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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summer Whisky Report: The Singleton of Glen Ord 12 years old

Kristen and I have discovered we are cold weather people.  We like cold weather food, cold weather beverages, and cold weather clothing.  We were born in Upstate New York.  We live in Southern California.  Such is life.  Whenever the stork does deliver us a child or two, we will likely search out a new home in a place that has four seasons.

But even in places with four seasons, Summer does pass through annually.  Seasons, especially the molten center of Summer, disregard the calendar, so no matter where we go The Heat will plant its fat ass in the air for a number of months before trudging off to hibernate.  And, for me, most whiskies do not drink well in The Heat.  Since Scotch and Irish booze originates in Celsius Land, I'm going to say when the air hits 30°C (86°F for the rest of us) beer and cold cocktails feel more appealing. (As far as storage goes, I try to keep the whisky below 25°C in our warm home.)

I still keep a couple whisk(e)y bottles open in the summer.  I aim for lighter, fruitier, 40-46%ABV, non-peated stuff.  It's an ongoing experiment each year, trying to sort out what works best.  Since the calendar says summer is ending this week, I shall present y'all with a pair of this year's summer whiskies.

Today's whisky:


No filters or Instagrammage on this one.
Our kitchen was glowing with Magic Hour light
and my iPhone camera behaved.
The whisky itself, though, had been chill-filtered generously.

Diageo has designed/built/enumerated "The Singleton" brand as a starter single malt for those folks graduating to more flavorful malts from Diageo's hitlist of blander blends.  [Dang it, I couldn't get through one sentence without picking on Diageo. Seriously though, there are blended whiskies out there that are full of flavor, and single malts totally lacking the same.]  Three distilleries contribute to "The Singletons": Glendullan for the North American market, Dufftown for the European market, and Glen Ord for the Pacific market.

I've had plenty of The Singleton of Glendullan.  It's harmless, very drinkable, but a bit on the GlenDULLan side.  Having read a number of reviews saying that The Singleton of Dufftown is not much better, if not worse, I haven't been in a hurry to source a sample of that one.  But I had heard a number of positive things about The Singleton of Glen Ord.

Last November, my wife GENEROUSLY grabbed a bottle of The Singleton of Glen Ord 12 year old from the Duty Free shop at Sydney International Airport and spirited it back to me safely.  I held off opening it until the summer.  The first week of July, to be more specific.

Distillery: Glen Ord
Brand: The Singleton
Owner: Diageo
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: likely a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Bottling Date: Feb 2012 (L2050)
Chillfiltration? Yes
Colorant? Absolutely

I may need to qualify the notes below.  Since this whisky is from my own bottle, I was able to do two focused tastings (alongside tomorrow's reviewed dram) thus the long laundry list of characteristics I found.  I'm including this disclaimer because I don't want there to be any assumption that I have an above average sniffer.  I don't.  Instead, I have a whole bottle to play with, rather than a 30mL sample.  Now, back to the important stuff.


The color is a rosy copper. Really, Diageo? You really needed to put that much e150a into this in order to convince people it was whisky? And the bottle is GREEN, thus potential customers can't even see the whisky's color. But never fear, the nose is gorgeous.  It starts with orange oil, lots of it.  Then brandied cherries, blackberry jam, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, strawberry Bubble Yum, and bananas (not the skins). So much fruit! There's also Junmai ginjo-shu sake (our favorite!), syrupy sweet dessert wine, and gummy bears.  Contrasting all those purdy smells are notes of (human) sweat and damp moss.  Fewer fruits on the palate.  Bananas, lime rind, and maybe some orange zest.  There's also milk chocolate, lots of granulated sugar, caramel, and brine.  More towards my preferred palate, a farmy note shows up from time to time; think hot used hay.  The texture is watery, so it makes one wonder what this one would be like at 43%ABV.  The finish is very sweet.  Sugar and honey.  A little dryness and bitterness in the background.  The farmy note, cut grass, brine, and generic citrus notes hang around for a while.


The nose stays very pungent with lots of citrus.  Mostly oranges and orange candies too.  Lighter notes of lemon rind, citrus muffins, pineapple, and vanilla extract in the back.  Oranges again on the palate.  Whipped butter, flower blossoms, and fresh herbs (maybe oregano?) as well.  Overall, it's quite sweet.  The sweetness continues through the short and plain finish.  A curious mocha note in there.  And as far as the oranges go, it's mostly pith and pulp.

When I first opened the bottle, the main characteristics were of fresh berries......just like official printed description told me.  Early in the bottle there was a mild peaty note (more straightforward than the farmy one) but the fruits are carrying the day now that bottle is past its midpoint.

The nose is a four-star party.  The palate is decent, inoffensive as it was likely designed to be.  It's very watery in the mouth thanks to the 40% ABV, similar to a lot of cheap blends.  It's a pisser they didn't at least try to bottle it at 43%; I mean, who would that have hurt?

As it is, served neatly in its light state, it makes for an easy drinker in these hot late summer weeks.  As it's already so watered down, adding water doesn't help much.  An icy highball of it holds little character.

When it comes to my malt preferences, was Diageo successful with this brand?  Sort of.  The nose proved that Glen Ord can generate some fun whisky.  I hope to explore this distillery further, but via independent bottlers.

Availability - Asia & Oceania
Pricing - A wide range, from $40 to $80 depending on the country
Rating - 82


  1. Sounds like quality malt. Too bad shipping from the UK is so high now. Looks like TWE has some nice bottles of Glen Ord. Even the OB 25 YO is pretty reasonably priced.

    1. The 28 and 30 YOs are priced very well there too. They also have the original 12yo bottle that's no longer sold in the UK (which pissed off many a fan). Even considering the UK shipping issue, TWE has much higher shipping prices than most of the smaller UK retailers, which is such a shame since TWE has so much great stuff. So every time I see a nice bottle, I have to remind myself that it costs $64 to ship two bottles. I can get an IKEA sofa shipped to me for almost the same price.

    2. Also, I'll save you a dram, to see what you think of it.

  2. Thanks for the sample, Michael! I'm quoting my notes: "Quite pleasant, with the orange & light sherry profile of a nice blend. It also reminded me of Aberfeldy 12. Like a blend, it also tastes somewhat `manufactured', which I didn't much like." I should open my ADR Cask Strength Glen Ord soon, to see how it compares.

    I concur with you re: summer whiskies - light, 40-46%; I like them "naked", pale in color and with a taste profile in the lemony range, like the Teaninich 10yo, Speyburn 10yo, or Glenfiddich 12yo. Blends are good, too. I would probably drink Grant's Family Reserve all summer long if they didn't paint it red with caramel!

    You mentioned some time ago that you like to drink rum in the summer, but I couldn't get myself to do that, whenever I tried.

    1. No problem! I'm wondering if the combination of caramel colorant, filtration, and low ABV (The Pernod-Diageo Triple Play!) is what creates that manufactured taste. The nose still works for me despite all that tinkering.

      I've been drinking rum on ice on the weekends during these past two summers. It addresses the sweet tooth, keeping me away from desserts. Beer still seems to work out the best though.