Lest you all think that I only sit around drinking 90+ scoring whiskies, here is a review from the other side. The simple truth is that it is hard to get geared up to put out tasting notes on a less then stellar whisky. However, sometimes – just sometimes – you need to take a break from big flavored cask strength whiskies. So where is a whisky drinker to turn? Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Glenmorangie . . . or you could try:
Very floral on the nose with cut grass and fruit living behind that. In the background you get malt and some wood. The fruit is light: pears, peaches, green grapes and granny smith apples. The grass is strong with very little sense (if any) of peat, or smoke. This is both punchier and lighter than the Glen Moray 12yo. That floral note with salt is very sharp with plenty of high notes and more punch then I expected. Still, it manages to seem very young and raw
Malt and floral notes hit together. Very light fruits (peaches, pears, green grapes) on the front followed by floral notes, grass, and some hay. Only a hint of oak in the far background along with some liquorish. There is a touch of soap, but it isn’t horrible. This is light but it a bit more power than the Glenlivet 12yo. Now more fruit notes.
A nice medium light wave of black pepper spice mixed with fruit, salt, malt, and flowers. There is also a slight liquorish note at the end. It is all mid range and high pitched. But the burn and salt linger longer than your standard Glenfiddich or Clynelish. This actually has a much bigger finish then I expected at 43%. The spice and fruit are actually enjoyable. There is a fullness of flavor that pushes this finish up to the B range.
Here is where the surprise turned to “meets expectations.” It is not as complex as The Glenlivet 12yo or any other standard entry level Speyside malt nor as well balanced. This is lighter than most anything in a comparable price range and age statement, but the extra ABV really helps give it some punch that the others (usually at only 40% ABV) lack. So, this does a decent job of simply “not being bad” for a 10 year old single malt under $30 – which is no mean feat.
I really hate this bottle . . . other than the ABV it misses everything I enjoy about a single malt whisky bottle . . . and it has all the contrivances I hate. It is a strange attempt at having an historical reference (the two traditional pictures on the front) and trying to be modern at the same time (the font and bottle shape). I think it misses the mark on every level. Nothing about this bottle makes me want to buy it, show it to friends, or pour from it.
For a standard “unpeated Speyside single malt” with an age statement this is a good alternative to one of your typical “Glens” it isn’t all that bad. I was actually surprised. I expected this to be much worse (like in the 60’s). It is much more “forward” than most of the mild malts like the Glenlivet 12yo (which I currently have open). And the price is far better.
@Nock, I take great interest in this particular review, because after my second tasting of Speyburn 10 I very much had the conviction that, "I never have to drink this whisky ever again." I would have rated it at that time 70 or even 65 points. Speyburn 10 was THE example of what I considered "a bad malt". I will be curious as to what a taste from your reviewed bottle will seem to me now.
I do not rule out the possibility that this batch of Speyburn 10 is a lot better than what I had 4 years ago, either. If it is a lot better than I remember then I will still not trust to buy a bottle of this brand, because I have a long memory of what that other stuff tasted like.
On a different subject, can you just imagine the Speyburn distiller's glee at seeing his whisky reviewed with the title, "I expected much worse"? Now there's an enthusiastic slap on the back if I've ever seen one!
Slightly surprisingly, quite a few people outside of Connosr.com do read these reviews. The internet search engines catalog this stuff and make it forever accessible.
@Victor, I almost brought this bottle up for your to try on my last visit. But we had more important things to taste.
How you felt about Speyburn 10yo is how I feel about The Speyside 10yo. Did you try the old packaging or the new of the Speyburn?
As to the distiller at Speyburn. You have to know that most of what you are making is going for blending. And that has to produce a certain amount of ambivalence. There is a reason that Laphroaig 10yo is almost twice the price of this bottle. It is not an "A" dram, but it is a consitantly good dram because it is all made to be drunk as a single malt. Sure, some of it turns up in blends (and Independent Bottlers) but it is not made for the blenders. I think that intentionality has to change your craft.
That said, if someone out there believes that they have a great example of a young Speyburn (I am not ageist) - especially at cask strength - that they think is a stalwart representative of the craft of the Speyburn distiller I would be more than happy to give it a try.