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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Speyburn 15 year old

For nearly a decade and a half, the entire Speyburn range was made up of a 10 year old, a 25 year old and (occasionally) the NAS Bradan Orach thing. Then in 2017, the distillery added another NAS (Arranta) and a 15 year old. In 2018 they went cuckoo bananas and added an 18. And now there are single casks? So many Speyburns! How am I to keep up?

Well, here's a review of the 15 year old. And perhaps in 2022 I'll review the 18yo, just to be so timely. Per the official website the 15yo is made up of whiskies aged in American oak and Spanish oak casks. As of 2017, the outturn was to be 3500 cases/year. It's also the rare whisky that is often cheaper in the US than in Europe.

To ease your mind, this one wasn't a freebie. But I did try it with the two waters that worked best with the 10 year old. Don't worry I won't be doing these double dilutions in every review going forward. Probably.

Distillery: Speyburn
Ownership: Inver House (via Thai Beverages plc via International Beverage Holdings Ltd.)
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Age: at least 15 years old
Maturation: American oak casks and Spanish oak casks
Outturn: 3500 cases per year
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from a purchased sample)

Oh great. I wrote my tasting notes in salmon-colored pen as a Speyburn joke, but now I can barely read them. Hilarious!

The sherry casks (or at least 'Spanish oak' casks) are nice and subtle in the nose, more nutty than dried fruity. There's some lemon, brine and aged dry cheese. Then toasted oak spices, pineapple and strawberry bubblegum. There's an ol' musty dunnage note in the front of the palate that then gives way to orange creamsicles and chiles. Though it gets sweeter with time, there's a good tartness to balance it out. Toffee pudding, then lime and guava juices. A sharp metallic note sits in the background. The long, warm finish has toasted nuts and grains. A hint of sherry cask dried fruit. Guava juice and marshmallows.

Time for the two waters.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv with Uisge Source Speyside water
The nose reads a little woodier, but not too much. Saltier, a hint of wood smoke. Limes, strawberry bubblegum and marshmallows. The palate has minerals, smoky pepper, bright ginger ale and lemons. And they play pretty well together. A little bit of toffee in the background. The finish goes heavier on the minerals and lighter on the sweets.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv with Columbus Municipal tap water
Tropical fruits and berries on the nose, then brown sugar, ginger beer, oak spices and copper. The palate has a good balance of sweet, salt and savory. Think toffee pudding, sea salt, mustard seed and mushroom. Hints of limes and fruity sherry casks. It finishes more on the savory side. Hints of oak spice, limes and bitterness.

This is a full step or step-and-a-half above the current 10 year old. The 46abv/NC/NCF presentation definitely helps. And while there is an oak spice element throughout, it reads toasty, and there's much less vanilla here than in the 10. The fruit element is my favorite (as ever), but I appreciate the balance the palate maintains, with or without water, never letting things get too sweet.

It's easily consumable, though an occasional quirky note pops up to remind one that this isn't just another simple Speyside to sip and dismiss. I may get a bottle of this to see if it'll crack my favorite 25 malts under $80.

Availability - Several dozen retailers in the US and Europe
Pricing - $50-$70 in the USA, $55-$80 in Europe (w/o shipping)
Rating - 85

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