisky Almanac called it: first-class malt.

The 12-year-old variety is a symbol of the custom style of Glenlivet. It is a classic scotch that first ages in oak casks before transferring to casks of American Oak which leaches a subtle hint of vanilla into the liquor. This gives it extraordinary lightness, making it a consumer favorite.

Glenlivet vs Macallan Prices

To analyze the prices of some varieties of Glenlivet and Macallan refer to the table below.

Serial No Type Volume Price in dollars
1 Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky 750ml 30.45
2 Glenlivet 12 years old 750ml 149.95
3 Glenlivet 15 years old 750ml 149.95
4 Macallan 25 years old 750ml 1599.99 -1899.99
5 Macallan 18 years old fine oak 750ml 239.99 – 269.99
6 Macallan 12 years double cask 750ml 59.99 – 62.99

Glenlivet vs Macallan – Conclusion

Several varieties of Macallan and Glenlivet are available, and each varies in taste and price. Although both brands are among the best in the world, the decision concerning which is better boils down to your current mood.

Since there is no clear winner, go on and experiment with both brands to determine which best suits your taste palate!

About The Author

Rebecca Hanlon

Rebecca has been a blogger for over 5 years, before that enjoying a number of jobs to fund her passion for travel. She's taught English as a foreign language, a part-time Barista, a waitress, and a tour guide.

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