Speyburn is a distillery that is owned by Inver House which also owns Balblair, Knockdhu, Pulteney and Balmenach. This is the first time a Speyburn features on these pages, and the last one of these five that lacked a penned down review from me. Speyburn distillery was founded by John Hopkins in 1897. John was a Whisky Merchant keen to have his own distillery to make Whisky. So this distillery is 125 years old now and managed to fly under my radar for a very long time. Personally I had so little to do with the output of this distillery, in all honesty, I thought this must be a rather new distillery. So in the world of Whisky aficionado’s, this Whisky never popped up. I’m a member of a Whisky club, that exists for 21 years now, and I believe Speyburn popped up only once. Why is that? Sometimes distilleries just have a bad reputation or no reputation at all (which may be even worse). Just look at Tobermory, which for a while had a bad reputation, and look at them now! Deanston (had a bad reputation for a while, not any more! Glen Moray and Fettercairn are still not very popular, but definitely on the way up. Some distilleries somehow just stay under the radar, without a reputation, in all anonymity, like Speyburn. Glen Spey is another one of which I’m not even sure if it had/has a bad reputation or it is just anonymous, since I never tried a lot of it. Never mind. Let’s introduce to us: Speyburn!
Color: Light gold.
Nose: Malty, half sweet and pretty nice. Fruity and dusty. The dusty bit has to do with soft (wet) wood, paper and cardboard (and some distant dried apricots manage to trickle down as well). Creamy and somewhat unpleasantly organic at first (which is short lived), somewhere in between dishwater and someone’s bad breath, or evenmy own. Otherwise a typical (fruity) hogshead nose, hogsheads made from American oak (ex-Bourbon) that is. The whole nose seems initially quite restraint, yet manages to open up quite nicely eventually. This one isn’t leaping out of my glass (maybe the reduction to 46% ABV was at fault). When given some time the balance will be better and the slight off note mostly disappears. The bad breath note has now more to do with the wood. It integrates with it. After a while the yellow, sugared fruit pop up some more, they were hidden behind a paper-like note. Dried papaya, dried peach and apricots, retaining thus the sweetness of it. But still there is this funky breath/wood bit behind it all, mixing in with a faint liquid licorice note. The wood is slightly losing its innocence as well, becoming more spicy and assertive. Good for you wood! Actually not a lot more is happening nose-wise, even after I give it some time to breathe. Fruity rainwater. The more this breathes the weaker it gets.
Taste: Well, nice entry, with a short-lived acidic note right from the start. Yes fruity and lively. Nicely so. Appetizing and friendly. Highly drinkable, especially at this ABV. In our modern times, 46% seems to be an ideal drinking strength (and also the bare minimum, since 43% isn’t really accepted any more), whereas 30 years ago, 40% did suffice. Just try some Connoisseurs Choices from that era. Wood and nuts. Creamy, sweet (artificial sugar like aspartame) and fruity. And the paper bit from the nose is here as well. Not a lot of bitterness from the wood, yet it manages to grow a bit over time. It is very “nice”, yet it also lacks a bit of complexity and evolution, although it does gain a bit on the palate if you let this stand for a while, becoming bigger and better. It is what it is, and it won’t change much. Paper and fruit in the finish.
Yes likeable and no, it doesn’t make up for the lack of complexity and evolution. Although nice at first, I guess I would get bored a bit, if I had to drink the whole bottle over a period of time. Good stuff for a bottle-share or a sample though, but the whole bottle I would pass on. It just isn’t exciting enough to warrant a buy. On the other hand, if you are new to Whisky, this might be an instant pleaser for you, so it has earned a spot for itself under the sun, and rightly so. Having said all that, I still did like it.