I have to admit I’ve always been a bit confused by the Singleton range. Is it a distillery, is it a brand from a distillery? No wait, isn’t it a bunch of different distilleries all owned by Diageo? Yes, that’s it. Occasionally called a gateway malt by experienced whisky drinkers the Singleton project began back in 2004 with a clear focus on the Asian market, and though its releases are now globally available, I suspect this release is aimed squarely east of Dufftown.
In the UK the range is, perhaps a little unfairly, seen as the cheaper, entry level single malt but this release sure as hell ain’t that - at £26,400 per bottle it’s at the planetary extreme of any Singleton I’ve ever tasted. I sat down with The Singleton’s Master of Malts, Maureen Robinson, to try the whisky, and to find out why in a range more often known for its entry level pricing and flavour profile they decided to release it at all.
The whisky is a time capsule - distilled in 1964, on the pear-shaped stills of the higglety-pigglety Dufftown Distillery, in the heart of Speyside, this liquid was almost certainly created for blending. I’ll bet the lads at Dufftown then will have had little idea this cask would outlive them all and become such rarefied juice.
So, what’s it actually like? On the nose it’s so utterly refined, it’s the leather aroma of Imelda Marcos’s shoe cupboard, the floor polish of Xanadu, the inside of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s handbag. On the palate it’s all of this in liquid form, as if potpourri was the ichor that ran through the veins of the gods. Hints of wood but in perfect balance, just a touch of bitterness towards the end but not in an irritating way. I’ve tasted many whiskies at this age (and many half its age) that were like licking a woodwork class pencil case. This is something of a rarity.
So why did they release this - because they could - and they should. Ignoring the price tag for a second this is an incredible expression that anyone who enjoyed the younger Singleton of Dufftown releases would feel at home with.
As you’d expect the packaging for this expression is out of this world. For one thing, it’s huge. The box, which Maureen admits is bigger than her own home bar, opens to preview the bottle surrounded by copper, which reflects light like that scene in Pulp Fiction when Vincent Vega opens the briefcase. For your money you even get a chunk of the cask neatly inserted into the experience (suddenly the word box doesn't seem grandiose enough).
To be completely honest, the whole experience when put together is somewhat overwhelming. Can any whisky live up to this? No. Of course it can’t. It’s beautiful. It’s everything you’d want from a whisky that’s been so well chosen, packaged, considered, but it’s still just whisky. The only person who’d not find this disappointing is the kind of customer who can afford to buy a few, which I suspect is just who this is aimed at. The person who has a choice of £26k whisky to sup of a night. For me, a lowly writer, I marvel at the god of whisky who allowed this dram to mature so unwooded, I adore that Maureen is the one who had the chance to choose and bottle it, and I lament that not more people will taste this, but I do not begrudge the wealthy for buying it - god no, I only wish I was one of them.
Retails for £26,400 per 70cl, available from Justerini and Brooks and others
Single cask, bottled at 40.6% ABV.
The release will be a limited edition of only 117 bottles