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Recently, I stopped by my local liquor store to pick up my weekly allotment of Heady Topper. As is my custom, I perused the whisky section and my attention was drawn to the bottom shelf where bottles of Speyburn are kept along side the McClelland mystery malts. I don't think I have read more than a few positive reviews of the ten year old Speyburn and I haven't given the malt much thought over the years. But it was on sale for US$19.99 just $5 more than my four pack of Heady! A quick comparison was made: a ten year old single malt bottled at 43% vs. a four pack of REALLY good double IPA. I know this is apples vs. oranges, but I try to keep to a certain booze budget, so I returned the Heady to the cooler (there will be another delivery next Thursday) and took the Speyburn home. What a pleasant surprise. I think bottling at 43% has beefed up what is traditionally known as a thin malt into one that can display some of its strengths. This malt is not going to win any awards (cask selection is suspect) but if you are looking for a honest single malt at ridiculously low prices you might give it a try. I know I have spent three times the amount I paid for the Speyburn for other malts that were simply mediocre at best - perhaps even rip offs. I won't mention any names ... (oh why the hell not, it was my wasted money). So here goes: Royal Lochnagar 12 yo; Dufftown 12 yo; Gordon & MacPhail 2005 Strathisla. The question might be asked why I purchased these malts in the first place, but that is a long story.
Color: Amber (probably has caramel added)
Nose: A classic (if subdued) Speysider with fruit (apples and pears) to the front. Some citric notes (lemon zest) in the background with some fleeting whiffs of honey, vanilla and caramel.
Palate: Soft and light bodied but the barley is not shy and takes control. A bit oily. By mid-palate there is a nice sweet/tart interchange as the spices (mint of some sort) begin to exert their influence. Finally, the oak tannins arrive and bitter things out. Up to this point, this malt was really enjoyable and it is a shame better cask selection practices are not in place for their 10 yo.
Finish: Fairly long with the spices and those oak tannins in control. Quite chewy.