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Monday, November 7, 2011

Single Malt Report: The Singleton of Glendullan

Distillery: Glendullan
Age: 12 years
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks
Region: Speyside
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

From maltmadness.com:

...during the late 1980's and early half of the 90's blends still accounted for circa 97% of whisky sales. It was only in the second half of the 1990's that the single malts category really took off. Distilleries like Glendullan and Dufftown remained mostly focused on blends for a few more years, but around the year 2007 Diageo finally reintroduced them to the market as single malts - together with Glen Ord. They all had been marketed as single malts at some point, but in recent years only Glen Ord was widely available. Oddly enough, the malt whisky from these three distilleries is now marketed under one single brand; the Singleton. In other words, whisky lovers on different continents can enjoy very different whiskies under the 'Singleton' name these days.

So, there's an international component to this Singleton story... Consumers in the USA get a Glendullan 12yo when they order a Singleton ... whisky drinkers in Europe receive a Dufftown 12yo ... and in Asia they get Glen Ord 12yo.

I'm very thankful for this explanation from the awesome folks at Malt Madness because I've been totally mystified by the "The Singleton" name, always in big letters on the bottle.  Didn't know why it just wasn't called Glendullan 12yr.  It got more confusing as I started seeing reviews for other Singletons.  And then there was another distillery in the 1990's that also called their single malt Singleton.  But I'll be talking about The Singleton of Glendullan, which is the brand available in The States.

Two years ago, I was returning from a very exciting/nerve-wracking/pivotal moment in my writing career.  I wanted to celebrate.  So I went to the great liquor store across the street from our old apartment.  I was going to buy a bottle of whisky.

Beverly Hills Wine & Liquor has a tremendous selection of whiskies, but since they cater to considerably more upscale clientele, I've always found their prices to be a bit steep.  So none of my good go-to bottles looked promising due to the price tags.  The manager was sitting behind the counter watching me search the whisky wall.  The following happened:

Manager: You like Macallan 12?

Me: I do.

Manager: You should try this. The Singleton. It's made by the same people who make Macallan.

Before I can respond, he takes out a 50mL bottle of The Singleton, opens it and hands it to me.

Manager: Here, try.

I look around.

Me: Is that okay?

Manager: Don't worry, this is my place.

So I drank it right there in the liquor store.  A BRILLIANT bit of sales.  Drinking anything in public makes it taste better.  Plus it was free whisky!  Sacrificing that $6 mini, he got me to buy the $45 bottle.

Now, time for some reality.

Had I known what I was doing, I could have gotten that same bottle from BevMo for $29.99.  And Macallan does not make The Singleton.  Nor does Macallan's owner The Edrington Group produce The Singleton.  Nor does The Singleton taste anything like Macallan.  They both may reside in Speyside, but so does about 75% of the Scotch market's operating distilleries.

Let's get to the stuff itself.  It comes in a great old fashioned bottle, tall and flat, like a big glass flask.  The glass is tinted, which helps protect the product from sunlight, but also prevents one from seeing its actual color.  And, man, I drank that Singleton like it was water.  I couldn't really tell if it was of quality, but it was very drinkable.

Very recently I purchased one of those mini 50mL bottles to try on the whisky again.  I drank it neat, since it was only 40% ABV and, frankly, a little light on flavor.  And even served neat, there wasn't much to report on.

Its color is honey.  The nose has sherry up front, then cream, salt, brown sugar, and something meaty.  The texture was thick.  The palate had some salt, light sherry, and light cream.  The finish was brief with a little more salt.

The nose is more interesting than the taste.  The drinking experience is very very smooth, but with that smoothness, low ABV, and youth it sacrifices any sort of stamina in the finish.

I've read a bunch of reviews of The Singleton of Glendullan and two things stick out:
1.) It reminds folks so much of Glenfiddich 12 that they wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.
2.) It makes for a good bridge whisky for blend drinkers that want to transition to single malts.  

I am at odds with both of these.
1.) Glenfiddich 12 is considerably better in the palate and finish.  Not only that, it's $10-15 cheaper.
2.) If I was blind taste tested, I would think The Singleton tastes like a (cheaper) blend.  All of the Johnnie Walkers (aside from Red Label) have more to them than this malt.  Glenfiddich 12 is a much better bridge - reliable and affordable, always full of character.

This isn't a bad whisky, nor am I bitter for paying $45 for it.  But......

I am bitter for paying $45 for it.

Pricing - Acceptable at $30, Foolish at $45
Rating - 72