Singleton of Dufftown Aged 21 Years

Some whiskies are memorable; others aren’t. Of course, good memories are more desirable than bad ones. But even whiskies that lead to bad memories, I’d argue, can be better than whiskies that are just downright forgettable.

For instance: a couple of years ago, I sent some friends a sample of a whisky that I bought but didn’t quite like. It didn’t click with them either, and I found out that they thought the brand’s other expressions weren’t too exciting either. I ended up agreeing with them on that, too, after they sent me samples of those other expressions. Today, our dislike for that brand remains an inside joke that doesn’t fail to brighten up a conversation.

Here’s another example: Last year, I was browsing through local online liquor stores when I chanced upon one whisky that I found intriguing due to its components and age. Sadly, I found it objectionable, but it taught me a valuable lesson about whisky. That particular bottle wasn’t cheap, but I consider the money I paid for it to be a tuition fee that helped me progress along in my whisky journey and learn about what I didn’t like, or about what aspects of the production process can go wrong.

You see, these experiences lead me to believe that bad memories with whisky can be entertaining or educational. In this sense, they have value. Forgettable whiskies, on the other hand, don’t hold the same amount of value and, by definition, not even enough importance to take up space in our memories.

Memorability – the degree to which something is easy to or worth remembering – is something that I believe consumers can sometimes sense before getting to try a whisky. Of course, this “sensing” isn’t always a fully rational process. Maybe it only takes a single look at a bottle or brand, and something about it isn’t interesting or inviting; this is exactly why many brands allot a huge portion of their budgets to marketing.

Perhaps you’re a bit more rational and have heard from other people about how disappointing a whisky is. Either way, the result is a clear lack of inclination that keeps you from taking the next step to get to know the whisky or brand more, or even from trying it out. Combine these aspects of “sensing” the memorability of a whisky, and you’ll begin to understand how I feel about the Singleton range.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, Singleton is a brand owned by Diageo that releases NAS and age-stated single malts from three distilleries: Dufftown, Glen Ord, and Glendullan. The brand was launched in 2006 with the intention of being Diageo’s most-produced single malt, enabling it to compete with brands like The Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. Right now, Singleton is labeled as Diageo’s “recruitment malt” that Diageo wants to become the top-selling single malt in the world.

Singleton was one of those brands that didn’t have an impact on me, as a consumer. On the more irrational side, Singleton’s branding never really struck a chord with me. A case in point: Despite Diageo’s heavy focus on marketing this brand, the persisting impression I have about it involves its association with the color teal.

On the more rational side, however, there were also several factors that kept me from being more interested in Singleton. For one, I always feel some level of skepticism toward brands that seem to prioritize quantity over quality. In this case, Diageo’s desire to position Singleton as the single malt that sells the most doesn’t primarily convey a commitment to flavor.

I have also never really heard anyone wax lyrical about it. Aside from the rare post on social media of someone enjoying a dram or even a cocktail made with Singleton, none of my friends or references gave the brand any praise. Whenever I got to drink with friends in person, no one ever brought a bottle of Singleton. It’s as if the brand wasn’t impressive enough to be an option for potlucks. All in all, it would take a lot for me to purchase Singleton and try it over other more promising options.

Needless to say, the stars must have aligned, because here I am writing about it.

Late last year, a local retailer organized an online tasting of a 21-year-old Singleton whisky facilitated by Diageo Global Brand Ambassador Erwin Trykowski, and I was given the privilege of joining the event and receiving a sample for free. Previously, I had already known about the event but decided not to spend my money for it (this choice echoed my sentiments about Singleton). However, when the invitation to attend for free was extended to me, I was interested because it was a risk-free opportunity to formally evaluate Singleton, which I had hitherto not been eager about.

This was Singleton’s chance to win me over! And, if I may momentarily subscribe to the perceived proportionality between price and quality, what better chance would Singleton have of winning me over than with a single malt that is more expensive than its other standard releases, right? During the online tasting, I transferred a couple of drams from the sample to a smaller container for further scrutiny, and this is what I’ll be reviewing today.

This whisky is a 21-year-old single malt from Dufftown distillery in Speyside. There seems to be a dearth of clear information online about this expression, but as this article explains, this is a limited-edition bottling. It seems different (at least based on packaging) from the range of aged Singleton of Dufftown single malts that were part of the Trinity Cask Harmony special release.

The one I have also seems to have been released only for the Asian market, since I cannot find a 21-year-old Singleton with the same packaging that is sold outside of Asia. On the bottle, it says that the single malt was “matured in American and European oak casks” that also included ex-Sherry casks. According malts.com, this was selected from only one out of 20,000 casks of Singleton whisky. This implies that the single cask that was selected was a result of the whisky being re-casked, whether previously from a single or multiple casks. It is bottled at 43% strength.

Singleton of Dufftown Aged 21 Years – Review

Color: Light mustard yellow.

On the nose: The arrival has gentle aromas of Fuji apples, canned cherries, and half-eaten moderately sweet mangoes. The sherry influence is clearly present yet subtle. Chopped raisins and a thin blanket of spice in chili flakes and turmeric. I get an interesting tartness beneath the fruit; not quite citrusy, but more of when bananas start to become overripe. It stops developing once the fruity core settles down and only exhibits sputters of oak and diluted ginger tea.

In the mouth: Many of the same flavors in the nose show up, but it has a fairly rich creamy profile that kind of anchors the other notes. Avocado milk shake, crushed cinnamon, dried orange slices, and lanzones. The tart note seems to have transformed into a slight bitterness like what I get from arugula. It has a slightly watery texture similar to watermelon juice mixed with sugar. The finish has a length in the lower end of medium, beginning with an echo of the creaminess then ending with a brief jab of dry citrus.


The sherry influence is not overpowering but accents the fruitiness, which is what seems to be the calling card of this particular release. Beyond that balance, there’s nothing extraordinary to celebrate with this middling Speyside single malt. It comes across as steady, though seemingly at the cost of character that could’ve fully distinguished it from other Speyside whiskies. I expected more complexity from a whisky of this age, and the absence of that, in a way, diminishes the consolation given by its balance. Trying this blind will not lead me to think that it’s 21 years old.

It costs around $175 in online stores in Malaysia, and in the Philippines, it can be bought for upwards of $330. I think that the age and scarcity of the whisky warrants the Malaysian price, but the local price that’s almost twice that amount? Ridiculous.

Now that I’ve finished my sample, I don’t think this whisky will stay in my memory for long.

Score: 4/10

(for the Malaysian price; 3/10 for the Philippine price)

The lead image is courtesy of Maltingpoint.com, and the second photo is courtesy of Malts.com.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,
    I never quite understood the meaning of it all. I mean from a marketing point of view a term like „The Singleton“ is too good to let it fall by the roadside. Sure.
    But the execution with three malts for three continents under one branding umbrella was weired from the beginning.
    What I can not forgive Diageo is that they removed the wonderful Glen Ord 12 yo in the square decanter for a stupid international marketing stunt from the market in Europe.
    The whole concept often spoken about as „The Simpleton of…“ is flawed. Neither Glendullan nor Dufftown have the substance as single malts to establih themselves as singularities. They are nice and uncomplicated easy to drink… but so are many others.
    The „The Singleton“ name as a vehicle of self-distinction would have fit The Mortlach better… where they goofed as well with their premiumisation attempt and the half litre bottles at first.
    Glen Ord is the strongest single malt within the trio with the capacity to stand out and alone like the Clynelish single malt does with basically one expression, the 14 yo.
    Glen Ord is hampered in its development by the other two and the stupid attempt to create the best selling single malt worldwide with one branding but still three names and three whiskies.
    Glen Ord is hampered further by the fact that the continental prescription of Glendullan for the Americas, Dufftown for Europe and Ord for Asia has officially given up by Diageo for some time now but you can not get Glen Ord in any expression from them here where I live.
    As to the Dufftown 21 you have said it all. The distillery was commissioned to produce bulk malt for blends, light and filling and what can you expect if you bottle at malt like that at 40-43%? At any age?

    1. Jigs says:

      Hi, Kallaskander,

      I appreciate your insightful comment. You’re spot-on; the way Diageo crafts the narrative of this brand is strange and, sometimes, confusing. To your point, it got even more confusing when they no longer strictly followed the initial regional split among the three distilleries. You make a very interesting point about single malt from Mortlach being more apt for Singleton. But I guess Diageo reserves Mortlach for the higher-class segment of their market.

      As much as I want to be curious about trying a Glen Ord release from Singleton after reading what you wrote about it, I’m afraid the stars would have to align once again for me to try it. I feel that I’m just better off keeping Singleton out of my crosshairs.

      Thank you for time and ideas, Kallaskander. Cheers!

      1. Ricardo says:

        Un día por cambiar de whisky compre SINGLENTON y de verdad exelente no lo cambi por otro ,la verdad lo recomiendo no se arrepentirán es perfecto y felicidades a SINGLENTON

  2. Ricardo says:

    Un día por cambiar de whisky compre SINGLENTON y de verdad exelente no lo cambi por otro ,la verdad lo recomiendo no se arrepentirán es perfecto y felicidades a SINGLENTON

    1. Jigs says:

      Hi, Ricardo,

      I apologize; I don’t speak Spanish, so I hope running your comment through Google Translate didn’t strip from it what you intended to say.

      I disagree with the point you make about it being perfect. At least with the 21 year old that I reviewed, Singleton is far from perfect and gives more cause for disappointment than praise. With that said, I’m glad that you found Singleton to be a whisky you constantly like! That’s all that would matter at the end of the day, really.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  3. Paul says:

    Who knows what half eaten mangoes taste like?? Why are they different to not yet eaten mangoes? What about stale mouldy mangoes? Or unripened mangoes? Ridiculous

    1. Jigs says:

      We eat a lot of mangos in my country, Paul, so I know what half-eaten mangoes taste like. While it’s unfortunate that your palate seems boring and one-dimensional, I’m quite worried that you don’t even know the difference in taste between unripe and spoiled mangoes. Instead of ridiculing my palate, you might want to expand yours.

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