Thursday, August 9, 2012

Have just tried - The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 years old

A couple of days ago, we received a press release from Diageo saying that one of their whiskies had won a major prize at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, one of the industry's most prestigious awards ceremonies.  The whisky in question was The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 years old and the prize was 'The Trophy', which is awarded to the best whisky that is 15 years old or less.

Normally, we don't pay much attention to such PR releases, as there are now so many whisky competitions and awards that it is difficult to keep track, but this one struck a chord with us.  The reason being that we recently purchased a bottle of this very whisky.  Another reason is that last week I met up with Maureen Robinson at a Diageo event - she is one of Diageo's Master Blenders and the woman responsible for creating The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 years old a couple of years ago.

The Singleton name covers a range of whiskies which highlight some of the lesser known single malts in Diageo's portfolio of 28 distilleries.  There are currently three featured distilleries - Dufftown, Glendullan and Glen Ord - and each one is pitched in to a different consumer market.  The Singleton of Dufftown 12 years old is available in the UK (it is also available in the travel retail sector, along with 15 and 18 years old expressions), the Singleton of Glendullan 12 years old is exclusive to the USA and the Singleton of Glen Ord is available as 12, 15 and 18 year old expressions in south east Asia.

The Glen Ord distillery was founded in 1838 by Thomas Mackenzie.  It was originally named simply Ord, before becoming Glenoran in 1882.  It became know as Glen Ord in 1923, when it was sold to the famous blending company John Dewar & Sons.  Glen Ord is currently owned by Diageo and is fairly large with an annual production capacity of five million litres.  Much of the whisky produced at Glen Ord is used for blending with a small percentage being released as single malt.  This means that it is little known to a wider whisky audience in most parts of the world, with the exception of south east Asia and Japan which is its stronghold.

It was for this reason amongst others that Diageo decided to bottle The Singleton of Glen Ord series for that region of the world.  When proposing the launch of this 15 years old expression, Maureen Robinson went out to south east Asia with numerous samples and sat down with selected consumer groups to determine the flavour profile and characteristics of the final whisky.  It has been bottled at 40% ABV and we paid around £40-45 for a one litre bottle in Kuala Lumpur airport.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a bright golden amber and the nose shows some early clean, sweet and tangy aromas - think of sultanas, raisins, honey, brown sugar and bitter orange.  Underneath is a distinct aroma of bittersweet malty cereal grains and an increasingly prominent note of sugar syrup.  There is a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg spice in the background.  The combination is very appealing.

On the palate , this whisky feels soft, velvety and rich but with a tangy edge that is never far away.  This tangy quality is again reminiscent of bitter orange/ candied orange peel.  This is complimented by a delicious sweetness which is led by notes of honey, vanilla, brown sugar and dark dried fruits (especially sultanas and raisins).  Further complexity is added by some robust malty cereal notes, which grip the taste buds and don't let go easily.  In the background are some subtle wood spice characteristics (think of the cinnamon and nutmeg from the nose again) and a faint hint of peat smoke.  This smoke feels slightly earthy and has the feel of cigar smoke about it.

The finish is lovely and of decent length, with the elements fading slowly.  First to go is the tangy orange note, then the sweeter honey, vanilla and fruit.  This leaves the robust malty cereals, woody spices and that merest hint of smoke to battle it out to the end. 

What's the verdict?
The Singleton of Glen Ord 15 years old is a lovely whisky and one that has plenty of character and interest for the drinker, but without being too complicated.  The nose smells very sweet but these notes are balanced by others which stop it becoming too sweet and cloying.  There is a clear yet sympathetic use of ex-sherry casks here, which when combined with some ex-bourbon casks have created an easy drinking single malt.

We are glad that we have picked up a bottle on our travels and would urge anyone to do the same if travelling in south east Asia.  It seems a shame that a whisky of this quality should be restricted to one market in the world, but that is how many whisky companies operate these days.  What this whisky does show is that there are some very good whiskies coming out of the lesser known Scottish distilleries and Glen Ord is one of those 'hidden gems'.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I would call the Glen Ord not a hidden gem but a gem that is hidden by Diageo.

There used to be a very nice 12yo version they even sold in duty free outlets in litre bottles in all Europe even 5 years ago. Could be a little longer.

This bottling carried a motto of Clan MacKenzie on the label "I shine not burn" which - if it is not all pure marketing fiction - described this bottling very well.

Next step was they put the 12 yo in an square decanter bottle and raised the price. Next they phased it out to sell all Ord as Singleton in Asia. As it is not very common with independent bottlers it is hard to find in Europe now.
With a capacity of 5 million litres a year and their own maltings on site one should expect that there was enough whisky around in Scotland's north to go around between more than one continent.


leapinglizard said...

I was lucky enough to visit the Glen Ord distillery last month and sampled the 12 year malt. I am not a fan of whiskey, but I have to say, it really was very nice. A very smooth and warming drink. I purchased a bottle of their Singleton of Glen Ord while at the distillery and took it home for my grandparents. They are both close to 90 and have sampled more than a few "wee drams" in their time. They absolutely loved it and wanted to know when I was going back to the distillery to get some more?

Unknown said...

I went on a distillery tour of Glen Old in 1996, I didn't like Whisky at the time, but a dram was part of the tour so I drank it.
I've enjoyed many many drams of different whisky since then but Glen Old still has a special place in my heart.
If you phone the distillery (and pay by card) they will post it to you, a service which I have used in the past and will use again.

I find the 12yo an exceptional, smooth very drinkable scotch, far more pleasant than the UK retail available single malts.

Try it, you won't regret it.


Unknown said...

Hey- We actually found this whisky in Taiwan and have loved it ever since. We are now back in Europe (continental Europe) and struggling to find where to buy it. Can anyone tell me a way to buy this hidden gem because the harder i look for it the harder it is to find. I have now returned 10 bottles of the blue label Singleton 15 Year Dufftown in search for the brown label. There is a massive difference in taste and i only (we only) like the brown label Singeton 15 Year Dufftown. (we do actually have one bottle of the 12 Year Dufftown brown label) and even that is hard to find. Why do the South East Asian market be the lucky ones to recieve this. I am dying to go back to Taiwan and usually stock up there but of course in the middle of a pandemic that is proving difficult too. HELP haha

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with finding the BROWN label Singletons of Dufftown 15 year old whilst in Taiwan. However, for me it was more of a reacquaintance with a whisky I knew as simply 'Dufftown' many years ago. Years after the initial find, I discussed it with the barman in a whisky bar on Edinburgh's golden mile. He explained the name change, but I never saw it again until I visited Taiwan. Since then I did acquire some from 'Drinkspecialist' London NW10, but having moved to the EU, I find it hard to reacquire.