Glen Ord, up in the northern highlands, is a curious case. A massive whisky factory pumping out spirit for Diageo’s blends, it nonetheless produces an austere spirit that can be very elegant indeed. It’s hard to take its measure, however. Diageo barely does anything with it—other than making it one of the three expressions in its Singleton range (I think the Singleton of Glen Ord is for the Asian market). And despite the high volume of spirit it pumps out there doesn’t seem to be as much of it available from the indies as one might expect either—at least not in the US. Cadenhead seem to be the only bottler that has been releasing casks of Glen Ord at a steady clip over the last few years. Despite this neglect Glen Ord has steadfast fans. And even though I cannot say I’ve had so very many Glen Ords I am one of them. I’m always looking to try more and so when I had the opportunity to get my hands on a few independent releases from the last decade, I went for it. First up is this 21 yo bottled by Cadenhead in 2017.
Glen Ord 21, 1996 (55.7%; Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection; bourbon hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Lemon peel, freshly cut grass, white pepper, a bit of malt, a bit of wax. With time the grassy note fades and there’s a bit of vanilla in its place. With a drop or two of water the lemon peel is joined by citronella and the vanilla turns to icing sugar; the wax expands as well.
Palate: As promised by the palate with the lemon in the lead. Nice texture at full strength. The fruit expands almost as I swallow—the lemon is joined by some pear and there’s a bit of pineapple as well. More fruit with each sip. Let’s see what water does. Citronella here too with water and the wax shows up here too. The fruit is still here with the pepper from the finish showing up earlier now.
Finish: Long. The fruit keeps expanding; picks up some white pepper as it goes. The fruit gets muskier with time. The finish is shorter with water.
Comments: Quintessential Glen Ord. Doesn’t have the more intense fruit of the older official releases of years past but it’s a very classy malt, walking the line between austere and fruity. Very unsexy whisky but also very, very good whisky. A little more depth, a little more fruit and it would be headed for the next tier.
Rating: 89 points.