Jan 242015
 

In Greek mythology, Cerberus was a three headed dog who was charged with guarding the entrance to the underworld so the living don’t come in and the dead don’t escape. In the world of whisky, it’s Diageo’s three headed Singleton brand, trying to be the ‘go-to’ entry level whisky (and beyond) without investing in distillery expansion.

Obviously, there is no distillery named Singleton, and the brand name has been previously used (in the latter half of the 1980s) for the Auchroisk single malts, and was then abandoned. It was revived after Diageo’s attempt at using the Cardhu brand as a catchall for whisky from distilleries too small to carry their own brand (or those who’s production is needed to feed the ever growing hunger of the Johnny Walker vats) and being made to back down from making Cardhu a vatted malt.

Faced again with rising demand for single malts, and having too many unknown distilleries with some extra capacity but not enough to really hold a global brand, the marketing genius power a corporation the size of Diageo came up with this plan: Revive the ‘Singleton’ brand but use those same three distilleries divided geographically into the different regions of the world. Thus, you’ll get “Singleton of Dufftown” in Europe, “Singleton of Glen Ord” in Asia and “Singleton of Glendullan” in the Americas. Two Speysiders and a Highlander make up a single brand.

Photo Credit: flaviar.com

Photo Credit: flaviar.com

 

Living in Israel and traveling mainly to Europe, I have only had the Dufftown version to review. It has some sherry matured whisky in it and is actually better, in my opinon, than the 15 year old Singleton of Dufftown.

I’d be interested in doing a “cross-vertical” tasting of all three Singletons (at least on the 12 year old label, as Glendullan only has a 12 year old, whereas Dufftown and Glen Ord have a 12-15-18 range). It’s also worth noting that a 28 year old Singleton of Dufftown was offered in the 2013 Special Releases (at £235) and a Singleton of Glendullan 38 year old was offered in the 2014 Special releases (for the meek price tag of  £750!!!).

Anyway, back to the basic expressions reviews:

Photo Credit: whiskyhut.co.uk

Photo Credit: whiskyhut.co.uk

Singleton of Dufftown 12 (40% ABV)

Appearance: Bronze, thin and quick legs.

Nose: Sultana raisins, vanilla, sherry, demerara sugar and malt.

Palate: Sweetness right down the center of the tongue, light pepper and clove in a very smooth mouth feel.

Linger: Short with pepper down the gullet and some sweet and bitter notes in the mouth.

Conclusion

Basic single malt, drinkable but unremarkable in any way. It’s the type of whisky you’d bring a non drinker to introduce them to single malts, as it’s really easy going and not complex. This is intentional and by design, as the Singleton is aimed to serve as an introductory malt and is achieved through a long fermentation and a slow distillation of smaller batches in the stills to provide a lot of copper contact. Any attempt to evaluate this whisky as anything other than the easy drinking gateway malt it was designed to be, will result in disappointment.

Jul 282014
 
Photo Credit: blog.thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: blog.thewhiskyexchange.com

Pittyvaich is one of those almost secret closed distilleries as it didn’t even get through two decades of operation, as it was built in 1974 and mothballed in 1993, only to be demolished in 2002.

It was an exact replica of the Dufftown distillery (producing Diageo’s Singleton of Dufftown) and once Arthur Bell & Sons was absorbed into the Diageo forerunner DCL’s portfolio, it became redundant and after a short stint backing up Gordon’s Gin production (a role Auchroisk Distillery plays today), was mothballed and later demolished. Pittyvaich used to be a core malt in Bell’s blended whisky, but obviously whatever shortage closing the distillery caused was more than covered by other Diageo distilleries. This is evidenced in the fact that in 2012, Bell’ s sold 2.5 million cases (22.5 million liters) of whisky, and clocked in as the world’s 30th most sold whisky (down from 25th in 2010), so clearly losing Pittyvaich didn’t retard the brand’s expasion.

Diageo released a single official bottling of Pittyvaich during the distillery’s active years, a Flora and Fauna 12 year old. Surprisingly, Diageo released this 20 year old expression in 2009, as part of its annual release (alongside the 9th Port Ellen, a 23 year old Benrinnes and the penultimate Brora 30). The release was of 6000 individually numbered bottles.

But before it fell silent, it made some pretty nice whisky, and I’m lucky enough to have whisky friends with whom I can share my passion and exchange samples. My Dutch buddy, Joris Kooijman (of Caperdonich fame), shared this sample with me.

Sláinte, Joris!

Pittyvaich 20 Years Old, Diageo Special Release 2009 (57.5% ABV)

Color: Straw, thickly coating the glass.

Nose: Lightly floral, leafy, honey, fresh hay, powdered doughnuts, geraniums, milk chocolate, vanilla ice cream, sweet pastries freshly out of the oven, cantaloupe and apple vinegar.

Palate: Grapefruit, honey melted into hot water, fresh lemon juice.

Linger: Medium in length, grapefruit and sweet lemon with some nutmeg and cider.

Conclusion

This is one complex and layered dram. A one of a kind beauty bringing back a blast from the past, a taste of a now silent distillery, forever lost, but not forgotten!