The Glen Ord distillery was founded in 1838 by Thomas Mackenzie in the
'Black Isle' area north of Inverness. The distillery takes its name from 'The Ord',
a plain 15 miles north of Inverness. Many castles of the clan Mackenzie can be
found in the area, including Kintail, Brahan and Eilean Donan.
In 1923 James Watson's son died without heirs, after which Glen Ord distillery
was purchased by John Dewar & Sons who became part of the DCL (Distillers
Company Limited ) in 1925. In 1930, Glen Ord was transferred to Scottish Malt
Distillers Ltd. (SMD). This marked the beginning of a few relatively quiet decades.
Immediately after construction Thomas Mackenzie licensed the distillery to
the Ord Distillery Co., owned by Donald McLennan & Robert Johnstone.
Soon Robert became the sole owner - but he went bankrupt in 1847.
Glen Ord distillery was put up for sale, but it took almsot a decade before
buyers came forward. It wasn't until 1855 that Glen Ord was purchased by
Alexander McLennan (possibly Donald’s son) and Thomas McGregor.
Alexander McLennan passed away in 1870, after which his widow took over the
distillery. In 1877 the ownership of Glen Ord returned to the Mackenzie clan when
Alexander McLennan's widow remarried. Her new husband Alexander McKenzie
took out a 19 year lease of Glen Ord and constructed a new still house.
Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire shortly afterwards. Alexander McKenzie
died in 1896, just when the lease of the distillery ended. Glen Ord was sold to
James Watson & Co. (a blending company from Dundee) for £15,800.
In 1961 the floor maltings were replaced by a Saladin box,
which was supplemented with drum maltings in 1968. Both
maltings were used together for more than a decade, but in
1983 they stopped using the Saladin box. At the time the Glen
Ord’s drum maltings produced some 36,000 tonnes per year.
The Mackenzie clan has Celtic origins (as opposed to Norman) and possibly
came to Scotland from Ireland at some point during the 12th century.
That's much more than the Glen Ord distillery needed at the time.
So, the maltings produce the malted barley for a few other of Diageo's distilleries as well.
While the maltings operation was expanded, the actual distillation was as well.
In 1966 the distillery was renovated, while the number of stills was expanded from two to six.
In 1985 Glen Ord was acquired by United Malt & Grain Distillers (United Distillers), which
officially became part of the large Diageo conglomerate a little over a decade later. They
continued to produce the dependable Glen Ord single malt in the round bottle (shown at the left)
for a few more years before they introduced its successor in the square bottle (depicted above)
a few years later. Both bottlings offered pretty good value; affordable single malt whiskies
scoring around 80 points on my personal enjoyment scale.
In recent years that comfortable situation has changed considerably.
During the 1980s and 1990s the name 'Singleton' had been reserved for the product of the
Auchroisk whisky distillery (also owned by Diageo), But then the brand was ‘repossessed’.
Around the year 2007 three brand new 'Singleton' single malts were introduced in different parts of the world.
Oddly enough, these singletons were produced at three different malt whisky distilleries; Dufftown, Glendullan and
Glen Ord. The malts from these distilleries are marketed under the same name in three different parts of the world,
which seems like a departure from the 'Classic Malts' ideology. This also means that whisky lovers on different
continents can enjoy three different 'Singleton' malt whiskies;
USA - Glendullan 12yo - I haven't seen the 8yo OB from the 1990's for ages in Europe.
Europe & Africa - Dufftown 12yo - The 10yo OB from the 1990's has vanished from the shelves.
Asia - Glen Ord 12yo - The old 12yo 'cube' OB was still available in Europe in 2008.
Glen Ord can be found in a part of the Northern Highlands
near Inverness, which used to be the home of quite a few other
distilleries. However, many of them were closed - for example
Glen Albyn, Glen Mhor and Millburn in the centre of Inverness.
1) It's virtually impossible to find independent bottlings from Glen Ord.
In 2009 the MMMonitor showed circa half a dozen bottlings from Cadenhead's
(mostly from the 1980's & 1990's) and a similar number from Douglas Laing.
2) In 1882 Alexander Mackenzie registred the name 'Glenoran' for the whisky
distilled at Glen Ord distillery. In the early 1980's, the Glen Ord whisky was still
known as 'Glen Oran', during the late 1980's as 'Glen Ordie'.
6) The six stills at Glen Ord were able to produce 5,000,000 litres of alcohol per year.
In 2015 the capacity of the distillery was more than doubled with the addition of 8 brand new stills.
3) Given the importance of the Mackenzie clan in the history of Glen Ord,
it might be fun to have a few drams of their whisky while listening to the song
'The McKenzie Brothers' from the American pop-rock band Rednex.
The more glasses of Glen Ord you drink, the funnier it gets...
4) Before the introduction of the 'Singleton of Glen Ord', circa 20% of all of
the whisky that was produced at Glen Ord distillery was sold as a single malt.
The rest was used in blended whiskies like Johnnie Walker and Dewar's.
5) Between July 2010 and January 2011 the entire Glen Ord distillery was
closed for a reconstruction.
2004 - The 12yo official bottling of Glen Ord malt
whisky used come in a round bottle. It was replaced
by a square bottle in 2004. At the same time, a 25
years old official bottling of the Glen Ord single malt
whisky is launched.
2011 - Two more Oregon pine washbacks have
been added to Glen Ord's equipment.
2012 - In October Diageo submits plans to greatly expand Glen Ord's production capacity. The number of stills
will be doubled from 6 to 12 and the same goes for the number of washbacks (adding 10 to the existing 10).
2015 - After the major expansion of the distillery was finished, it turns out that it even exceeded the original plans.
No less than eight new stills had been added, all housed in the old Saladin maltings behind the original still room.
The production capacity at Glen Ord is increased to 11,000,000 litres of alcohol per year.
2007 - The 'Singleton' range is introduced; three
different single malts for three different markets.
Customers in Asia get the Glen Ord while whisky
drinkers in the USA can enjoy a Glendullan malt whisky.
Here in Europe (and apparently also in Africa) a bottle
of the 'Singleton' whisky is supposed to contain malt
whisky distilled at the Dufftown distillery.
2017 - A 41yo official bottling of Glen Ord is released in the ‘Forgotten Drop’ series.
Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2010, 70cl)
Nose: Malty with flowery notes in the background. Cinnamon and other spices as well. Sappy wood.
Taste: Smooth, sweet and malty. Round and very easily drinkable. Not really expressive though...
Score: 77 points - this whisky really takes some time to open up sufficiently.
Glen Ord 12yo 1998/2010 (59%, Signatory Vintage CS Collection, Hogshead, C#3478, 270 Bts.)
Nose: A surprising hit of heavy organics. Some tar and creosote. Meaty notes as well; charred steak.
Taste: Smooth, round, big. Sweetish start, slowly evolving into a smoky centre. Barbecue meat. Liquorice.
Score: 85 points - one of the most amazing expressions of Glen Ord I ever tried; almost like an Islay whisky.
Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo (40%, OB, for duty free 1L, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Malty. Shoe polish. Spices. Sweetish. Some polished oak. Starts off fairly open but closes up quickly.
Not really my kind of profile, but at least it's not dull... It's quite different from previous batches though.
Taste: Smooth start; sweet for a second and then growing more herbal. Dry, flat finish that turns quite hot.
No sweetness. Dampo menthol salve? Hot and cool menthol and camphor sensations at the end of the finish.
Score: 74 points - it seems notably less sweet on the palate to me than earlier batches of this 'Singleton'...
Singleton of Glen Ord 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2008)
Nose: Ooooh. Spices, faint organics and some shoe polish. Fairly subtle, though.
My kind of whisky - but the nose falls apart after just a few minutes. Something like diesel in the background.
Taste: Fits the nose quite well; although it feels thinner than I imagined. Solid tannins in the finish.
Is that a very soft touch of peat in the background? Some sweet liquorice as well after a few minutes.
Score: 79 points - this seems like a worthy successor to the regular Glen Ord 12yo in the square bottle.
Glen Ord 18yo 1989/2007 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, Refill butt, Ref 3336, Sherry finish, 808 Bts.)
Nose: Yoghurt. Nectarines. Banana's. This one really is a fruit bomb. Some dust as well. Enjoyable!
Taste: Strong fruits on the palate as well. Long finish with just the right amount of tannins - but fairly harsh.
Score: 84 points - this one earned an extra point when I found a hint of smoke on the palate.
Glen Ord 40yo (40.1%, Royal Mile Whiskies, 300 bottles, Bottled +/- 2005)
Nose: This is unique. Light and fruity with hints of glue and grain. Reminds me of the 'Greenore' Irish.
It does improve considerably after some breathing - a solid but slightly MOTR malt whisky.
Taste: Not an overall success, I'm afraid. Gritty in the start, undecided in the centre, sweet in the finish.
Malty & chewy on the palate. Liquorice. That being said, there's a disturbing hint of pine there as well.
Score: 84 points - this whisky is not my cup of tea initially, but it grew on me over time.
Glen Ord 15yo 1989/2004 (50%, Douglas Laing OMC, 604 bottles)
Nose: Sweet, mellow and just a tad watery. More spices emerge over time. Beer? Notable improvement!
Taste: Quite soft and smooth in the start, even at 50%. A big bitter bite in the finish. Too bad.
Score: 79 points - Based on the nose it would make it to the lower 80's - but not on the palate.
Glen Ord 25yo 1978/2004 (58.3%, OB)
Nose: Sweet with hints of antiquity in the background. Very subtle farmy and metallic aroma's at the back.
Very enjoyable, but not terribly complex. Some more fruits emerged after I added a few drops of water.
Taste: Surprisingly harsh; the nose suggests a 'smoother' mouth feel. Oh wait - it's almost 60% ABV...
Sweetness emerges over time, along with touches of peat & smoke. Hint of liquorice in the chewy tannins.
With a splash of water the mouth feel became just a tad grittier - and the peat & smoke came forward.
Score: 86 points - experiences with the 23yo UDRM bottling from 1998 suggest it improves with breathing.
Glen Ord 20yo 1983/2003 (59%, Signatory, Cask #378, 458 bottles)
Nose: Ah! Lovely - an altogether different class of malt. Woody and polished. A gentlemen's club...
Taste: Woody on the palate as well - maybe a tad too much so? Smoke and tannins. Again, it's the palate...
Score: 81 points - in the end it's just on 'the edge', but I'd recommend it... Well, in the subtlest manner.
Glen Ord 23yo 1974/1998 (60.8%, UD Rare Malts)
Nose: The nose started out very alcoholic with lots of paint thinner. Fortunately, it settles down quickly.
The alcoholic feints develop into complex spices and organics, after which I got some nice sweet liquorice notes.
Reminds me of liquorice all sorts. It softens up further with some water, becoming creamier.
Taste: The taste was quite sweet with a lovely mouth feel. Toffee with a hint of smoke. This is a keeper...
It's definitely one of those malts that improve after oxidation. Pretty great stuff - but there are better UDRM's.
Score: 85 points - but I should point out that the first few drams from the bottle scored much lower.
So, make sure to let this one breathe for as long as possible.
Glen Ord 10yo 1985/1995 (56.9%, Cadenhead)
Nose: Sweet with a little more citrus than the OMC. Altogether 'fresher' - but mellowing out with time.
Taste: Chewing gum. Drops off quite a bit towards the dry, hot, flat finish. Hints of herbalness? Phew...
Score: 76 points - I know I probably should have given it more than 15 minutes, though...
My own tasting notes for some expressions of Glen Ord malt whisky are collected on this distillery profile.
Those were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Glen Ord 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 Glen Ord.
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.