We at The Cocktail Nation are always looking for new, challenging spirits to taste and judge. Often, we are happily surprised by the creative energy that distilleries put into creating a product. Sometimes, we are taken aback by the boldness of their claims. Take the newest creation of the Dufftown distillery in Speyside, for example.
The Singleton Spey Cascade Single Malt Scotch Whisky, matured in Sherry and Bourbon oak casks, wants to convince us that it has a rich, balanced, and smooth taste; while the marketeers focus on an audience new to the experience of tasting drams.
In all honesty, we were a bit sceptical about the combination of the description and its audience.
But we nipped, smelled, and experimented until we were absolutely sure about our thoughts on this younger whisky.
Starting off with the colour, the Singleton is a delightful-looking dark amber liquid, and we were immediately imagining the same rich flavours and smooth tastes that are advertised on the bottle. Our enthusiasm was lessened, sadly enough, by the scent of the dram we had in front of us. The single thing we can say about the Singleton (oh the horrible word play), is that the smell of ripe grain alcohol is too overpowering, though there are some hints of nuts and brown sugar. To use a metaphor, the smell of the grain alcohol is a right hook to the face, and when you are down, the nuts and brown sugar pinch you in the earlobes. This is just to say that the smell of the whisky is not balanced at all, and that it was difficult to focus on the brown sugar and the nuts when the ripe grain kept asking for the full attention of our olfactory skills.
Moving on to the tasting of the dram, we discovered smooth, buttery caramel and flowery honey, but again overpowered by alcohol. The Singleton is balanced indeed, but offers all of its tastes at once without giving room to a first taste, a rich palate when you twirl the liquid around in your mouth, or an interesting aftertaste. The whisky might very well be disappointing to an experienced whisky drinker, but could perhaps serve as a basic starter whisky for the young and inexperienced ( they say so themselves).
Since we do not want to rapidly jump to conclusions here at The Cocktail Nation, we decided to add a drop of water in order to create more opportunities for the smell and taste to develop. We were faced with a very peculiar result, though, as the smell and taste more or less disappeared, and everything was replaced by the alcohol, the whisky itself instantly becoming very bland. Further testing with simple syrup and bitters, in order to create a rudimental Old Fashioned, resulted in the same idea: the whisky taste simply disappears when other liquids are added.
Our final verdict, therefore, is an ambiguous one. Though we believe that The Singleton Spey Cascade is an excellent whisky for inexperienced drinkers, as it brandishes a clear taste that is easy to pick up in your mouth, the more experienced drinkers might have to let this one slide.
The distillery itself states on the bottle that they “are on a mission” to find the perfect whisky to use as an introduction to the young adults who are tired of mixing alcohol with soft drinks and who want to mature a bit. The Singleton Spey Cascade is a worthy first experiment, and it does exactly what it is supposed to do (probably), though there is room for improvement.
Colour: Dark Amber
Smell: Brown Sugar, Nuts, Grainy Alcohol
Taste: Caramel, Flowery Honey, Grainy Alcohol