The Speyside distillery is nestled within the Cairngorms and the site has been associated with whisky since the 1700s. Though it has a long heritage, the site only became a distillery in the late 20th century and the stills used to make SPEY (and that’s all caps on purpose) have been running since the site was given new life by the Speyside Distillers Limited in 1990. The distillery now sports a decent range of products, all produced on a limited batch basis. The 18yo represents the only age statement of the SPEY output (don’t be fooled by the “Tenné” expression, that’s just Latin for “Tawny” don’t you know) and has been matured in sherry casks. This 18yo whisky is released in batches of 1,500 bottles at a time and features “some of the oldest SPEY whisky stocks”. The final spirit is captured at 46% ABV.
There is notably very little nose prickle gonna in here, but instead there is a subdued malt a lot of fruit notes milking around. Particularly zesty and juicy fruits too: oranges, peaches, mango and maybe even pineapple in there. It’s all very light and fresh up front and then there’s a nice dose of maaaaaaaaalt (particularly smelling of barley sugars) and it’s all finished by freshly cut oak. It’s hiding its years well, in that respect.
Malt and oak seem to be doing the heavy lifting again when it’s finally on your tongue, with those fresh flavours tingling at the top – citrus zest now added by honeycomb and vanilla and toasted almonds. There’s a decent spice from the barrel to accompany the fruits too – cinnamon, ginger and cracked black pepper – all in moderation though.
Quite the little rasp to the finish – the 46% shows its face for the finale and the sherry only revealing it’s red fruit bursts of flavour at the end.
This could be an every day sipper if the wallet allowed for it. It doesn’t really challenge your tastebuds in a way that some 18 year olds would set out to dominate the palate and offer oodles of “complexity” but rather it let’s you explore the different flavours that the years of maturation have to offer on the Speyside spirit. The whisky’s marketing talks about sherry but it’s only subtle imho and even more subtle is the smoke. Being named after one of the most loved and densely populated areas of whisky distillery commands high standards and the marketing and packaging are certainly targeted at high quality – even if the bottle does put in mind a high end olive oil or vinegarette when it comes to the 20cl bottle. Yes it has a sherry finale but it is far from being a sherry bomb and is rather a very balanced malt. Having read some tasting notes after drinking this, I can see that a lot of reviews (particularly within Master of Malt) refer to it being smooth – well, the fly that decided to meet its heroes’ end in my bottle may have tarnished that – but I’m just getting malt and zesty fruits on that finish, with a fair boozy rasp.
This 20cl bottle was a gift from a friend of mine and I’m very grateful too. The brand certainly has very high “gift” potential. That’s if your wallet can stretch to around the £85 mark for a 70cl but even then it is currently sold out! On that note though, the 20cl is a marvellous size for a gift. I’ve mentioned it before but I do think that 20cl bottlings are great for getting a really good sample of what a whisky and/or distillery is about without the full commitment to 70cl or a litre and should be more prevalent. In a market where age and patience is everything, but your average whisky drinker is spending more and more time jumping from distillery to distillery and sample to sample, the 20cl is a great way of giving you a good dose without filling your cabinet or crippling your bank balance.
Overall, a very balanced and solid malt. When it’s poured, this whisky doesn’t jump out of the glass, and why would it? It’s components have taken some 18 years+ to get ready to go into your glass, what’s a few minutes more? Spend a bit of time with it and it will break its quality and shows that it’s a classic of the Speyside style.