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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.

Conclusions:

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
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