Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Speyburn 10 and 15 Year Single Malt Scotch Reviews & Tasting Notes

My Scotch journey started in Speyside malts. That's a common toe-dipping region for many reasons, most of which revolve around the fruity, easy-sipping qualities of many offerings. And, while I absolutely adore the Speyside region, most of my attention gravitates to Islay and the Highlands. I've found I've often ignored what first attracted me to Scotch.

The Speyburn Distillery is a storied one from that region (I bet you could figure that out from the name). 

"1897 saw Queen Victoria celebrating the 60th year of her reign and John Hopkins, never one to let a good celebration go to waste, set himself a big challenge. He said he would build a distillery and craft a whisky in time to toast the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. No one believed it was possible, but that didn't matter to John Hopkins - his instincts told him otherwise." - The Speyburn Distillery

Speyburn is unique in the sense that it sources its water from Granty Burn, and by unique, I mean it is the only distillery to do so. It utilizes both stainless steel and Douglas fir fermentation tanks and ages its newmake in both former Bourbon barrels and Sherry casks. It is currently owned by International Beverage Holdings, Ltd., which also has Old Pulteney, anCnoc, and Balblair brands in its portfolio.

Today I'm pouring two Scotches:  Speyburn 10 and Speyburn 15Before I get started on my reviews, I'd like to thank International Beverage for providing me these samples in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious and explore what these are all about.

Speyburn 10 Years

Aged for a decade in American oak, ex-Bourbon, and ex-sherry casks, Speyburn 10 is the flagship single malt whiskey for this distillery. I'm not sure what the difference is between "American oak" and "ex-Bourbon" but Speyburn does differentiate between the two. Of course, American oak could be nearly anything, including virgin oak. All the cooperage is air-dried. Bottled at 43% ABV (86°) a 750ml package is affordable at $34.99.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Speyburn 10 appeared as the color of straw. It formed a medium-thick rim with heavy, watery legs that fell back into the pool.

Nose:  The first aroma to hit my olfactory sense was lemon. Not just the peel, but the fruit inside. Not to be ignored was pine and malt. If you've ever visited a malting floor, it has a certain, unique smell. As I brought the rim to my mouth and inhaled, lemon oil danced across my palate.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was different. It was oily... no, it was thin... no, it had a medium body... no, it was syrupy. The palate was a bit easier to nail down. It started with honey and graham crackers. The middle offered English toffee and cinnamon. The back completed the transition from sweet to spicy with nutmeg and toasted oak, then to acidic with lemon zest.

Finish:  Smoked oak, very mild peat, clove, lemon, nutmeg, and toffee remained for a medium-long finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  To find a 10-year single malt for $34.99 isn't overly difficult. A good one is more challenging. I had fun trying to figure out the mouthfeel. I felt the palate was interesting, especially the back where it took that zig-zag. It is unusual to find peat with a Speyside. That's not to scare folks away from it, as I stated above, it was mild. This has a lot of character, it will keep you guessing, and for me, that translates to a Bottle rating.


Speyburn 15 Years

Aged for 15 years in both Bourbon and Spanish casks (Speyburn doesn't come out and say the Spanish casks are former sherry butts, but when you taste it, that becomes obvious). This is a single malt, which means they're not blending malted barleys from other distilleries. All the cooperage is air-dried, the whisky is non-chill filtered and naturally colored. Speyburn 15 is packaged at 46% ABV (92°), and you can expect to pay around $70.00 for a 750ml bottle. Worldwide, there are only 3500 cases made each year. 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Speyburn 15 presented as the color of deep, dark chestnut. The ring that formed was medium in thickness, and the legs were fat but sticky, slowly crawling their way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This was a raisin bomb out of the gate. That's the first clue that the Spanish casks formally held sherry. Dark chocolate, apricot, and citrus joined the raisin. When I took the vapor into my mouth, vanilla and oak rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and full-bodied. It started with dark chocolate, raisin bread, and orange citrus. The middle featured vanilla, apricot, and fig. Then, the back offered leather, dry oak, vanilla, and malt.

Finish:  French oak and what I could swear was port pipes were at the forefront of the finish. Flavors of raisin, leather, orange citrus, tobacco, and black pepper rounded things out. Lengthwise, it was shorter than I'd have preferred, ranging somewhere in the short-middle range.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I really enjoyed this. I've seen some reviews that casually tossed this whisky aside and I couldn't disagree more. There were several things going on with the palate that made this one interesting. I also loved that finish, especially as it pertained to the cooperage. Bring price into the equation, and for a 15-year Single Malt Scotch, I believe it is priced fairly. Pick one up, because this takes a Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

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