Speyburn (10 year)

Quick on the heels of my Bradan Orach review, I received a sample of Speyburn 10 to compare. The bottom-dollar category is an odd one for a reviewer. Can I pan it because it doesn’t compare favorably with standards like The Balvenie DoubleWood or Glenfiddich 15? Not really, it’s almost half the price of those bottles. I could lift it up as a paragon of drinkable whisky for almost no money, but then readers might mistake that for a wholehearted endorsement of the quality of the whisky and go buy a case.

In the interest of skirting this issue, here are my thoughts. Speyburn 10, aged in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at a respectable 43% ABV, is better than the younger NAS Bradan Orach. It costs about $3 to $5 more ($20 at BevMo here in California), and is better suited to sipping than any other $20 whisky I’ve tasted. Bradan Orach becomes more of a mixer after your first glass or two, but Speyburn 10 manages to straddle the line between “cheap” and “worth drinking straight”. It’s lightly floral and has no outstanding positive (or negative) characteristics. You should buy it if you feel guilty drinking $40 whisky, but don’t enjoy blends neat. It’s also worth the extra $5 over Bradan Orach. However, it simply isn’t going to satisfy like a $40 or $60 whisky, especially if you’re accustomed to sherry finishes or

Nose: Yeasty. A sour note – like young white wine. A hefty dose of vanilla. More character than the younger Bradan Orach. After a rest in the glass, it becomes more overtly floral.

Palate: Creamy texture. A wave of vanilla bean up front, subsiding to reveal soft grains, sugar cookies, and… well, that’s it.

Finish: Short. The wine flavor returns – here grape skins – with a slight tannic quality. Not particularly bitter, but there is a dry “vodka-esque” note on the fade-out.

With Water: A few drops of water draw out a little sweetness in the nose, and a larger dose of florals. The mouthfeel suffers a little, but that sweetness continues on through the finish. A few drops of water are a good idea with this dram.

Overall: This is a step up from the NAS release Bradan Orach in both potency and quality. There’s nothing here to warrant recommending this bottle over any other similar Highland malt, which sounds like a criticism, except that Speyburn is wisely priced to compete not against other, better, single malts, but instead against inexpensive – and abrasive – blends. While it could be argued that some of the better $20 blends are superior, it’s impossible to argue that this isn’t a great value. If you’re trying to decide between Speyburn 10 and Bradan Orach, know that for $3 to $5 more, the 10-year is about 50% better. Also, Speyburn, nice move bottling this at 43% ABV. That extra potency shows.

ScotchNoob™ Mark:

About The Distillery

A Highland distillery with few accolades, Speyburn is mostly known for its pretty picturesque buildings on the road out of town of Rothes, where it neighbors several big names in scotch whisky, such as Glenrothes and Glen Grant. The distillery was built in 1897, and is now owned by Inver House Distillers. Despite several changes of hands, the distillery and its methods have largely remained unchanged except for the closing of its drum maltings in 1967 and the conversion to indirect steam in 1962. Speyburn’s character, like Glenlivet and anCnoc, is very light and floral, but tends toward dryness. The distillery’s process water flows from the Granty Burn, a tributary of the River Spey. It uses Douglas Fir washbacks, and its sole pair of small pot stills have wide necks, and direct vapor into copper worm tub condensers.

Speyburn (10 year)
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $20
Acquired: (Sample) Courtesy of Rosica. Thanks, Lauren!
Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , ,
7 Comments

7 Responses to Speyburn (10 year)

  1. bryan f says:

    Wouldnt it be great to find all of these official bottlings offered in 375ml bottles? They would presumably be half the 750ml price, but i wouldnt trust the whisky industry to make that much sense.

    • Amen! I’ve found a few 375ml bottles, mostly from Independent Bottlers, such as A..D. Rattray, but they’re by no means mainstream. Of course, I’d be happy enough with a better selection of widely-available 50ml official bottles, for sampling purposes. :)

  2. Ainsley says:

    Thanks for your review. Just picked up 2 bottles at Mission Liquor here in Glendale, CA for 14.99ea. Strangely the Bradan was prioed higher. Neat I prefer Finlaggan at this price range but once I add some ice (just for a minute, then remove) the Speyburn smooths out nicely and the taste blooms.

  3. Doug says:

    I disliked it after an initial taste, but on the advice of your site, and Ralfy’s review, I gave it another try. I enjoy the flavor, but the finish leaves me with a syrupy, oily sensation on my tongue. Any idea what’s causing that?

    • Hi Doug, I’m not sure what’s causing that. I have noticed that some malts taste drastically different to me after my mouth has been exposed to certain foods, even for quite awhile after a meal. Most often, though, this manifests as bitterness or excessive alcohol (“hot”), but you never know. Maybe try it with a little water added to the glass? Also, of course, sometimes a malt and a person just don’t mesh. I have a short list of malts that I dislike but which other people seem to have no problem with (Glenmorangie 10, Bruichladdich malts, Yamazaki, etc.). That’s what tasting is all about – finding out what resonates with you and what doesn’t. Cheers!

      • Doug says:

        Quick follow up – I’m still a neophyte in the scotch world, and had gotten into a (poor?) habit of adding an ice cube to everything I try. I enjoyed this one quite a bit after letting it open up a bit and drinking it neat. Who knew water and/or cooling the scotch would have such an effect? So much to learn…

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