Well it’s come to the end of the year almost and it goes without saying that all of us are pretty much looking back on a year that never happened. The coronavirus has changed so much in our lives, very little of it good. I hope you have all managed to cling on and will look towards 2021 as being a better year.
The one thing for me that did change is that I reviewed about 45 drams for my blog, and as I am often asked what I have as my favourite, I think I should do a quick review. After all, that’s what everybody else seems to do, and why should I be any different?
Firstly, I could not pick an absolute favourite. That was too hard. Secondly, it had to be obtainable so if you want to try it, you can without breaking the bank. So that whittles out Yellow Submarine, which while still easy enough to get, it is only available on the secondary market at silly prices. Same goes for most of the silent distilleries I reviewed.
So without much more pomp and ceremony, my picks for 2020 were in no particular order
Glenallachie 15 – £65
Glendronach 18 – £97
Speyburn 10 – £25 if on offer. Around £30 otherwise
Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve – £45
Glenglassaugh Revival – £38
I picked all of these as despite them not being the best whisky in the world, after each dram I instantly wanted another. Only the GlenDronach is getting pricey at about £100 a bottle.
For the drams that are not easily available or limited edition, I would pick
Macallan 10 y.o – £400+ at auction including fees
Glenfarclas 2005 14 y.o Cask 2588 – released at £150
TWBC Invergordon 42 Batch 15 – £180+ at auction including fees
Allt Dour 8 – Robertson’s of Pitlochry – £55 (still available at time of writing!)
North British 30 Single Grain (Dramfool) – £95 on release.
Just goes to show you that you do not have to spend much for a decent dram, plus it is important that you aren’t a dram snob. Never thought I’d enjoy the Glenlivet or Speyburn so much.
In all fairness, if rarity or lack of accessibility wasn’t an issue, the Allt Dour would win top spot, with the Invergordon following closely behind. But because these drams have limited availability it’s hard to recommend them as overall winners. The Allt Dour at the time of writing is still available from Robertson’s of Pitlochry, but I’d be quick in getting one before they all go. I’ve bought a second one already.
We’ll skip over the worst whisky. It’s the last review of the year. Pay attention as I do vent my spleen quite extensively. That will be published on 30th December. Remember that you may well like what I don’t, and half of what I write in my very infrequent negative reviews is meant for entertainment
Turning the tables somewhat but what was your dram of the year? Did you buy and actually open a Macallan? Have you gone crazy for the latest wave of inaugural bottlings? Drop me a line and let me know your favourites. If I can, I might even try to review them.
Lastly, thanks for all your support. It’s good to know so many people read what I write. The best thing you can do for me is encourage your whisky loving friends to like or follow one of the social media streams I use (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or even this WordPress blog). It will only encourage me to publish more, assuming that’s what you want!
Wishing you all the very best for the New Year. May your 2021 be much improved over this year past. Stay safe, keep looking forward and get ready for year 3 of Scotty’s Drams.
This review has gathered a wee bit of attention already. I just put out a few clues on the Facebook page as what the next review would be and the traction it gained was a wee bit of a surprise. None of you got it right, not even close! Perhaps we want a wee competition like this every now and again?
On my holidays over the festive season, I took a bundle of malt miniatures with me so I could continue building my backlog of taste reviews for when I was offshore. One of the bottles I picked up happened to be this Speyburn. There was an inwardly groan as it was yet another 10 year old, but it’s in the pile and review it we must!
John Lennon once said “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”, and in my case this was so true, as on Boxing Day I went down with a severe bout of man flu and couldn’t smell or taste a thing. We are now well into the first week of January and this will be my first dram of 2020. God knows when the review will be published, but such is life. That I can’t plan.
Speyburn distillery sits to north of the village of Rothes, in Speyside. Just to the east of the A941 Elgin – Craigellachie Road, you can see the pagoda roof stick up from amongst the trees. It is said that is is Scotland’s most photographed distillery but I doubt that is the case as there isn’t a good place to stop and take a picture, and it fades into insignificance compared to Strathisla distillery.
Speyburn has been one of those malts that have been below the UK whisky radar for some time and is almost as hidden as thet building itself. As a whisky that has mostly been used for blends in the past, it doesn’t seem to have a great deal of exposure over here in Scotland. However the current owners, Inver House Distillers have been making some good, award winning whisky. They also own Old Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu (AnCnoc) and Balmenach distilleries, most of which are very highly regarded whiskies in their own right. Only Balmenach doesn’t produce a branded single malt, but is also the location where Caorunn gin is produced.
The Speyburn distillery started production in 1897, which was Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee year. It is one of Charles Doig’s designs, and is marked by the pagoda style ventilator. One of Doig’s other inventions, the pneumatic drum malting was also installed here, and was in use until 1968 when malting stopped at the site.
The village of Rothes had a further 4 distilleries, 3 of which are still in production – Glen Grant, Glen Spey, and Glenrothes. Sadly, Caperdonich closed in 2002, and was demolished in 2010. It is now the site of Forsyths, who manufacture distillery equipment, and are well known for their stills. Speyburn has fared better than most, having only been silent for 4 years from 1930. It survived the Pattison Crash and also the 1980’s whisky loch, unlike its neighbour to the north, Coleburn.
Speyburn is a malt you don’t see a lot of in the UK, but that is starting to change. I believe it’s first official release was the Flora and Fauna Speyburn 12 in 1991. This is the holy grail of whiskies, as it was only produced for reportedly one run before the distillery was sold to Inver House. It is the rarest of all the Flora and Fauna bottlings, and prices are now starting to go above £2000 a bottle. Not bad for a release that only cost around £35 when available on the shelves! I’m quite happy as I have a couple in my storage unit, but obviously can’t afford to drink them, so a modern Speyburn is as close as I’ll get.
There isn’t too much to do in Rothes itself, but you can visit Glen Grant distillery, and the Macallan distillery is very close. To the north you have the option of the Glen Moray distillery to visit.
Despite its relatively unknown presence in the UK, it has done quite well in International spirit competitions, and is a top ten single malt in the US. Without further ado, let’s crack on and see what the fuss is about.
Honey, creamy lemon, citrus, green apple. Some floral and herbal aromas in there. Quite a fresh smell. I got reminded of freshly laundered linen.
Quite timid on the arrival. Medium bodied, not as thin as some other 10 year old whiskies I’vetried recently. Subtle malt notes, a hint of a toasted cereal giving a slight sweet taste. Vanilla, pineapple, herbs and a light bit of sweet liquorice.
More malt in the finish, which for me tended to be short to medium. I got some spicy oak there too which was very pleasant which rounded out to be sweet in the conclusion.
Quite a surprise. I felt that my taste and smell senses may not have returned to normal after my cold, but there was flavour aplenty in this dram. I didn’t find it that complex at all, but then maybe my cold is hiding other taste and smell sensations, but going on what I did taste I enjoyed it considerably. It has all the essences of a decent Speyside whisky. It has been matured in American Oak Bourbon casks and some ex-sherry casks, and although I couldn’t say that I picked up the sherry influence, it was still sweet enough.
What is also amazing that this is a cheap whisky. You can pick this up for mid 20’s €/$/£ which is a total bargain. Yes, there may be cheaper bottles but you are getting a well built Scotch Single Malt for the money. In my mind I wasn’t expecting a lot and the price point was what was swaying me, but this is because it isn’t that popular a malt in the UK. Despite being widely available (Pretty sure I’ve seen it in Tesco) it doesn’t seem to have a lot of marketing spent on it in the UK which is a shame. As it seems to be a distillery that produces mostly for blends don’t let this distract you from the fact that there is also a NAS whisky as well as a 15 and 18 year old available.
If I was to pick fault with this, it’s solely because I suspect there is colouring added but not a lot. I’d also say it has been chill filtered, but most malts at this price point have. A higher abv would be a great leap forwards, but still there is nothing wrong with this whisky.
I don’t think I will go out to buy a bottle of this, but not because there is anything wrong with it. Indeed, I can recommend this whisky and if I do find myself with a Single Malt shortage combined with a tight bank account, this malt definitely hits the mark. I won’t be buying this as it has opened my eyes to Speyburn and will definitely be buying one of the older age statements. I also recommend this dram to people as is well made and would be perfect as an everyday sipper or even as a present. In this case, budget does not mean bad.
For me this presents a problem. I’m now looking at pictures of my Flora and Fauna bottles and wondering even more how they would compare. Thank god I store my stash in a different city!