Whisky Review #84: The Singleton of Glen Ord Liberté

Glen Ord is a distillery which has been going from strength to strength for two reasons. Firstly, it has been grouped alongside Dufftown and Glendullan distilleries within “The Singleton” collective of single malt whiskies which Diageo has been releasing over the last few years and secondly, its success has contributed to the powerful expansion that the distillery has undergone in recent years.

It is no surprise, then, that Diageo has voiced out their intention to ensure that The Singleton brand becomes the best-selling single malt Scotch whisky brand in the world. While it is an admirable goal, it will be a tough one to achieve as the top two brands in the category, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, currently outsell it twice over.

Glen Ord distillery was established as Glen Oran distillery in 1838 by Thomas Mackenzie, who owned and operated it until 1855 before it was sold to Alexander MacLennan and Thomas McGregor. Following MacLennan’s death in 1870, his widow took over the ownership of the distillery and married local banker Alexander Mackenzie, who proceeded to lease the distillery 7 years later.

Alexander Mackenzie then built a new stillhouse the following year, but production had barely begun before a fire destroyed it. Upon Mackenzie’s death in 1896, the distillery was then sold to James Watson & Co. for the sum of £15800 (approximately £1.88 million in today’s money!).

The distillery remained under the control of James Watson & Co. until 1923, when it was sold to John Dewar & Sons upon the death of Watson’s son, John Jabez Watson. It was also at this point that the distillery name was changed to its present incarnation, Glen Ord.

Under the ownership of John Dewar & Sons, the distillery was expanded, first with the installation of a Saladin box in 1961 and then followed by the number of stills being increased from 2 to 6 in 1966. The huge Glen Ord maltings facility was then constructed in 1968 and it is an integral part of the present distillery complex.

The Saladin box was decommissioned in 1983 and the malting requirements were then sourced from the maltings facility next door. The owners also built a visitor centre at the distillery in 1988, thus making it one of the few distilleries which offered tours at that point of time.

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The visitor centre at Glen Ord (Picture credit: http://www.mapio.net)

In 2006, Diageo made the decision to resurrect The Singleton brand (which was previously used to sell whiskies from Auchroisk distillery) and handpicked three of their distilleries to produce single malt whiskies for the brand: Dufftown, Glendullan & Glen Ord.

The intention was to allow for each of the distilleries within the brand to cater to a specific market, with Dufftown focusing on the European market, Glendullan on the American market and Glen Ord on the Asian market. However, the popularity of the Glen Ord part of the brand meant that sales outstripped the other two almost twice over.

This led Diageo to commence with an ambitious and powerful expansion of the Glen Ord site in 2011, firstly with the installation of two new washbacks which increased capacity by 25% and then following it up with a further expansion which has resulted in the distillery’s present production capacity of a staggering 11 million litres, which makes it (at present) the fifth biggest distillery in Scotland.

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Glen Ord distillery (Picture credit: http://www.mapio.net)

In terms of equipment, the distillery sports 2 stainless steel mash tuns (each with a 12.5 tonne mash), 22 wooden washbacks with a fermentation time of 75 hours and 7 pairs of wash and spirit stills. The Glen Ord maltings facility is also able to produce 37000 tonnes of malt per year, which is not only used by Glen Ord but by several other Diageo distilleries situated nearby.

In 2013, The Singleton brand was expanded to include several Travel Retail Exclusive expressions under The Singleton Reserve Collection and it was meant to complement the existing 12, 15 & 18 Years Old offerings from the distillery.

The popularity of the brand has also led Diageo to reposition all three distillery offerings under The Singleton brand globally rather than regionally, which is very much to do with achieving their goal of becoming the best-selling single malt Scotch whisky brand in the world.

This week’s review focuses on one of the Travel Retail Exclusive offerings from The Singleton Reserve Collection, Liberté, which has been bottled without an age statement at 40% abv by the distillery.

So, let’s jump right into the review!

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The Singleton of Glen Ord Liberté

The Singleton of Glen Ord Liberté (40% abv)

Colour: Deep amber

Nose: Initial entry presents fragrant malt, light florals and a fair bit of ripe green apples. With time, vanilla, honey, cinnamon and lemon peel emerge to augment the fruity and vibrant aromas which are the centrepiece of this dram’s profile. There is a bit of apple juice and oak which make an appearance after some time, adding to the fruity notes. (21/25)

Palate: Fresh, sweet and fruity on initial entry, with the green apples and apple juice very much being the main elements. With time, the palate develops further and hints of ground coffee, chewy malt, roasted brazil nuts and dried apricots emerge, increasing the complexity and vibrancy of the dram. Cinnamon, oak and some dark chocolate shavings emerge towards the end to add further depth. (22/25)

Finish: Medium on the finish, with the fruitiness slowly fading away and being replaced with the oak and cinnamon hints along with some of the nutty and malty notes. Just a hint of ground coffee and dark chocolate at the very end and these two underpin the rest of the elements quite nicely. (20/25)

Balance: Quite a nicely well-balanced dram which exhibits a good amount of vibrancy due to its fruity nature, although the wood spice, nuts and malt do help with the overall complexity while providing a good account of the distillery’s house style. (21/25)

Rating: 84/100

I actually enjoyed this dram quite a lot and found the fruity and vibrant undertones to be quite overt and more-ish. If anything, this would make a great session whisky as it is dangerously drinkable and easy to enjoy.

If I had any gripes with it, it would probably be the alcohol strength as while it is rather enjoyable at 40% abv, it would definitely be interesting to see how things develop at a higher abv of around 46-48%.

That being said, this would fall into the category of a good NAS expression and the price is fairly reasonable as well. If you haven’t tried this expression and are looking for a good session whisky at a good price, this would definitely be one to look out for.

Until the next review, have a great week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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2 thoughts on “Whisky Review #84: The Singleton of Glen Ord Liberté

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