It's a strange thing that Glendullan is relatively unknown as a single malt whisky...
Measured in production capacity (almost 4 million litres of alcohol by the year in 2008) Glendullan
was actually Diageo's second-largest distillery at the time - right after nearby Dufftown and just
before Caol Ila which held the number 3 spot.
The Glendullan distillery is located in what's probably the busiest 'whisky town'
in the Speyside area: Dufftown. It was built there (relatively late) in 1897-1898 by
William Williams & Sons Ltd. from Aberdeen which started out as whisky blenders.
In 1919 the company William Williams & Sons Ltd. changed their name to
Macdonald, Greenlees & Williams (Distillers) Ltd. In 1926 they were acquired
by the DCL - the company that later evolved into whisky industry giant Diageo.
In 1939 Glendullan was transferred to SMD, another predecessor of Diageo.
The old Glendullan distillery was completely refurbished in 1962, at which point two brand new
stills were constructed. However, in 1972 a new distillery was built right next to the old one.
The new Glendullan distillery had six stills (three times as many as the old one) and until 1985
both distilleries operated side by side, after which the old distillery was finally closed.
The whiskies produced at these two distilleries were different from each other, but nevertheless
they were simply vatted together before bottling or blending. That's particularly funny because
Diageo (together with Glenfiddich) claims to have educated the world about single malts a few
years later and kept pointing out how every pot still was unique and irreplacable.
So, I think it's safe to say that a lot of the tall tales that were told to promote the category
of single malt whisky in the 1980's and 1990's should be taken with a few grains of salt.
For more than a decade Diageo simply lumped the product of two different distilleries together
and called it Glendullan single malt whisky. That being said, at the time the 'single malt'
category didn't really exist; virtually all Glendullan was used for blends.
So, let’s paint the history of the single malt whisky category in very broad strokes...
One could argue that it really was a very small 'niche' market until the end of the 1980's.
There were a few notable exceptions (Glenfiddich and the Italian market in the 1970's) but by and
large single malts were little more than flavour components for blends. This started to change in the
second half of the 1980's - possibly due to the crisis of the early 1980s which caused the closure of
dozens of distilleries. This may have prompted many distilleries to focus more on single malt whiskies.
The old Glendullan distillery was closed in 1985, although some of the buildings remained in
use as a workshop. Meanwhile, Diageo and its predecessors (United Distillers) developed their
portfolio of single malt whiskies. While some 'brands' were pushed (notably the six original
'Classic Malts' series; Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban and Talisker),
other distilleries stayed focused on blends.
After all, during the late 1980's and early half of the 1990's, blends still accounted for circa 97%
of all whisky sales around the world. It was only in the second half of the 1990's that the single
malts category really took off. Distilleries like Glendullan and Dufftown remained mostly focused
on blends for a few more years, but around the year 2007 Diageo finally reintroduced them to
the market as single malts - together with Glen Ord. They all had been marketed as single malts
at some point, but in more recent years only Glen Ord had been widely available. Oddly enough,
the malt whisky from these 3 distilleries is now marketed under one single brand; the Singleton.
In other words, whisky lovers on different continents can enjoy very different whiskies under the 'Singleton' name
these days. So, there's an international component to this Singleton story... Consumers in the USA get a Glendullan
12yo when they order a Singleton (I haven't seen the Glendullan 8yo OB from the 1990's for ages), whisky drinkers
in Europe receive a Dufftown 12yo (The Dufftown 10yo OB from the 90's has vanished too) and in Asia they get
Glen Ord 12yo. (I already mentioned that the old 12yo 'cube' bottling of Glen Ord OB remained available in Europe
for a few years after the introduction of Singleton.)
Glendullan is located in the busy town of Dufftown, home to no less
than six different malt whisky distilleries. They include Glenfiddich
and Balvenie (both owned by William Grant & Sons) as well as
two distilleries which now use the ‘Singleton’ brand for their whisky.
Like some of the neighbouring distilleries, Glendullan draws its
process water from sources in the nearby Convall Hills.
Because Glendullan is not really ‘branded’ as a single malt whisky the distillery does not have a visitor centre.
1) Glendullan is one of three distilleries to carry the name 'Singleton' at
the moment (the others are Dufftown and Glen Ord), but during the end
of the 20th century the malt whisky from Auchroisk distillery actually
carried the name Singleton.
2) The Glendullan distillery is located not far from the spot where the
now defunct Parkmore distillery used to stand.
4) Glendullan uses 8 wooden washbacks made out of larch.
6) A large part of the Glendullan malt whisky ends up in the 'Old Parr' blended whisky.
5) Just like the name suggests, the Glendullan distillery itself is fairly dull.
3) Glendullan is one of almost two dozen malt whisky distilleries that were
founded over a century ago during the 'whisky boom' of the late 19th
century and which have managed to survive until this day. The other
survivors include Aberfeldy, Ardmore, Aultmore, Balvenie, Benriach,
Benromach, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown,
Glenfiddich, Glenrothes, Glentauchers, Knockandu, Knockdhu,
Longmorn, Tamdhu and Tomatin.
2007 - Diageo re-launches three different single malt
whiskies under the name 'Singleton' - aimed at three
different continents. The Singleton of Glendullan malt
whisky is available in the USA while customers in Europe
can enjoy a Singleton of Dufftown while Asian customers
can find the Singleton of Glen Ord on the shelves of
their local liquorist.
2013 - For a few years the 12yo bottling was the only
regular expression in the Singleton of Glendullan range.
In 2013 two new versions were added to the duty free
portfolio; ‘Liberty’ and ‘Trinity’.Like many other bottlings
released at the time, they lacked an age statement.
2014 - The very first Glendullan is included in Diageo’s ‘Special Releases’ series; a 38yo distilled in 1975.
2018 - The oldest ever official bottling of Glendullan is released; a 40yo expression in the ‘Forgotten Drop’ series.
It is available in travel retail outlets in Asia with a suggested retail price of 2,300 US dollars.
2010 - Part of the equipment at the Glendullan distillery
is replaced, including a new full lauter mash tun.
Singleton of Glendullan 12yo (40%, OB for duty free, Bottled +/- 2009, USA, 1 litre)
Nose: A whiff of something herbal. Chalky. Later some faint fruits (water melon?), but it remains subdued.
Some 'veggy' notes as well. Oddly enough, this is VERY different from the version I tried two years ago.
Taste: Soft and quite frankly a little weak start. Faint fruits. Blueberries? Sweetish at first, but that fades away.
Green. The finish grows dry quickly - and remains weak throughout. Drinkable, but not a lot of personality.
Score: 75 points - there are elements to enjoy, but I'm afraid 'average' is the best I can say about it...
Singleton of Glendullan 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2007)
Nose: Hint of mint. Sweetish. Much heavier that the Glendullan OB from the 1990's - good!
Is it just me, or is this not unlike a very complex bourbon? There's treasure if you dig deeper.
There's a mint candy sweetness that pops up every now and then that keeps it interesting.
Yes, on a bad nose day this is not unlike a very complex bourbon - but I will need to try again.
Taste: Warm, sweet and malty. Growing a little 'greener' and cooler after a minute. Shimmering.
Silky smooth start, growing harsh and again bourbony towards the finish. Quite woody too.
After a few minutes the sweetness of this Glendullan is washed away from the surface.
Verdict: 81 points - I was ready to go for +/- 83 points first, but the finish dragged it down.
Definitely a few steps up from the 8yo official bottling from the 1990's (74 points) it seems.
Well, this is a very preliminary impression. (Oh, and I DO like the box & bottle design...)
Glendullan 14yo 1991/2005 (43%, Ultimate, bottled 23/11/2005)
Nose: Farmy, Expressive. Fennel & Aniseed. Turns out much more serious than I initially thought.
Taste: Erm.... I'm afraid I forgot to make notes on the taste - things started to become hectic.
Score: 80 points - further proof that the Glendullan distillery actually produces a very decent malt whisky.
Glendullan-Glenlivet 20yo 1978/1999 (64.2%, Cadenhead's)
Nose: Whoah! Big and serious. Oaky. Hints of mocca. Spices. Mace? Then some organics emerge. Stunning!
Taste: Phew!!! I had it at 90 points before I tasted it. Bitter and unbearable at C/S. With water it's metallic.
Score: 87 points - highly enjoyable and entertaining, even though it's arguably too rough on the palate.
Glendullan 1981/1998 (58.7%, Scott's Selection)
Nose: I found the nose sweetish with very faint organics. A little harsh, which isn't surprising.
Well, that's hardly surprising when you look at the high proof of this whisky; almost 60% ABV.
Taste: It was very 'alcoholic' on the palate as well and then I detected soap. Whooh - not good!
Score: 60 points - my score immediately dropped to 60 points and stayed there until my glass was empty.
Glendullan 23yo 1972 (62.43%, UD Rare Malts).
Nose: Sweet. Cow stable. Growing more complex, but nothing really distinguishable.
I had it at 80 points until some playful spices and organics appeared in the nose. Sorrel?
Taste: Ultra-sweet start. Then it grows dry, hot and herbal. Feels a bit like oatmeal. Nice.
More sherried and fruitier towards the finish. My kind of malt, but I like it more than I should.
Score: 83 points - but I have to admit that this score might be just a tad on the generous side.
I can't say it's a really complex whisky, but I'm just a sucker for these sweet cask strenght UDRM's.
Glendullan 8yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1995, 70cl)
Nose: Spunky. Slightly oily, with almost sharp undertones. a light honeyish sweetness.
This malt is very elusive and kept surprising me. Not enough to get beyond 'average', though...
Taste: A lot of taste development; very long. Quite good and lots of character for a 8 years old.
Score: 74 points - just a smidgen below average, which isn't bad for a malt whisky this young.
Glendullan 25yo 1965/1990 (50.1%, Cadenhead's, Black Label) was
Nose: A very pleasant surprise. I found sherry, mocca, spices and mustard in the nose.
And cow shit - which in this case isn't a bad thing. A hard act to follow.
Taste: This Glendullan showed sweet and sherried notes on the palate with some herbal overtones.
Score: 84 points - at least for me and it scores in the upper 80's from the other maniacs.
Glendullan 12yo (47%, OB, Macdonald Greenlees Ltd, Cream Label, Bottled 1980's).
Nose: That's a bit of an unusual strength for a malt, eh? I have to say it performed quite well at this ABV.
The nose was big and complex. Quite fruity. Maybe a hint of lemon? Spices, organics and cigarette tobacco.
Taste: I imagined I could 'feel' the age again. A little bit smokier and perfumier after a few minutes.
It has a good mouth feel, although it turns a little gritty and bitter towards the finish.
Score: 82 points - another Glendullan that scores comfortably in the eighties.
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glendullan malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glendullan I've tried over the years, but the notes should
convey how I felt about those whiskies. However, these tasting notes only reflect my purely personal opinion.
Your tastes might be different from mine - so it would be prudent to check out some other opinions as well.
Serge Valentin’s Whiskyfun website offers tasting notes on thousands of whisky bottlings, including Glendullan.
The Malt Maniacs Monitor provides opinions of several other aficionados on over 15,000 different whiskies.
But perhaps you'd like to read a little bit more about whisky in general or single malt Scotch whisky in particular?
In that case, you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky - 10 chapters filled with (almost)
everything you need to know in order to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky. Or, if you’d like
to dig a little deeper, the Whisky Lexicon offers more detailed information on a bunch of whisky-related topics.