Glendullan 17, 1996 (Cadenhead’s)

Cadenhead's, Glendullan 17The venerable independent bottler Cadenhead’s is back in the US. Let there be rejoicing. There’s been a general revamp at Cadenhead’s with a new boss and new packaging. I don’t have anything interesting to say about the former, and I am agnostic on the latter. I quite liked the old, green bottles from when Cadenhead’s were last in the US and don’t mind the new dumpy bottles. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t complain about something though so I will say that I wish that the distillation years were on the labels and not on the little thingamajig on a string around the neck (is there a name for that thing?). In stores where these bottles are kept behind glass it’s annoying to have to call someone over just to find out what years particular bottles are from. But this is a minor issue.

The more important thing is that the prices are generally reasonable. I found eight of the Small Batch Collection releases in a store in a Minneapolis suburb and only one (the Caol Ila 22) was above $100. Of course, not all stores selling these are being quite as restrained with the prices but it suggests that they’re not starting out high straight off the boat. I bought all eight bottles to be split among some members of our local tasting group and will be reviewing them in sequence, starting with this Glendullan. After that I will return to my usual diet of largely untimely reviews.

Glendullan has a very large production capacity but most of its product goes into blends. The only official release, in the US, at least, is as Diageo’s “Singleton”. Elsewhere in the world malts from Dufftown and Glen Ord distilleries feature as the “Singleton”. Their single malt is not terribly ubiquitous among indie releases either, with only six releases listed on Whiskybase from even Gordon & Macphail who can normally be counted on to have released scores from almost every distillery. Let’s see what this one is like.

Glendullan 17, 1996 (57.4%; Cadenhead’s Small Batch, bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split with friends)

Nose: Floral and mildly citrussy with mild wood (pine boards). More malt after a bit and more fruit too: grapes, apples, maybe some kiwi. Expanding vanilla too. Water emphasizes the vanilla and now there’s some shortbread as well–the fruit’s all still there too.

Palate: Surprisingly drinkable at full strength. Quite sweet at first and then there’s a muskier, malty note. Some pepper too. On the second and third sip there’s more of the fruit from the nose, and now I’m getting some melon (not quite fully ripe honeydew); more citrus too. Water brings it all together and emphasizes the citrus and pepper, making it brighter.

Finish: Medium. The musky fruit and pepper fade out and the wood reappears, just a little bit spicy. Gets a little briny as it goes.

Comments: A very pleasant and light fruity Speysider. Those looking for fireworks may be disappointed but this is good, solid whisky. Better with water, I think. Okay, must try more Glendullan. Anyone have any reports on the Singleton?

Rating: 85 points.

16 thoughts on “Glendullan 17, 1996 (Cadenhead’s)

  1. Happy New Year – I see you rung it in with a new, improved slogan. No nonesense, neither!

    Yeah, I have a report on the Singleton of Glendullan. Purchased and opened in August 2012. Never again. Lasted a month before I gave away most of it. Here are the notes:

    “Brussel sprouts, indicating that it is still young and that the casks have not tempered the sulphur of the spirit quite yet; slightly sharp on mid-tongue. Medium body. Boring.”

    Honestly, unless that bottle was an exception, I don’t know how Diageo wants to compete with the so many good entry level malts out there; this was worse than most I can think of (Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Old Pulteney, Tomatin, Speyburn, Glenmorangie, Glen Moray). And I can’t think of other Diageo whisky in the <$35 range. I'm happy – and not surprised – that your Cadenhead version was very good. It comes to prove once again that one cannot rely on the large standard OBs (I think of them as blended single malts) to draw conclusions about a distillery's quality. Which is good in a way, since it focuses interest and prices onto a handful of reputed distilleries and away from everybody else.

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  2. That bad, eh? That’s unusual for Diageo–usually their entry-level malts are all solid (well, some, okay, many might disagree re the Glenkinchie 12). And does it not have an age statement?

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    • For some weird reason I decided to buy the Glenkinchie 20 year old that was part of the 2011 or 2012 Special Releases (the just ex-bourbon casks release and not the ex-brandy double matured edition). I think I bought that one because I wanted to taste all the Lowland distilleries and the Glenkinchie 12 seems to get hit or miss reviews (more miss I’ve noticed). I guess I’ll open that one eventually.

      So what are the issues with the standard Glenkinchie?

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      • I don’t actually mind it–I went through a bottle some years ago without too much trouble. I remember notes of violets and more than a little grassiness. It just wasn’t interesting enough for me to replace the bottle (this was when I was first trying a lot of malts and so wasn’t replacing anything I didn’t like a lot); but I didn’t find it particularly offensive. Some others seem to really dislike it though.

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  3. Twelve years old, or at least it used to be. I went through a bottle a couple years ago. Found it incredibly bland, like an extra bland blend, thoroughly characterless. More of a *shrug* than a “yuck” to me. What I remember most about it was that a retailer sold it to me through either lies or ignorance, saying that it was made by “the company that owned Macallan” and that it tasted a lot like Macallan 12.

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    • Correct, the Singleton is 12yo. Also, save some of your ADR Glen Ord and compare it with the Singleton of Glen Ord when you get your hands on it. Diageo makes no secret that the Singleton series is designed for mass appeal (see also the Whisky Advocate article on Singleton a few issues back). This doesn’t necessarily exclude quality but in this case they end with a single malt that tastes like blended whisky, since they start with what the market likes rather than with what the distillate is about.

      However, based on your review and on my experience with the Singleton and with some occasional other tasting I conclude that Glendullan is a somewhat difficult spirit. From musky notes and not quite ripe melons and kiwi to Brussels sprouts and rotten vegetables is not such a long trip, and this is all on the wrong side of the whisky flavor spectrum for me. I would group it loosely with Balblair and Strathisla (fruity side), and Tobermory and Fettercairn – maybe Glen Scotia as well on the sulphury/farty side. That doesn’t mean they won’t make good or even great whiskies, just that it is more hit-and-miss than a dependable malt, like Clynelish, Glenmorangie, Aberlour, or a dozen others I can think of.

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      • See now you have me intrigued to try another Glendullan, one not neutered in its Singleton form. I wouldn’t go for a full bottle, but I’ll keep my eye on some samples in the future. I often think it’s one of those Diageo distilleries, like Dufftown, that have been largely ignored by we geeks either due to lesser presentation in its official bottlings or because it has revealed itself to be equally narrow in 40%/43% independent versions. Or perhaps it has a difficult distillate as you mentioned. In any case it is good to see some cask strength versions sneaking out once in a while.

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  4. Hi there,

    that is interesting. When I read your remarks about the Singletons of Glendullan and Ord they reminded me very much of the Singleton of Dufftown we Europeans are blessed with.
    We have a 12 15 and a 18yo of them and I find them to be blends in a malts disguise as well. A pitty that the Glendullan for the Americas and the Ord for Asia are no longer sold in any form in Europe by Diageo – and vice versa I take it.
    Not a great loss in the case of Glendullan but the old version of the Glen Ord 12yo in the decanter bottle and even more so its predecessor in the standard bottle – still carrying the Clan Mackenzie motto “I shine not burn” – were among my favourite malts.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

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  5. I’m sensing that perhaps the Singleton of Glendullan should not be my next Glendullan….Florin, I can’t afford to buy anything (split or otherwise) till the end of February. Those Binny’s bottles aren’t going anywhere though (and will likely be discounted in April…).

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      • They don’t count towards my open bottles count in my spreadsheet (thus making me look more virtuous) but even with my Enron-style accounting I can’t find the money to buy anything until February. The big Cadenhead’s bottle split was not budgeted, you see.

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        • Oh, I see. Good luck with New Year’s Resolutions! I’ll drop 20 lbs by Valentine’s Day (starting tomorrow).

          Can’t you put the bottle split under “dog food”? Those dogs need to eat, you know.

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  6. I’ve really been enjoying this Glendullan 17. On the nose, I got pineapple and lemon, as well as buttery notes. Like a liquid danish. As you say, it’s surprisingly smooth at full strength. I don’t as a rule drink whisky with food, but I had this with a little dessert of Concorde pear slices and dark chocolate with crystalized ginger, and it was delicious. The flavors were very complementary.

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