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Glen Ord is another of those big blending beasts that has had tentative support from Diageo as a single malt. This has not always gone too well, in the early 2000s they couldnt give the 12yo away. This is curious because despite its image of a hulking great blending factory, it is actually a very fine malt. There is not a wealth of Glen Ord in bottled form but what there is is often brilliant, rich, full-bodied, well structured highland whisky. It is definitely a distillery worth a reappraisal if youve maybe passed it by a little too quick in the past.
Glen Ord Distillery
Stills: 3 Wash 3 Spirit
Water Source: Lochs Nan Eun and Nan Bonnach
Capacity: 5 Million Litres
1960-1980: Early Years.
Glen Ord has always been quite a fulsome, aromatic style malt, often with some distinctive peaty and smoky notes in the background. This seems to have always been the case, indeed it was understandably magnified in the old days before it was modernised. Glen Ord was originally a two still, old style distillery until 1966 when the whole distillery was reconstructed and four new stills were added. At the same time worm tubs were replaced with condensers and steam heating replaced direct firing. The floor maltings had already been replaced, in 1961, with a Saladin box which would later be supplemented by a larger drum maltings on site.
There are some bottlings that date from this era and they are often fantastic. Common characters are bags of minerality, wax, hessian, engine oil, soft peat, some coastal characters and underlying fruit notes. The best examples are a wonderful, wax laden 1962 by Samaroli for his legendary Bouquet series. There is also a pair of excellent Cadenheads dumpies from 1962 and a 1965 39yo by Jack Weiber. Aged offical bottlings are excellent as well, a rich 25yo and a legendary 30yo release are both wonderfully concentrated and aromatic with loads of distillery character. The Rare Malts 1973 is also excellent but is typically more austere, citrusy, coastal and unsexy, a great dram if you can find it.
1980-Present: A Respectable Giant.
In 1983 the Saladin box was decommissioned and the production with the drum malting was stepped up, so much so that Glen Ord Maltings now provides malt to several of Diageos distilleries. By the early 80s modern production had taken its toll to an extent on Glen Ord and it no longer displayed quite so much waxy, mineral or peat qualities. However it was still a great whisky by any standards and there are still great bottlings from these years to be found.
There are good examples to be found from Malts Of Scotland, Exclusive Malts, some official variants and Signatory. The character is one of sinewy, juicy malt, dry smokier aspects, vanilla, spice and a distinctive oiliness. Glen Ord is always a dependable malt and further investigation usually reveals some great examples. Lets hope it stays this way in future.