In the whisky world, even Islay fans would agree that the Speyside region of Scotland – that is, the area that surrounds and sources the River Spey – is the Mecca of scotch. To operate a distillery that carries the name of the region therefore has a high bar to reach. The Speyside Distillery (as we now know it) started in 1990 and took its name from the original distillery of the same name, located in Kingussie (originally operational around 1895 – 1911). The Royal Choice is destined by them as “The Jewel In The Crown” of their releases and is the most expensive of their core releases.
As part of that heritage the name ‘Spey’ from Speyside claims to have a long connection to royalty, including a barrel of “Spey” whisky gifted by Lord Byron to King George III for his wedding in 1815. The distillery have called back to this history as part of the branding of the Royal Choice release including a very stylish Royal Blue enveloped wooden presentation box and the Tower of London emblazoned on the bottle.
Whilst it does not carry an age statement or provide details about the choice of casks, the Royal Choice is said to contain some of the oldest whiskies from their warehouse, and so we’re still talking up to 30 years of provenance in this single malt. The whisky is available in 20cl and 70cl bottles and is presented at 46% ABV.
Now we’ve entered into rich and luxurious territory! Deep and rich flavours just flow out of the glass – a really warming sherry-like influence with oranges, cherries and clementines. There’s also leather and oak, and with a little bit of time there’s a frothee toffee coffee.
There’s just waves of festive flavours here. The orange, raisins and cherry flavours are complemented by a batch of warming spices. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove. It even tastes a little like a mince pie. It could be overpoweringly spicy in the finish but the sweet fruits just offset it enough. It’s dark fruits. It’s spices. It Christmas cake. It’s Christmas pudding. It’s Christmaaaaaaaas. Delicious.
The oaky and festive spices tingle all the way down here and there’s a little dark chocolate bitterness and sweetness on the finale.
It’s a word that is bandied around too much within the whisky world but this whisky really does have that air of “luxury” about it. I tasted this as part of a Speyside Distillery tweet tasting where this came fourth in a flight of their releases, before a final peated dram. It carried the fruity and nutty signature profile that each of their non-peated expressions possessed but that was very much playing second fiddle to the rich festive flavours that I’ve listed above – presumably from some well seasoned Sherry casks. The distillery describes it as being of “great texture, flavour and with a long smooth finish”. I would agree with the first two certainly, but I have trouble with anyone saying “smooth finish”. I actually thought it was a rather well spiced finish (rather than a “spicy” finish), which the soft and seasoned texture of the whisky really helping round it out and deliver. Having enjoyed a flight of their whiskies as part of the Tweet Tasting and having also polished off a bottle of the Spey 18 recently, I would say that this has more depth of character, texture and layers of flavour than their other offerings and definitely hits the brief of “rich” and again “luxury”, and dare I say it “premium”, so whilst I don’t buy into the royal connections all that much, this certainly gets my seal of approval.
Sample disclosure: This sample was received as part of a Tweet Tasting event organised by Steve Rush @TheWhiskyWire as a promotion of the distillery. All notes are however intended as an honest, fair and independent review of the whisky itself. Please drink responsibly and wisely.