Speyburn is one of those curious whisky brands, which seems to exemplify the kind of hyper-romanticised nonsense from Scotch whisky marketing. From the website: “… the heart of Speyside, ideal for making exceptionally smooth whisky.” What has the location got to do with making smooth whisky? And what does smooth even mean in this context anyway? “This unique expression has been matured in American oak and Spanish oak casks, adopting the fragrant Speyside air.” Really? The whisky adopts the Speyside air – when most of it has been tankered away to Inver House Distillers’ main warehousing at Airdrie, North Lanarkshire?
Perhaps I’m picking a little on Speyburn, and perhaps this is unfair of me, because I do like the portfolio of Inver House Distillers (Old Pulteney, Balblair, anCnoc, Speyburn and Balmenach) but it seems to be the typical approach of Scotch brands that have nothing to say about how their product is actually made, which is for me what makes the stuff we find written about Speyburn appear so… insincere.
I don’t mean it unkindly, I have to say. Such romanticism is typical in Scotch whisky, but it just doesn’t seem the cut the mustard in 2017. I read an article on scotchwhisky.com where Dave Broom was moaning about some new press release claim or other – but for me, this misses the mark entirely. The problem with what brands are saying isn’t new ridiculous claims – which is merely a trick to earn clicks in the modern era of publicity – but the pervasive, almost invisible shit that has been spouted for the past thirty years, and that is regurgitated time and time again without anyone questioning what is being said (adopting the fragrant Speyside air).
The new generation of whisky drinker demands to know what goes into her products, how it is made, and she does not want a load of old stories, romanticised misinformation or hackneyed clichés about the past. This will be the thing that makes such brands forgettable in a few years’ time.
Yet, I suppose it hasn’t harmed Speyburn being one of the big selling whiskies in the USA. Then again, our American friends put Trump in power, so you can’t really vouch for popularity Stateside being a benchmark of quality.
Which brings me, eventually, to the Speyburn 15 Year Old – and less about the marketing. And that again is where I run into trouble, as someone who is curious about what goes into whisky. All I know is that it’s been in Spanish and American oak. Not what the casks held before, or indeed how many times they held whisky. Very little information is put forward about… let’s say fermentation times, for example (which is short – just 48 hours), or anything that may indicate the quality of what has gone into production.
So I’ll just tell you it’s bottled at 46% ABV (a good thing) and now costs £60 (a bit much).
Speyburn 15 Year Old – Review
Colour: deep gold.
On the nose: hugely fruity: zesty lemon, tangerines, grapefruit and mango, with toffee and vanilla. Sultanas and raisins, just a little, before returning to the fruits. Basically, it’s a fruit salad.
In the mouth: again, plenty of fruitiness with a curious bready, yeasty note underneath that. Green apples, mead, a little ginger and then sultanas, dried apricots, custard cream biscuits. Chocolatey, chewy, and stacks of vanilla once the fruit drifts away.
Simple stuff, a few flavours here, yet I’d happily reach for another. I can’t help but wonder at that curious note underneath all the fruits (and what that suggests about the quality of the spirit produced all those years ago).
Too expensive for what it is though, and I can’t help but direct you to plenty of other interesting places such as anCnoc – or for a tenner more you’d get the outstanding GlenDronach 18 Year Old. And for much less you’d get a much better 15 year old from Glengoyne.
All I can say is this: it’s about time we – as interested whisky drinkers – put an end to this kind of empty romanticism in whisky.
Might have been a 5 if it wasn’t for the tripe copy cluttering up their website.