1) Despite being one of the youngest distilleries in Scotland, the Speyside distillery claims to use old fashioned production methods, sacrificing production for quality. So far I have found no proof of that - their malt whiskies (Speyside, Drumguish and Glentromie) are amongst the worst I've tried so far. Perhaps one of the reasons is the fact that other types of spirits (gin, etcetera) are produced at the distillery as well.
2) Speyside distillery uses the 'Chariot' barley variety.
3) It took contractor Alex Fairly more than two decades to construct the distillery.
4) The company that owns the Speyside distillery bottles several blended whiskies with names like Black Beauty, Highlander, Old Monarch and Scottish Prince.
Speyside 10yo 1993/2003 (46%, Hart Bros, Sherry cask)
Nose: A bit like recent 'Deanston' bottlings. Spirity; no apparent wood effect. Weird but interesting.
Farmy tones. Picallily. It's not the 'style' of whisky I usually enjoy, but it's definitely not boring.
Palate: A tough one; sweet rubber? Artificial molasses sweetness. Interesting as well.
Coffee, mocca & the feeling of grape skins in the finish. A good malt to open a session?
Score: 78 points - better than average; a lot of interesting things going on here.
Speyside 10yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Malty and grainy. Some sweetness after a minute. Faint hint of orange skin.
I have to say that this is pretty much devoid of character - could have been a blend.
Maybe a fain hint of apple afer adding some water, but it still said 'blend' to me. No depth.
Taste: Flat and bitter. Quite harsh. No body, complexity and/or development. A big bummer.
Score: 53 points - I liked the old Glentromie 12yo better - and I didn't like that one very much...
Cú Dhub (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Smoky. Slightly sherried. Far more subtle than I expected. No complexity, though.
Fairly restrained. The smoke grows stronger, but then it drops dead after a few minutes.
Taste: Sweet start. A little smoky, but not nearly as thick and overwhelming as the Loch Dhu.
Buysman - burnt caramel. It becomes extremely dry quickly. No real development over time.
Score: 50 points - that's right. There's not much to like, but it's not the 'aqua crematoria' I feared either.
If they tried to recreate the infamous Loch Dhu with this ill begotten experiment, they failed miserably.
But perhaps the world will be a better place for it. A bit like Dr. Frankenstein failing to bring his monster back to life...
Drumguish NAS (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 2001, 70cl)
Nose: Restrained - could easily have been mistaken for a blend. Ever so slightly malty.
Sweetish. Faint coffee notes. I would say it has the precursors of enjoyable aroma's.
Taste: Chemical sweetness. Metallic. Fatty. Clogged up. Cool finish.
The good thing is that the taste of this Speyside whisky vanishes completely within fifteen seconds.
Score: 44 points - actually, this is not quite as bad as the bottling I had about 5 years ago. Nevertheless, it doesn't deserve a place on my shelves. The Drumguish NAS moves directly to my MSND-Stock as a special 'torture' bottle. The price of 16 Euro's was pleasant enough, but this stuff makes the Glenfiddich 12yo look like a fountain of complexity.
Glentromie 12yo (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1997)
Nose: A bit spirity. Flat; no depth. Maybe a bit malty. Very disappointing.
Taste: Bah! Very bitter start. It lasts for quite a while, but that's no blessing with this malt.
After a few minutes of breathing it becomes sweeter - and stickier.
Score: 59 points - one of the worst malt whiskies I've tasted so far, but better than their OB's...
Drumguish NAS (40%, OB, Bottled +/- 1995, supposedly circa three years old)
Nose: A bit of a stinker. Quite dry, light and malty smell with sweet undertones.
Taste: Undistinguished; rather bland (light and dry, touch of peat) and evaporates quickly.
Score: 40 points - this isn't much better than your average blend, One of the worst single malts I ever tasted!
So, I think they should keep this one stocked until the next millennium...
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Speyside Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Speyside page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Speyside expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Speyside (Pronounced: just like it's written)
Speyside - although it's on the outer edge...
57° 1'41.55"N, 4° 1'49.06"W
1 Wash still, 1 Spirit still
500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Speyside Distillers Co. Ltd. (since 1990)
Glen Tromie, Kingussie, Inverness-shire PH21 1NS, UK
Yes - under various fancy brand names like Cu Dubh
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2001 - the first 8yo OB that was launched in 1999 is replaced by a 10yo OB under the 'Speyside' label.
2006 - Starting in 2006, peated whisky is produced for one week per year at the Speyside distillery.
The Cu Dhub brand in particular raised some eyebrows when it
was introduced; it was supposedly some kind of 'replica' of the
reviled Loch Dhu malt whisky that was taken off the market some
time earlier on account of it being offensive to many people...
I'll admit right away that I'm not a big fan of the malt whisky that
is produced at the Speyside distillery. Besides not enjoying their
product very much, I dislike the very generic name they chose for
their distillery. It's not unlike naming your wine brand 'bourgogne'
or 'beaujolais'. Oddly enough, after choosing such a generic name
for the distillery they introduced a large number of different brands
in the market, like Drumguish, Glentromie and Củ Dhub.
In fact, the Loch Dhu has the dubious honour of being the single malt whisky I've received the most negative comments on when I still maintained a forum where people could nominate whiskies as 'the worst whisky in the world'. It seems the people of the Speyside distillery were not content with being runners up to Loch Dhu with mediocre offerings like 'Drumguish' and 'Glentromie' - so they launched Cu Dhub not long after the Loch Dhu ('It's like licking an ashtray' according to one of the comments) was discontinued. The incredibly smoky Loch Dhu was nicknamed 'the black whisky' and looking at the packaging of Cu Dhub they tried to copy that aspect as well at the Speyside distillery. Oddly enough, the copy (Cu Dhub) was slightly more to my liking than the original (Loch Dhu).
That still doesn't mean I LIKED the whisky, mind you!
I was sorely disappointed with their other brands as well; the young
Drumguish (depicted at the left), the older Glentromie and the bottles
that were released onder the generic 'Speyside' name (shown at the
right). In fact, the only halfway decent whisky I've ever tried from this
distillery was an independent bottling by Hart Brothers.
That puts the Speyside distillery in a league of its own; the distilleries
I've classified with one measly star on the 'Distillery Data' overview.
That's the code that identifies the distilleries where I've given up the
hope of ever sampling a malt whisky that's better than just mediocre.
In the Spring of 2009 that list had just a handful of distilleries on it;
Allt-A-Bhainne, Ben Wyvis, Coleburn, Glen Flagler, Hillside / Glenesk,
Loch Lomond, Tormore and of course this Speyside distillery. Around
half of these distilleries are now closed - usually with good reason...
The Speyside distillery is one of the most recent additions to the pantheon of whisky
distilleries in Scotland. The first malt whisky was distilled in December 1990, but the land
had already been bought in 1956 by George Christie. Even when he was still a captain
on a submarine it was his dream to start a distillery one day. His dream came true in
1957 when he founded a grain whisky distillery on another piece of land, near the town
Alloa (southeast of the Deanston distillery). Apparently one grain whisky distillery was
not enough to satisfy George Christie's dream - in 1962 he started the first preparations
for another distillery; a malt whisky distillery this time. The construction of this distillery
on the Old Milton Estate (near Drumguish) started as early as 1962.
The construction of the Speyside distillery took almost three decades; the
first malt whisky wasn't distilled until the very end of 1990. By contrast, it
didn't take very long for the first whisky from the distillery to hit the shelf.
The Drumguish (without an age statement) arrived in 1993, which means
that it was a 'barely legal' whisky - the minimum legal age is three years.
whisky - also without an age statement - was released not much later.
This was a so-called vatted malt. The first single malt whisky under the actual name of the distillery was launched in 1999 as an eight years old. In 2001 the first ten years old bottling was released, but this wasn't under the guidance of George Christie - the Speyside distillery was sold on to a group of venture capitalists. They did not make a lot of changes in the way the distillery was run, although they did introduce the production of peated whisky in 2006 (for one week every year).
From a technical point of view the Speyside distillery itself is fairly simple. There's one pair of steam heated stills (unusually small), four stainless steel washbacks and a semi lauter mash tun. All the equipment is installed on the same floor, adding to the simplicity. By contrast, there are a lot of different activities based in the company's headquarters in Glasgow. They have their own bottling plant there, as well as blending facilities. That's where the company's many blends are produced, including Highlander, Black Beauty, Scottish Prince and Old Monarch.
Is the distillery or