Category Archives: Speyside

Speyside 1999 (Càrn Mòr c.13-year-old)

Bought: Morrison & Mackay, 21st June 2017

None as yet but listed on Whiskybase here.

This Speyside 1999 20cl forms part of the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection produced by the Scottish Liqueur Centre (now Morrison & Mackay) between 2009 and 2012. Distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2012 (c.13yo) it was the second 20cl to represent the year of 1999. The first was a Craigellachie issued in 2009. Speyside 1999 is a limited edition of 720, cask 323, non-chill filtered, no added colour and 46%.

Although this quarter bottle was released as long ago as 2012 it’s still available for £14 from the Morrison & Mackay (M&M) website as I write this post 5 years later. Why? Possibly because not many people know about M&M or the existence of their online shop but mostly because the Speyside distillery is rather boring. The Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection releases of Macallan and Highland Park are long gone but this Speyside 20cl lingers on, unloved and not even worthy of a review on Whiskybase! But a similar 1999 to 2012 bottling by Douglas McGibbon scores 78/100, which is what I’d expect for this Càrn Mòr 20cl.

The Speyside distillery we know today is the second to bear the name. The first opened in 1895 but only lasted a decade before being closed and eventually demolished. The second incarnation began life in 1956 but spirit didn’t start being produced until 1990 some 34 years later. It wasn’t until we reached a new millennium that the first 10-year-old was released in 2001. The house style is medium-bodied, medium-sweet, malt, nutty, fruity and floral.

Spey ‘Chairman’s Choice’

Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 27th March 2017

77/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.68/100 – Whiskybase (average from 30 member votes)

You have to give the Speyside Distillery credit for trying. I was very impressed with the presentation of the Spey Tenné and now the Chairman’s Choice brings a very stylish box into the mix AND a scroll! Although I only bought a 20cl the salesman at the Aberdeen Whisky Shop almost convinced me to get the full 70cl based on the packaging alone. If I were buying it as a gift for an occasional drinker with a Speyside preference I would have gone for it, especially at £60. But for drinking something different with my brother I knew the 20cl would suffice. It’s good whisky but not scroll-worthy whisky.

Scoring 77/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible classifies this Speyside Distillery NAS (non-age statement) as “average, and usually pleased but sometimes flawed”. Mr Murray’s review is incredibly brief and consists of “Their Chairman’s choice, maybe. But not mine”. Well that was very informative wasn’t it!

Scoring nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonably good mark but nothing special. Comments include “the nose left a bit to be desired, but the palate was okay. Nevertheless, this Spey is a bit of a disappointment”, “not a bad whisky but not really good either” and “a clean and well crafted single malt with a gorgeous nose and a delicate sweet and fruity palate. Easy to drink, not really complex with a relatively one-dimensional finish. A delicate all-day dram.”

Here’s Horst Luening of with his thoughts about the Spey Chairman’s Choice (May 2015):

Speyside 22-year-old (Lady of the Glen)

Bought: Prize from Lady of the Glen, 16th November 2016

91.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

If you’re interested in buying an example from the Speyside distillery my advice is to avoid anything bottled at less than 46%. This will protect you from getting early releases from the distillery such as the 10yo and Drumguish range. Drumguish is one of the few single malts on the planet where adding coke isn’t regarded as a sin. Yes, it’s that good! Your best bet is a cask strength version such as this example from ‘Lady of the Glen’, an excellent independent bottler from Fife in Scotland.

The first distillery called ‘Speyside’ started in 1895 but it only lasted 10 years. The latest incarnation dates back to 1956 but the first spirit didn’t flow from the distillery until 1990. A 10yo appeared in 2001 after several NAS (no age statement) bottlings under the Drumguish name. The distillery uses ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks with a house style of medium-sweet, medium-body, fruit, floral, malt and nuts.

One annoyance I have with the Speyside distillery is the name. It shows a total lack of imagination and naming it after the region is confusing. Most bottles with ‘Speyside’ on the label refer to the region and are mystery malts from an undisclosed Speyside distillery. And when discussing a distillery, saying “Glenfiddich, Speyside” makes sense, or “Old Pulteney, Highlands”, or “Ardbeg, Islay” but “Speyside, Speyside” is just ridiculous. It’s like someone with the surname ‘Taylor’ giving a child the first name ‘Taylor’. You’d have to question their sanity.

This 22yo single malt by ‘Lady of the Glen’ has a fantastic natural colour after spending over two decades in a 1st fill sherry butt. Still a potent 61.3% after so many years it scores an amazing 91.25/100 on Whiskybase from 4 member votes.

Tasting notes from Lady of the Glen:
Nose: Sumptuous rum raisin ice cream with chocolate strawberry notes
Palate: A black forest blend of fruits containing raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.
Finish: A sweet dark cherry finish


Speyside ‘Spey Tenné’

Bought: Whisky Barrel, 6th May 2015

90/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
76.27/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)

When I started collecting whisky in 2013 there were only 8 bottles listed from the Speyside distillery in the Whisky Bible. None of these scored into the 90s. I decided to get a miniature of the controversial ‘Cu Dhub’ to tick the distillery off my list. Two years later and I decided to revisit what Speyside had to offer and, WOW, what a turnaround! The number of bottles listed in the Whisky Bible 2015 had doubled to 16, and several scored 90+. Not only were there new independent bottlings but the distillery had been busy too with a 12yo, 18yo, ‘Chairman’s Choice’, ‘Royal Choice’ and the ‘Tenné’. Of the 5, the Tenné scores the highest in the Bible with 90/100.

I’m a bit disappointed with the low rating on Whiskybase for the Tenné. You have to wonder if this is due to the Speyside’s lowly reputation, rather than how the Tenné actually tastes. Looking at individual reviews written about the Tenné on the internet, comments are very favourable. To quote the description of this whisky from The Whisky Exchange – “aged initially in bourbon casks, Spey Tenné is finished for six months in Tawny Port casks. With a minimum age of eight years, this is a sweet and fruity whisky.”

The Tenné is a limited release of 18,000 bottles, so less than the Talisker 25yo I previously blogged about which was 21,000. It’s already sold out in various places. Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, loves it, saying of the taste “creamy, sugary, and melt-in-the mouth; the cherry-grape fruits are omnipresent.” He observes that the bright colour comes from using “brand spanking new port casks” but, instead of being a negative, he says “those Tawny Port casks have brought something magical to the table. And glass.”

I have bottle number 1738 of 18,000. It contains no added colour, is non chill-filtered and has a sturdy 46% vol. Not only that, the bottle shape is very elegant.

Here’s Horst Luening with his thoughts on You Tube (May 2015):

Speyside Spey Tenné NAS 70cl

Speyside – Cu Dhub

Bought – Single Malts Direct, 3rd October 2013

88/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
53.54/100 – Whiskybase (average from 88 member votes)

Of all the whiskies I’ve acquires so far, this is probably the most controversial among the critics. My confusion lies over what year of release reviews relate to. The bottling first appeared in 2003. Malt Madness give Cu Dhub 50/100 but don’t say when the review was performed. The average mark from 7 reviewers on Malt Maniacs is 46/100 but again there is no way of telling when the drinking of the whisky was done. With such damning scores the one grain of hope I have for the Cu Dhub is Jim Murray’s comment in the 2013 bible of “a malt which has improved beyond recognition in recent years”. Whatever the outcome, at £4 for a miniature I think it was worth the gamble!

53.5/100 on Whiskybase is one of, if not the worst score I’ve seen on there. Comments include “probably the worst whisky that I have tasted” , “very close to undrinkable” and “this is not whisky”.

Expert whisky reviewer Mark Dermul scores the Cu Dhub 52/100 and here are his thoughts on You Tube (December 2013):

Speyside Cu Dhub 5cl