Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Speyburn 10 years Single Malt

When a regular reader, Yochanan, offered to send me a review of one of his recent purchases, I knew, just knew, I would want to post it here. 

Why?  Two reasons: (1) it's a good, honest assessment; (2) it's a reflection of what college students, on a budget, are buying.  Read on:

One Cheap Single Malt...in Price, That is.
 I've heard, implied on more than one occasion, from those who swear by single malt scotch whisky that any remotely decent malt can't come cheap. These types are usually also the kind to proudly stick their noses up towards blends. 

While I acknowledge that the best single malts will always out-do the best blends, I know some blends can also beat some single malts (for one example, I'd take a dram of Teacher's Highland Cream or Black Bottle over any Mclelland's offering any day of the week. Conversely, I'd bet Any single malt is superior to Clan Macgregor). That is perhaps an entry at a later time.

I'm a history major (alright, get the arbitrary "What are you gonna do with THAT!?" out of the way), and earlier this afternoon just completed my last final for the semester. Looking to unwind, I stopped by a local liquor store on my way home and picked up a bottle of this single malt which I hear much about, but have never tried myself. At $19.99 before tax, it was literally the cheapest malt in the store. While I had to take a big gulp and wipe some beads of sweat from my brow prior to making the final decision to purchase (trust me, I didn't walk in, grab the thing, and go to check-out...I was doing some serious deliberating in that store. Probably looked like a real shifty fella there), I couldn't help but revel in the simple fact I could purchase a single malt for such a price. Even by blend standards, the price is still in the entry-level range of the spectrum. I came home, ate my dinner of reheated fine deep-dish Chicago pizza, chilled for a few hours, and finally...came those fateful moments.

Nose (undiluted)
Yes, Some vague, soft red fruits and...prunes?  Citrus waves at you after a few minutes of airing out. Quite a very restrained nose, but very pleasing to my senses, none the less.  Hints of vanilla behind all of the fruity, honeyed goodness. Speyside to a "T".

Palate (undiluted)
The notes on the box are accurate for a change, this is fairly honeyed. A light bodied offering of vanilla, pretty sweet initially (don't worry, not like a cloying low-quality blend or anything like that), lots of caramel, does some decent drying with a bit of oak, a small puff of smoke, very shy peat, and maybe some white pepper, if that's not my imagination.  This isn't the least subtle of malts.
Finish (undiluted)
A pretty small puff of smoke and faint, dank wood. It lingers long enough that I do not call it a low-quality affair that ends just about abruptly, but it is on the short side for a malt.

Palate (diluted/ as in- nothing more than a couple drops of water)
Slightly less sweet than neat, but loses a bit of complexity. Fruits are a bit drier. Hmm.

Finish (diluted)
A difference of a bit more smoke and the introduction of some mild spice. I'd say I prefer this with a bit of water, even if it does lose a little complexity. The reason for this is that the drying is more thorough with the addition of a bit of water. For a whisky to start fairly sweet at this does, the drying needs to be more than slight.

A classic Speyside flavor profile that is not very complex, but has at least some complexity comparable to a solid blend. At about $20, I'd say this is on par with some pretty good blends out there. I'd say that this is on a borderline even keel to Teacher's Highland Cream, but alas, is a couple dollars more expensive by me and slightly less interesting than that blend. Thus, I'd pick Teacher's up more times than this, but would not mind having more of this malt by any stretch of the imagination.

. . .

Yochanan, thank you for the review!  

Next week:  A review of Glenmorangie "The Quinta Ruban" 12 year old Highland Single Malt, extra matured in Port Casks.


Jason Debly


  1. I went through a bottle of this when I was first trying the low priced ones I have available in NC, though it is a little more pricey here at $26. I thought it was decent (though I found the nose a little estery and the finish a little hot for a Speyside) but I prefer Lismore which is a little cheaper here at $24. I find the Lismore to be very comparable to Glenlivet 12 at a much lower price. (If I was able to get the Speyburn for $20 rather than $26 I might consider it a rebuy.)

    I would have to disagree about the McClellands, I actually find the Islay to be decent, at least at the $20 I bought it for in PA, not as much $25 here in NC. It is supposedly 5 yr old Bowmore, and I find the similar briney profile, though with some slightly rougher edges than the Legend, and much less rich than the 12 yr.

    Scott T

  2. Hi Scott!

    I would agree that at $20 it is good value for money. As for McClellands, I have only had the Speyside, and that was not a rebuy at any price.


  3. I've also had the McClellands Islay and thought it was decent. I've also heard that it's a 5yo Bowmore. By extension, since McClellands is owned by Morrison Bowmore, we can guess that the Highland is Glen Garioch and the Lowland is Auchentoshan. The McClellands Speyside is the only one that's sort of a mystery.

    -- Mantisking

  4. Jason,

    I've only had the McClelland's Islay, though I have not heard good things about their other releases. I have read mixed reviews of the Islay, ranging from "ghastly" to "quite decent" to "a good buy". Personally, I wasn't going to rebuy it until I saw it for $20 when I was visiting in PA.

    I mainly use it as a mixer when a cocktail recipe calls for an Islay scotch and I don't want to risk my Ardbeg or Laphroaig the first time, or when I have already had a couple and my palate is a little numb, and I don't want to waste my good stuff. Definitely not one to sip and savor.

    Scott T

    1. Scott, great idea of switching to something cheap once that palate has been scarfed up by the good stuff.

  5. Jason, it was an honor to be posted on your blog again. It is one of integrity, and I am glad to have contributed in my small and still quite inexperienced way.

    As for the McClellands Islay, I have sampled one bottle of it last summer. I very well could have picked up a bad one. It did have some pleasing brine, as someone pointed out, but other than some moments of amusing coastal flavors, much the rest of the whisky was quite very flat and forgetabble. The finish was gone in a flash, as well: Just about inexcusable for a single malt, no matter the price. While my face wasn't exactly blown off by the Speyburn 10, I would say it is a superior malt to the McClelland's Islay I had. This does make me wish to give it and other McClelland's offerings another chance.

    1. Yochanan, I doubt you picked up a bad bottle. Some malts just aren't very good, and we start doubting ourselves in this politically correct world.

      I and the readers hope you will provide other tasting notes when the mood strikes you!

    2. Jason,

      It's also a matter of taste - I guess I would just rather drink a mediocre Islay rather than a mediocre Speyside.

      I happen to love Ardbeg and Laphroaig while many find them undrinkable, likening them to licking an ashtray or campfire.

      I have seen many people rave about Glenmorangie Original, while I found it rather bland and slightly sour in the finish, really did not appeal to me at all (though I quite like the Lasanta). Same for Auchentoshan Classic.

      You and I agree on most Scotches but differ greatly on our opinion of Ardbeg 10 yr. I have only had Cragganmore once in a bar, and though I didn't love it I realize that was not the best arena for a critical tasting and would pick up a bottle if I could find it for a good enough price - unfortunately that is one that is expensive here and not much cheaper online.


  6. Jason,
    I too have fought this battle of standing there contemplating on walking out of the shoppe with this malt in hand. To be honest I would have felt like I stole it for that price. I understand that everyone is looking for deals with the bad economy and all, but there is a fine line. To be honest, I would rather trust a blend rather than a single malt at this price range. The price tag is tempting, yet there is a voice at the back of my mind every time I've ever looked at this malt that says; "DON'T DO IT! You'll regret it." I have learned a long time ago, the hard way, to always listen to it. Maybe one day I'll go against my conscience and throw the cash at the clerk as I run out the door holding this bottle before that voice kicks in again. :)

  7. I just bought a bottle of Speyburn 10, this isn't my first bottle, I like it.
    I've probably drank enough scotch in my life to float a small battleship, from cheap to good stuff.
    It's all a matter or perception and your taste. Once you get past the perception you find that cheap scotch 95 percent of the time is as good as the expensive stuff, of course you can't compare a 10 year to an 18 year though.
    I enjoy Speyburn 10 every bit as much as Dalwhine 16. Is one better than the other ? I don't know, you can fight that battle if you want.
    Does Glemmorangi 10 cost anymore to make than Speyburn 10 - or course not. So why the difference in price ? - Take a course in marketing. In the meantime just learn to enjoy things for what they are.

  8. ive been given a bottle of speyburn aged 10 yaers established 1897its a highland single.scoth whisky.can u help meand let me know the price of this bottle thank u

  9. I just bought a bottle of the speyburn 10 and I don't have much experience with scotch, it's actually my first single malt. I've only had a couple drams, but it seems like Teachers Highland Cream was a better product, it had those woodsy notes and that peat that I like. I don't know if I'll ever afford the expensive stuff, but as of now, Teachers Highland Cream is the poor man's delight when it comes to me and Scotch.