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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Single Malt Report: Glen Ord 30 year old

Glen Ord distillery is a significant asset for Diageo PLC.  Its stills produce approximately 5 million liters of spirit annually and as of last year that capacity was being doubled to 10 million liters (though I'm unsure if this expansion is still on track).  Meanwhile, their onsite maltings provide malted barley for several of Diageo's other distilleries.  While they've chosen to offer an official Glen Ord single malt only in the Far East, they're still selling over 2 million bottles of it per year (according to Malt Whisky Yearbook).  That would be more than the amount of Macallan that was being sold in the US a few years ago.  These "Singletons" include a 12 (reviewed here), 15, 18, and an NAS cask strength.

Once upon a time, there was an official 12 year old that was sold more broadly, including in its UK home, until it was discontinued about six or seven years ago.  And once upon a time, Diageo released 6000-bottle limited editions of 25, 28, and 30 year olds.  It's been ten years since then, but nothing official of that age has been released west of Taipei.

Thanks to MAO of My Annoying Opinions, I had a sample of the 30 year old, bottled in 2005.  The previous two indie Glen Ords this week were good to very good, but they were young compared to today's.  This one, deemed good enough to keep by DCL/Diaego, had spent three decades napping in casks somewhere in a dark mainland warehouse.  How did it turn out?

Not the original sample bottle, as I divided that one into two.
DistilleryGlen Ord
Age: minimum 30 years
Maturation: probably a combination of different refill casks, mostly ex-bourbon
Region: Northern Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 58.7%
Bottling Date: 2005

I'm changing up my note structure for this one:

The color is apple juice, lighter than all of the Johnnie Walkers, even the infant Red Label, which leads me to think that there was a minimum of caramel colorant added to this Glen Ord.

Stick with me here on the nose.  It begins with orange and lemon concentrate, covered by a big barley blanket.  Underneath that, almost rye-like baking spices and milk chocolate.  Cinnamon and apple shishas.  Wet leaves and un-oaked chardonnay.  Toffee pudding with almonds.  Grilled pear with mint leaves.  Creme brulee with orange zest.  A new wood deck after the rain.  Cotton shirts and a boat dock.  It's remarkably vibrant and youthful, all the while carrying old musty cask character.  Adding water brings out old dusty furniture notes.  Caramel sauce and cinnamon candy.  A wooden crate of oranges.

The palate is impressively spirity for its age: roses, limes, lime soda, Orangina minus the sugar, mango juice, orange and lime syrup infused with (Talisker levels of) cayenne pepper.  Its particular zing takes that cayenne and mixes it with some perky wood spice.  Then comes tobacco and sea salt caramels.  Then mint tea and Cointreau.  Maybe some dusty peat in the background.  The sweetness rolls in gently.  Adding water seems to bring about some very dark chocolate and intensifies the fresh tobacco note.  It grows earthier, tarter, and a little sweeter.  Plenty of limes and spices remain.  Maybe some eucalyptus appears.

Orange oil forever in the finish.  Lots of barley and hay.  Fizzy and peppery with a little menthol.  Limes, roses, and sea salt.  Macarons and whipped cream.  Just a little bit of sweetness and toasted oak.  Adding water focuses it on the limes and salt.  Then dark chocolate and black pepper.

Oh......I am full of wist.  After trying this whisky I immediately sought out and acquired a bottle of my own.  It will be a special occasion bottle.  Maybe for Mathilda's third or fourth birthday.  It's that good.

Not sold on my word?  Then see this review.  And maybe this one.  And these.  And these scores as well.  He liked it.  And so did they.

So in addition to its financial importance to Diageo's whisky portfolio, Glen Ord is also producing some very very good whisky.  It blows my mind to know this oldie was priced at $150 upon release.  Compare that to the prices of Diageo's recent Special Releases.  This or a $450 Strathmill 25?  This or a $700 NAS Clynelish?  This or a $250 21 year old Cardhu?

But let me turn away from the negative and focus on the positive.  I like Glen Ord, and man oh man does it fit in well with my love of the Highland single malts.  It fits right in there with Ardmore, Pulteney, Glen Garioch, Glendronach, Clynelish, Balblair, and Ben Nevis.  I would probably throw Oban and Glenmorangie into the bunch if only there were some indies or under-produced versions available.

It was nice to meet you properly, Glen Ord.  May you visit more often.

Availability - Happy hunting!
Pricing - anywhere from $200 to $500
Rating - 92


  1. Thats a really nice malt... you should try the 25yo as well, i find it even better :)

    1. I will try any and all Glen Ords going forward. :) Have you tried the 28 year old?

  2. I've only had a (large) sample of the 25 vs. a bottle or so of the 30 but I liked the 30 more. What are your views on the 28? That one I have not tried.

    1. I've heard raves about the 25, 28, and 30 from reliable sources. I haven't tried the 28, but your question was probably for Cobo. I wonder if there is any way to track down samples of the 32 & 35 year old Singletons. They're only 40%abv, but still...

    2. Yeah, I meant to address that question to Cobo.

      I didn't even know there were 32 and 35 yo Singletons of Glen Ord.