Foundation Year: 1887
Distillery Locations: Speyside (Scottish Highlands and surrounding area)
Master Blender: David Stewart
The Glenfiddich Story
When William Grant, the founder of Glenfiddich, began building his modest distillery more than a century ago, he could hardly have dreamt that Glenfiddich would one day be the world’s favorite single malt Scotch whisky sold in 180 countries worldwide.
William Grant was born in 1839 in Dufftown a small town in the Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands. At this time, Speyside was fast winning a reputation as the perfect place for producing malt whisky with its clear streams running over granite and peat. The pure spring water and the cool but not harsh climate added elegance and distinction to the malts. But William’s journey did not start in whisky. The son of a soldier who had fought at Waterloo, William’s first job was as a cattle herder. He became apprenticed as a shoemaker and believed his prospects good enough to marry a Dufftown girl, Elizabeth Duncan in 1859. The story goes that the young Mr and Mrs Grant moved in with the bride’s parents with just sixpence between them.In true Scots’ fashion, William Grant and his wife were frugal and moderate in everything but child rearing. They had nine children – seven sons and two daughters – and each of them helped in some way to secure the family’s fortune.Field of DreamsWilliam’s bookkeeping abilities landed him a job at the nearby Mortlach Distillery in 1866 where he worked as bookkeeper before becoming distillery manager. It was here that his dream to build his own distillery and create the best dram in the valley was born. He had to wait 20 years before he had his chance. For much of this time he managed the distillery keeping meticulous records of every stage of the distilling process and nourishing his vision for his own distillery.During these years William saved a portion of his salary for the family fund and Elizabeth kept a tight rein on the family finances. Even John, their eldest son, when he left university to take up a teaching post in Aberdeenshire, sent home part of his monthly salary to help finance his father’s dream.
In the late summer of 1886, the proprietor of a nearby distillery was willing to part with the copper pot stills, the tuns, the worm and the water mill for grinding the barley for whatever they could fetch. William bought the lot for £119, 19 shillings and 10 pence.When William quit his job at Mortlach Distillery, he had already chosen the land for his new venture. The field of Glenfiddich (the Gaelic word for ‘valley of the deer’) overlooked by the castle of Balvenie but its most important feature was the excellent pure water source provided by the Robbie Dhu Springs and the River Fiddich. This would provide all the water required to produce William’s ‘best dram in the valley’.The Grant family had waited almost 20 years for this day and with their own hands they built The Glenfiddich Distillery to William’s design and specifications. The only help they asked for was that of a single stonemason. It took them the best part of 18 months and the first Glenfiddich spirit flowed from the stills at The Glenfiddich Distillery on Christmas Day 1887. By this time, William Grant was almost 50 years old
The Independent Spirit
Through skill, hard work and determination, the single malt Scotch whisky created by the family turned out to be truly exceptional. The crystal clear water of the Robbie Dhu Springs, the barley, the pure Highland air and the unusually small size of the stills produced a single malt Scotch whisky which, as William Grant had hoped, could not be bettered.Five generations later, William Grant & Sons is one of the very few Scotch whisky companies to remain in the hands of the family who founded it. The direct descendants of William Grant who own and are still involved in the company today, share his pioneering spirit and long term vision and take great pride in their Scotch whiskies.Yet despite increased demand, any temptation to alter or compromise the production technique has been firmly resisted.The stills, which are cared for by Glenfiddich’s own expert coppersmith, are exact replicas of the original stills William Grant bought, down to the same dents, for every feature plays its part in this inexact science. And even today, the stills are fired directly and remain notoriously small to retain the unmistakable Glenfiddich style. The oak casks which give Glenfiddich its distinctive golden colour are still tended by The Glenfiddich Distillery coopers. Few distilleries today employ their own coopers.And most importantly, the source of water is the same. The water from the Robbie Dhu Springs is used throughout production, including the on-site bottling of Glenfiddich which today remains the only single malt in the Highlands to be distilled, matured and bottled at its own distillery. The water source is so important to the character and integrity of Glenfiddich that the family owns 1,200 acres of the surrounding hillside to protect it.Today, Glenfiddich has grown to become the world’s favourite single malt Scotch whisky, found in homes and bars in every continent of the world. There is now a Glenfiddich range of single malts including Glenfiddich Special Reserve 12 Year Old, Glenfiddich Solera Reserve 15 Year Old and Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve 18 Year Old. The Glenfiddich Distillery also produces some rare and extraordinary single malts including a Glenfiddich Vintage Reserve, the Glenfiddich 50 Year Old and the world’s oldest single malt Scotch whisky, the 64 year old Glenfiddich 1937 Vintage.
The Grant family have always been pioneers. Glenfiddich was the first single malt to be enjoyed outside Scotland when the family exported it to England in the early 1960s. Today over three quarters of the bottles of Glenfiddich which leave the distillery each year are sold overseas, continuing an extraordinary export record and bringing enormous satisfaction and enjoyment to Scotch whisky drinkers the world over.
William Grant & Sons remains one of the innovators in Scotch whisky. From the distinctive triangular green bottle and the infamous stag on every label to the unique production process used for the Solera Reserve and the latest global advertising campaign, Glenfiddich has always been progressive and challenged malt whisky conventions.The fifth generation of the Grant family look forward to the next chapter of this story with the same enthusiasm and dedication with which William Grant approached the first. William Grant would have been very proud.