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!

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  • 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. 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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!

      • 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…

  • I happen to like speyburn. I’ve tried a few different scotches,started with Johnny walker red (total garbage truck water). Because of this site I’m trying new stuff and loving it. Thanks Mister noob.

  • I picked up a bottle of this to mix with Coke Zero and I am pretty satisfied. I am a new Scotch drinker and found it to be quite comparable to the bottle of Glenfiddich 12 that was recommended to newbies on another blog.

  • There is no accounting for taste. I trend to drams like Cragganmore, Ardbeg and Laphroig. If I said I despised this whisky I’d be understating my opinion. Not a bad nose, but I should have stopped there. I found this dram to be sour, raw, and altogether unpleasant. After a couple of sips the nose turned on me and became as unpleasant as the taste. The only thing I can compare it to is Dimple Pinch, which had a similar raw, sour and unpleasant finish. Sure, Speyburn was cheap, but I found it undrinkable, which made it a waste. Sorry to be so harsh. I typically agree with your reviews.

    • Rather than “No accounting for taste” I would say “taste certainly is subjective!”. You should see me trying to wrap my head around a glass of Few Rye. Lots of people love it, it gets rave reviews and awards, and I think it’s the vilest thing to ever pass my lips. Just be glad you wasted $25 on Speyburn 10, versus me wasting $60 on a bottle of Few Rye. 😉

  • With some influence from your reviews this was one of the first single malts I’ve purchased. I’ve since bought more at the entry level from the Highlands, Islay etc. to explore changing flavor profiles. This was a great starter. Speyburn has a new Arranta Casks version which is considerably better thouh a bit more in price. I look forward to that review in the future.

  • I like the reviews and responses you give.I’m new to scotch whiskey my first glass was the spy burn I enjoyed over a little ice.look forward to more reviews in $20-45 range.

  • A few years ago I found a few bottles of Speyburn 10 on clearance for just over $30 Canadian. At that price I pounced and though not terribly complex it served its purpose as a gentle, no-brainer, daily drinker when all that is required is an after dinner drink while reading or working on the computer.

    Not all scotch needs to be drunk on bended knee, held in both hands with contemplative reverence, and taken in the tiniest of sips. Inexpensive but decent scotch serves a purpose.


  • Here in Virginia the Bradan sells for $21.99 and the 10-year reviewed here is $29.99. Our prices are always higher than the prices mentioned on this site. That said, anything in this range is almost always non-existent on the shelf. Our immediate choices are either the gas can variety in a 1.75 L plastic bottle for under $30, or the $60 bottle and up. Fortunately, they are quite good about special orders. I’m definitely putting both Speyburns on my order list after reading these reviews. I’m a daily scotch drinker and this one fits my budget and likely my tastes as an everyday drink.

  • Just thought I should point out that there’s now a 15 year old bottling of Speyburn now. I bought a bottle of the 10 for my brother for Christmas and he proclaimed it to be more interesting than the two big Glens and a popular crowd pleaser at parties.

  • Was just at my local liquor big box store. I heard rumors that the Speyburn 10 had changed and sure enough I saw they still had the old 1.75 liter bottled at 43%, but the 750 ml bottles were of a new design and boxed to look more fancy. It seems they use some sherry barrels now in the aging. But the big disappointment was that it is now bottled at the bare minimum of 40%. The things that drew me to Speyburn 10 in the first place were the 10 year minimum age statement, the fact that it was bottled at 43% (higher/better than the other malts in its price segment) and of course the reasonable pricing. To me, the 43% makes a big difference in giving the flavors a pop. Now it seems it’s just another low priced bottle in a sea of cheap diluted, mediocre scotch whiskies. Though with the fancy colorful new labeling, they are probably going to try and raise the price instead. 🙁

  • My comments re: Speyburn 10 year. You are far too critical and diminishing. This Scotch deserves more admiration for the oak n citrus. Smooth & creamy. Easy, entry level or every day Scotch. Best priced single malt. Big value. Easily compatible to the grocery store regulars, like Glenlivit. Hands down. A great Scotch for regular Borboun drinkers to expand their horizons.