A Taste of Speyburn

Every now and then I like to sit and taste through a distillery’s whisky porfolio, and that’s just what I’m doing here with Speyburn.  Built in 1897, founder John Hopkins wanted to fill his first barrel with whisky in order to celebrate the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Working through some nasty winter conditions, Hopkins and team were able to fill their first barrel in December of that year, just making his self imposed deadline.  The distillery itself is located in the Speyside region.  

Speyburn isn’t that well known here in the United States, and those that do know it generally regard it as a great value pour.  The whisky coming from Speyburn is a light Highland style, so don’t look for huge peat or sherry notes here.  Their standard whisky portfolio consists of a 10-year-old whisky and two NAS whiskies, Bradan Orach and Arranta Casks.  I’ve seen the 10-year-old on the shelves of stores that have a decent whisky selection, so it’s readily available. It is a blend of American Oak ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.  Bradan Orach, Gaelic for “Golden Salmon”, is Speyburn’s entry level malt.  It is matured in ex-bourbon casks.  The U.S. exclusive Arranta Casks matures in first fill ex-bourbon casks.  

Speyburn 10-year-old is one of the best selling single malts in the world.  At some point it was a top ten selling malt, which may still be the case.  It’s bottled slightly above minimum at 43% abv.  My very first nosing reminded me of a less sweet Glenmorangie 10-year-old.  Both whiskies are delicate in style.  Speyburn 10yo features lightly-sweetened malt, slighty creamy caramel and a floral note.  There is also hints of sweet nectarine and spice.   On the palate, honeyed malt is complimented by hints of candied orange peel, stewed pear, pie crust, and vanilla.  The finish is a touch on the dry, slightly oaky side, and doesn’t stick around long.  Very much a light, clean whisky, and at about $25 a bottle, it’s a great value to boot!  8/10

Exclusive to the U.S. market is Speyburn Arranta Casks.  Like I mentioned before, this whisky has matured in first fill ex-bourbon barrels.  It carries no age statement, but features an even higher abv than the 10yo at 46%.  It’s priced about $40 a bottle. Those first fill ex-bourbon casks really mold the character of this release.  The nose is full of classic bourbon notes of toffee, vanilla and charred oak.  Some honeyed malt also shows through, but the richness is cut with grapefruit.  Otherwise, it’s less fruity than the 10yo.  Arranta Casks keeps a crisp flavor profile, probably due to it’s probable young age.  However, it wears its “no age statement” proudly.  A foundation of vanilla, caramel and sweet & buttery malt is supplemented by short waves of lightly-brewed green tea, orange peel, and oak spice.  That spice carries through to the medium-long, slightly dry finish.  I like this as much as I like the 10yo, albeit for different reasons.  It’s a touch drier, less fruity, and the higher proof will stand up to cocktails.  8/10

The entry level malt in Speyburn’s portfolio is the $20 Bradan Orach, another NAS whisky.  If Arranta Casks utilizes only first fill bourbon casks, my guess is there is mostly second and third fill casks here.  Brandan Orach is bottled at 40% abv and is the cheapest of the bunch.  Compared to the other two entries, this one is a bit of a disappointment.  The nose reveals a very young whisky, with sharp “green” malt, rubbing alcohol, light caramel and ripe apple.  On the palate, spiced apple, honey, and a tart citrus note slightly help mask the young malt.  The medium finish is a little sweet and mostly clean.  Rather okay-ish and without character.  With the 10 year old being such a nice whisky at a mere $5 upgrade, I see no reason to reach for Bradan Orach.  5/10

Thanks to Speyburn for the generous samples!  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.


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