Whenever I’m asked about whisky I always encourage others to keep on looking and trying to find the whisky that agrees with them. It’s not a simple journey or one that you can navigate easily. It’s all about persistence and keeping an open mind.
I take this ethical approach myself whenever I’m out and about. A recent Jolly Toper tasting granted me the opportunity have a couple of drams prior to the main event. Now the majority of readers will fall back on a safe choice and something they enjoy. That’s perfectly acceptable but it is invigorating to step outside your comfort zone. Hence my review today of the Spey Tenné, which means an orange-brown staining. I could have gone with a Speyburn, a Balvenie or many others (sadly no Tormore), but the distinctly upright outline of the Spey bottle caught my attention.
You’ll have also seen the distinctive bottle design and range revamp that commenced in 2014 when the Speyside distillery was purchased by Harvey’s of Edinburgh 2 years prior. The distillery itself is no spring chicken having been established in 1956 with the original intension of a being a grain distillery near the site of the closed Drumguish distillery. Then in the late 80’s a distillery for malt whisky is completed and its first whisky arrives several years later under the Drumguish name – you’ll see these bottles at auction now as an oddity.
Spey today is extremely popular in Taiwan selling in excess of a million units annually and placing it in bronze medal position for that country. It’s impressive given that the distillery isn’t a big player and cannot command the resources or annual production of other distilleries. You may have seen the involvement of a certain Michael Owen with the range which continues today and as been an effective approach in the Far East.
Meanwhile I find myself in the Kilderkin on a cold evening in Edinburgh. The bar is reasonably busy and the conversation flows. It’s not a suitable environment for tasting notes so a sample is squirrelled away for home reconnaissance. I’m starting with the Tenné as this can be viewed as the entry whisky in the current range and is limited to 18,000 bottles. Originally matured in ex-bourbon casks it is then finished for a period of 6 months in Tawny port casks. Yes, short finishes are often the recipient of cutting comments here at Whisky Rover however lets see how this goes. Bottled at 46% and retailing for around £35 these are good signs. I believe the age of the whisky within this release is 8 years and this is a decent period of maturation; if only a confidence to state age was evident.
Nose: it’s not flushed with port and that’s good as a pipe can overpower a whisky. Faint strawberries are present, red liquorice and memories of cherry drops. There’s just enough emphasis from the 2nd maturation. A little milk chocolate with vanilla and pencil shavings.
Taste: its now that the port influence becomes more apparent. Cranberries and a chocolate bitterness from the wood with vanilla overpower the subtle apples and red grapes.
Overall: a pleasant enough nose didn’t carry over onto the palate for me. Tenné felt a little unbalanced with too much interference from the port casks. That’s a shame as its well priced, natural colour with no chill filtration and bottled at 46% strength. Maybe something else in the range will be more satisfying for my palate; watch this space.