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McClelland's Speyside Single Malt

Average score from 5 reviews and 5 ratings 77

McClelland's Speyside Single Malt

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McClelland's Speyside Single Malt

Okay, my theory hits a brick wall here. For is Morrison-Bowmore is indeed the supplier for the Islay (Bowmore), Highland (Glen Garioch) and Lowland (Auchentoshan), then which Speyside malt did they lay their hands on for this expression. Hmmm. There is nothing for it but tasting, I suppose?

The mildly prickly nose offers mostly honey, barley sugars, ferns and mint. Some wild flowers kick in, melon and Seville oranges. Cherry juice. This is not half bad.

The body is much too light to my taste. It starts off sweet, but the fruit is quickly overtaken by grasses, flowers and a bit of vinegar. Hmm, not bad, but far from great.

It goes downhill in the medium long finish. The balance is completely gone. Sour and sweet go head-to-head while the spices start to scream. Oak at the death.

The nose was okay, but then it all went south quickly. Clearly a very young Speysider.


This one is marketed as a cheap introduction to the four main malt regions. I disagree that this should be used as an introduction, because the novice may not go any further after starting out with any McClelland or MacGavin (the one that I am now comparing this one to). These are both decent drinks, but also nothing to write home about. I chose the much more expensive route to find out where my tastes lie, and then tried these budget malts. Since I prefer heavily sherried Speysiders, I chose to compare two budget Speysiders side by side.

The MacGavin's is not even listed here, and probably because their Speysider tastes like a smoky blend and does not stick to the true definition of the region. This McClelland's Speyside does indeed stick to the region that it claims on the bottle. How good of a Speysider is it? It's flavor is a bit more pronounced than a Glenlivet 12 and I would choose this one first. However, it poses no contest to the heavily sherried Speysiders that I prefer. So, I would put this one in a class of being better than a blend, but holding no contest with the likes of an equally affordable Aberlour 12. This is one to keep on hand when one's senses become dulled after drinking 2-3 drams of the better ones in a collection, and the good stuff needs to be saved by switching to this one. Also, for any chronic mooches, this is a good one to keep on hand. However, this one is still good enough to tell the mooch that mixing it with cola is a mortal sin.


McClelland’s isn’t a distillery; they’re a bottler and exporter. They have a series of releases designed to embody the characters of Scotland’s different whisky producing regions. In doing so, they have chosen very standard offerings to market themselves as a beginner’s whisky. Want to know what an Islay, Highland, Lowland, and Speyside whisky tastes like? Here you go, here’s a toned down and generally inoffensive introductory dram. Did that come off as snooty and sarcastic? Perhaps it was a bit, but it does occupy a clever niche. To offer something pleasant, albeit neutral, to beginners as a gateway to bigger and better things from their region of choice isn’t an altogether terrible concept. Here’s my take on the Speyside release.

Nose: Malt and cereal as well as a nice honey presence are first on the nose. I like the honey notes here. Very light and gentle. The cereal is nice, too. Very natural. There’s also fruit here. Mainly melon, green apple, and sweet citrus. Not complex, but quite pleasant overall. Blendy. If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect this of being a well crafted blend. This is the best part of the whole experience.

Palate: Medium body, with a somewhat watery texture. It is quite a smooth experience, with gentle fruit notes and some oak, vinegar, and spice. Nothing specific comes to the foreground. In fact it’s hard to really distinguish anything of particular interest, as everything here seems to have a certain watered-down and convoluted character. Seems like this would have much more to say was it bottled at a higher percentage.

Finish: Short to medium finish. There’s a slight touch of peat in here, as well as lingering spice and the faintest hint of mint. The lovely honey and cereal from the nose return as well. The honey and malt notes are the best aspect of this dram. For some reason I’m somewhat reminded of a tamer Suntory Hibiki, a Japanese 10 year old blend. Both offer some lovely cereal/malt notes.

This stuff is both good and boring. What’s lacking here is character, richness, and intensity. It’s a decidedly Speyside release, but it’s such a generic offering that there’s nothing to impress. There’s nothing unpleasant here. It’s quite balanced and enjoyable. So… is this great? Not even close. But this should be understood in the context in which it is marketed. In that sense, it is what it should be. A pleasant beginner’s dram for someone who wants to get a feel for Speyside whiskies. It’s a superficial offering, Speyside is obviously so much more than what can be found here. But it’s not a bad introduction for those who want to dip a toe in and test the waters.

I'm going to have to disagree with markjedi1 with regard to the Islay! A very pleasant budget dram if you ask me. It's funny though, the McClellands Islay is being discussed on like three other threads at the moment! ; )

@markjedi1: Hah! Well put! I could say the same about my girlfriend. Of course she's not all bad; She's a lovely caramel-coloured, smooth, light-bodied 24 year old with a great profile, but sadly she's not very rich or balanced! ;)


McClelland's was established in 1818 in Glasgow as a whisky blender and exporter. In 1970 it was purchased by Stanley P. Morrison, later to become Morrison Bowmore. They bottle a range of single malts under this brand, each one representing the four Scotch whisky regions (Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands and Islay). These bottlings were first launched in 1986, with the Speyside expression coming out in 1999. Apparently, McClelland's is the 4th best selling single malt in the US, behind Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Macallan. The core bottlings have no age statement but there are also 12 year old expressions from each region.

Since the owner of the brand is Morrison Bowmore, one can guess which single malts make up the Highland (Glen Garioch?), Lowland (Auchentoshan?) and Islay (Bowmore?) bottlings. But Morrison Bowmore does not own a Speyside distillery - wonder what it is? Any guesses?

The colour is a light-to-medium honey. The nose also features a lot of honey, and is also very malty and quite floral, with pine and some dark chocolate. Herbal, primarily mint. A bit of a generic Speyside nose, but quite nice regardless. Water does very little.

The palate is sweet and fruity, slightly balsamic, with freshly cut grass and very light milk chocolate. A bit of hazelnut - gives a very slight hint of Nutella. Nondescript, really. Again, water doesn't do much to the flavour profile one way or the other.

The finish is very fuzzy and not well balanced, with some sulphur coming forward with a clumsy mix of floral and chocolatey notes. Not a great dram, not a terrible one either - but I can't really recommend it. This brand is clearly meant to be a gateway to single malts, but if I were to suggest a Speysider to a novice, it wouldn't be this one. Not that it's bad, it's just very generic most of the way until, on the finish, it pretty much falls apart. So why do I have a bottle? Because it's my girlfriend's favourite scotch! She especially likes making Rusty Nails with it. So I wouldn't dream of not having a bottle for her in the house. To each her own! Oh, and by the way, my guess on the distillery? I'm going to say Macallan (not because I dislike the distillery, I love it - but this does have notes that remind me of it, despite being substandard). Let me know if you have any other guesses (or if you happen to know!)

Thanks for another fine review. I've often been tempted to try a McClelland's, just to see if it offers some bang for the buck, but I usually opt to spend another 10 bucks on replenishing my supply of HP 12. If I ever invest my pocket change in a McClelland's, it will probably be the Islay malt, as that seems to be their top-rated.

As for the mystery distillery, I just spent some time Googling around to see if I could learn anything, but nobody seems to know for sure. Macallan would appear to be the most educated guess, but a few mention that it might be Craigallechie.

Ah - thanks for checking! I think I've had Craigallechie once many years ago, so I don't recall the flavour profile...

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