Speyside whiskies are extremely popular, as there are so many of them. Many reputable, renowned whiskies come from the Speyside region. But where to start? This list will give you 8 bottles of quality whisky for you to try. First: a brief introduction on Speyside, the distilleries and the common characteristics.
Speyside distilleries and their characteristics
A speyside whisky is a whisky that has been distilled and bottled in a certain part of Scotland called Strathspey. The speyside is part of the Scottish highlands, and is home to many whisky distilleries.
Active distilleries located in Speyside according to Wikipedia are the following 49 distilleries. The distilleries that are highlighted with an added * have a visitor center, which allows you to visit the distillery, potentially follow a guided tour and taste their products.
Tip: I have made the mistake to assume that most distilleries have a visitor center, which is not the case. Make sure to check if there is a visitor center whenever you get the chance to visit a distillery.
|Glen Grant *
|The Macallan *
|Glen Moray *
In the most densely populated whisky region in the world, the whiskies produce can be characterized as fruity, nutty and a hint of peat. Traditionally, Speyside whiskies were lightly peated, but over the years many distilleries have moved away from the smoky aromas.
You will definitely also find fruit like apple and pear, vanilla, honey, nuts and sweet spices as recurring notes in the Speyside whiskies you will taste.
Speyside whiskies are beautiful complex whiskies that are easy to drink. They are great for people who are just getting into (Scotch) whisky, so if you are looking for a gift to someone else or for an good whisky to sip after a long day, Speyside is a good place to look.
1. Cragganmore 12 Year Old
The first whisky is the Cragganmore 12 Year Old, which is a Speyside whisky that has been bottled at 40%. It is a sherried whisky which means that the whisky has been aged in barrels that have previously been used to age Sherry. It is a very good example of a typical Speyside whisky.
Nose: For a whisky that is bottled at 40%, it has a strong and prominent smell, which is really good. My first impression are that it has a really fresh and light nose, which can be described as aromatic or floral. There is some melon in there as well as fresh apple. There are some nuts in the the nose as well, think of almonds or macadamia nuts.
Palate: The palate of the Cragganmore 12 Year Old is a combination between sweet and sour notes. A lot of fresh fruits as well as sweet notes like honey and syrup. Stone fruits are aromas that you may find in there as well. Try adding some water to allow the dram to open up, which might reveal even more different flavors to you that you did not experience before. To me, the honey and apple aromas are most prominent.
Finish: If there is some smoke in this whisky, you will find it in the finish of the whisky. The finish is a bit spicy as well, and the aftertaste remains sweet. It has a good finish that will last.
2. Benromach 10 Year Old
My personal favorite, the Benromach 10 Year Old. This whisky is a created like a classic Speyside whisky, which means that it is a slightly peated whisky. The whisky is matured in 4/5 oak and 1/5 sherry casks for 9 years, after which it is finished for one year in a sherry cask. The whisky is bottled at 43% alcohol. Let’s jump straight in to the nose.
Nose: On the nose you will find a lot of fruit, sugary notes. There is some lovely wood oak notes as well as the dry, barley that you will smell. You will also find just a hint of peat smoke, which is a sign of the classic Speyside way of producing. Also look for sweet spices that will give some spicy notes to the nose of the Benromach 10 Year Old.
Palate: The lovely complex taste of the Benromach 10 Year Old will not be what you expect of a whisky that has aged just 10 years. The first impressions will be sweet and sour, almost savory note. There are some spices that make the whisky herbal. You will also find the fruity notes that are prominent in most Speyside whiskies. Overall a lovely whisky that is affordable and will remain interesting for beginner drinkers as well as for more experienced whisky drinkers.
Finish: In my experience the finish of the whisky is lovely and dry. You will find the wood of the casks as well as the sherry influences in the finish. There is almost a slight sweetness with a hint of the peat smoke in the finish that makes it delightful.
3. The Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve
Third on the list is a 15 year old single malt from The Glenlivet. The Glenlivet is a renowned Speyside distillery that has been founded all the way back in 1824. It is one of the oldest distilleries in Speyside. The 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve is very affordable for a 15 year old whisky, and it is readily available. It is bottled at 40%, it is chill filtered and caramel coloring probably is added to this whisky. Let’s jump in the experience!
Nose: On the nose you will find honey as well as some Sherry, but most predominantly you will smell the effect oak wood on whisky over a period of 15 years. Just like the rest of this whisky, which we will get to in a second, there are notes of dry oak wood taking center stage. There are some dry, complex spices as well as a note of fresh apple.
Palate: The taste: quite astringent and heavy on the wood. There is a lot of bittersweet, sweet and sour notes. The astringency comes from the wood of the barrel, as the whisky over time absorbs a lot of tannins from the French oak that make the whisky increasingly dry. You may also be able to taste some winter spices like cinnamon and cloves, that make this whisky a treat on a evening of a cold day.
Finish: The finish is rather simple: long and dry. There is a spicy, peppery note to accompany the dry woody aromas.
4. Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera
A very, very big name that must be on this list is Glenfiddich. They have conquered the international market with their recognizable triangular shaped bottles and are available in many bars, supermarkets and liquor stores around the globe. One very good staple bottle of Glenfiddich is their 15 Year Old Solera whisky that has been aged in American Bourbon, Portuguese Sherry and virgin oak casks, after which it is put together and married in a Solera vat. Finally, the whisky is bottled at 40% ABV.
Nose: Very friendly, smooth nose with a major sherry influence. Of course that is what the Solera style of creating a whisky does, it adds a lot of Sherry influences to the dram. If you want to read more on the Solera vat, you can head over to the official website of Glenfiddich where they carefully explain what the Solera vat does. Other notes that you can get when nosing this whisky are citrus (especially orange) notes and potentially even a slight hint of peat smoke, although this is not typical at all to Glenfiddich.
Palate: After giving the whisky some time to breathe and open up, it becomes a bit more complex. In the beginning, the dram will be extremely friendly with a lot of simple and smooth wood, honey and spice aromas. After opening up, you will find more of the hay, grass and earth notes that are present in the Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, which is not on this list.
Finish: The fruits, raisins and spices that can all be found in the palate of the whisky will continue on in the finish of the drink. After these aromas have faded, you will be left with oak wood that takes over.
5. Glen Moray 12 Year Old
One of the cheaper single malts on this list of Speyside whiskies is the Glen Moray 12 Year Old. It is bottled at 40% ABV. I have visited their distillery in the past and the staff was incredibly friendly. From all the distilleries that we visited (as tourists), they were the only one who would pour us a glass of their whisky to taste for free. That is what I call customer oriented. Most of the whisky that they produce ends up in very good blended whiskies, but their single malts are really enjoyable too!
Nose: On the nose, you will find sweet notes like clover honey, accompanied with grainy aromas. There is a lot of apple and pear, as well as some apricot, in this typical Speyside whiskey.
Palate: The taste of the whisky will match the nose quite accurately. You will definitely find a lot of fresh fruit like apple, apricot and maybe even some peach in there. Glen Moray 12 Year Old is a very smooth, friendly whisky. There is no real bite, which makes it a great whisky to pour to someone who wants to try whisky. Due to the affordable price point, Glen Moray probably has introduced more people to single malt Scotch than any other brand.
Finish: The finish isn’t all that complex, and I predominantly taste a bit of oak wood as well as sweet apple. It is quite a basic whisky, but I encourage you to give this one a go as it is one of the cheapest single malt Scotches out there.
6. The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak
The Macallan is a renowned brand that has produced tons of extremely good different kinds of whisky. The one I want to recommend to you is their 12 Year Old Sherry Oak flagship whisky, that I think you will love. It is aged for 12 years in sherry-seasoned oak casks after which it is bottled at 40%. In this whisky, you will be able to really experience the sherry influence that sherry casks can have on the taste of a whisky.
Nose: There is a lot that is going on when nosing this whisky. You will find sweet sultanas and fresh apple blossom. There is some nutmeg, there are floral notes and you can find marmalade notes. Fruit jam, that is.
Palate: The palate is better and more prominent that the nose. You will notice the fruit, Sherry influence and a little bit of peat smoke. There will also be dried fruits and marmalade notes.
Finish: Fresh fruit tea, as well as a strong and long oak finish.
7. Singleton (of Glendullan) 12 Year Old
Well, this is an interesting one. Depending on whether you are in Asia, Europe or America, you will be able to get your hands on different types of Singleton single malt. In Asia, it will most likely be the Singleton of Glen Ord, in Europe it is the Singleton of Dufftown and in America it is the Singleton of Glendullan.
As you will be able to find different types in different parts of the world, I will not be able to provide correct information for you here. Instead, I would recommend that you try one whenever you see a Singleton bottle that is within your grasp. In my experience, Singleton produces really sweet whiskies, with a lot of vanilla and honey, even butterscotch aromas in them.
8. The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old
The Balvenie whiskies have become more and more popular in recent years. Their recognizable bottle as well as protection tube will be easy to spot wherever you are. The 12 Year Old Double Wood is called double wood because it has been aged in two types of wood. First, the whisky has been aged in refilled Bourbon barrels, after which it is finished for 9 months in European Sherry-seasoned oak barrels to give it that fruity sherry influence.
Nose: The nose has an interesting complex and inviting vanilla, honeyed smell. There are honeyed sultanas and grapes that, together with the spices, make the nose inviting and complete.
Palate: Just like many other Speyside whiskies, the palate of is rather sweet with fruity sultana and apple aromas. The bourbon aromas are prominent and give a lot of the honey, vanilla and wood flavors to the whisky.
Finish: Finally the finish of the whisky: dry, long and spicy. A classic Speyside finish that adds to the inviting, accessible whisky experience of this drink.