...where distraction is the main attraction.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Water Sports with Speyburn 10 year old!

Will this post title draw more clicks? Will it make me lose my connect? Or will the entire internet start sawing logs at the very mention of Speyburn 10 year old? Who knows, but I'm pretty sure this going to be a TL;DR post!

I've always liked Speyburn 10 — thank you, Florin, for the introduction all those years back — as it had actual character while it somehow underpriced the big Glens. It's only occasionally on the shelves here in Ohio, and when it's available it's 50-60% more expensive than it was in California. In late April, Amy from Ten Communications offered up the Speyburn 10 Year Old Source Water Gift Pack as an idea for Father's Day. The pack includes a seven-fitty of Speyburn 10yo and a 100mL of water sourced by Uisge Source from Speyside. (Thank you, Amy!)

I'm not averse to diluting whisky, and I do so in nearly all of my reviews. But I'm also not of the opinion that water helps to open up every whisky; in fact I'm on a recent streak wherein dilution keeps screwing up almost every whisky I try. My take — and you may need to sit down for this one — is that sometimes dilution helps, and sometimes it doesn't.

The Speyburn Source Water Gift Pack not only lets me try an old go-to, but it also gives me a chance to experiment with waters. I usually use filtered water (sourced from my fridge!), though sometimes I go totes crazy and use spring water. Despite the fact that I try to be mindful and science-ish about my approach I'm not sure how or if the two waters would influence the same whisky differently.

First, I needed to find the dilution point. The whisky vanished at 30%abv, but there was something still going on at 35%abv. So 35%abv it is.

Second, the waters!
  • Neat, aka No Water
  • Uisge Source Speyside water
  • Spring water from Michigan (don't tell anyone in Ohio I did this)
  • Filtered water from Columbus, Ohio
  • Columbus, Ohio, municipal water straight from the tap
Thirdly, a soundtrack. Some Dex is called for. No, not Dexy's Midnight Runners. I mean, Dexter Gordon's Go!.

Okay, I'm set.

Onto the event.


Neat, 40%abv - Barley-heavy along with apples, green grapes and mint candy. Still has a raw bite to it and hints of taffy and vanilla bean. Picks up a cream soda note after 45 minutes.

Uisge Source Speyside Water, 35%abv - The raw edge has departed. Now there are mint leaves, flower blossoms and almond butter on bananas. Small notes of sugar cookies and something salty/savory.

Michigan Spring Water, 35%abv - Flat-ish. Barley-ish. Takes a while for anything to show up. Nuts and ground cumin. Hints of vanilla, lemon zest, cinnamon and black raisins.

Ohio Filtered Water, 35%abv - Also very quiet, though some of the raw spirit note remains. More lemons than limes. Hints of nuts, soil and blossoms.

Columbus Municipal Unfiltered Sink Water, 35%abv - Much more vibrant than the filtered water. Lots of lime zest. Roses, nuts and toffee. Orange oil and toasted oak. Still potent after 45 minutes.

Noses ranked from best to worst:
1. Columbus Municipal Unfiltered Sink Water
2. Neat
3. Uisge Source Speyside Water
4. Michigan Spring Water
5. Ohio Filtered Water

Yes, you read that correctly. Of all the gastnesses, I am feeling the most flabbered.


Neat, 40%abv - Creamy and lightly sweet. Very malty. Small notes of tart lemons, hay and melon rind.

Uisge Source Speyside Water, 35%abv - Pleasant but quiet. There's something distinctly Japanese (culinary, not whisky) going on here, like a fermented/umami thing. Toasted oak, toasted grains. Hints of habanero and ginger.

Michigan Spring Water, 35%abv - She's Not There. It's lightly bitter, lightly salty, lightly malty, and that's it.

Ohio Filtered Water, 35%abv - Some of those umami and ginger notes show up here too. It's malty with a little bit of vanilla creaminess. Some salt and flower blossoms.

Columbus Municipal Unfiltered Sink Water, 35%abv - Rich and sweet. Almost Thai in its combo of savoriness + lime + chiles + brown sugar. Whiffs of earth and toasted nuts.

Palates ranked from best to worst:
1. Columbus Municipal Unfiltered Sink Water
2. Uisge Source Speyside Water
3. Neat
4. Ohio Filtered Water
5. Michigan Spring Water

Again, what?


Neat, 40%abv - Creamy and mildly sweet. Little bits of tartness, pepper and malt.

Uisge Source Speyside Water, 35%abv Just the right amount of sweetness. Not much else though. Hints of ginger, grains and vanilla bean.

Michigan Spring Water, 35%abv - Finish? It barely started. Sweet and bitter, maybe.

Ohio Filtered Water, 35%abv - Umami, pepper and blossoms. Moments of sweet and heat.

Columbus Municipal Unfiltered Sink Water, 35%abv - Longest lasting of the finishes. Limes, brown sugar and red pepper flakes.

Palates ranked from best to worst:
1. Columbus Municipal Unfiltered Sink Water
3. Neat
2. Uisge Source Speyside Water
4. Ohio Filtered Water
5. Michigan Spring Water


Rarely has a tasting surprised me like this one. Firstly, there was a significant difference in the dilution results. Though they were all related, they read like five different whiskies. One could get carried away with this, or this could carry away one. I will return to this discovery.

Secondly, three cheers to Columbus's finest!!! The more filtered "cleaner" American water did not result in better whisky. Uisge Source's Speyside water fared the second best overall. I liked what it did with the palate. The Michigan spring water neutered all the flavors. Ohio's filtered water also produced disappointing results, which was very educational because that's what I usually use for my tastings.

Finally, sink water. Yeah, I must explore this further.

Here are the overall rankings:

1. Columbus Municipal Unfiltered Sink Water (B-/B)
2. Uisge Source Speyside Water (B-)
3. Neat (low B-)
4. Ohio Filtered Water (C+)
5. Michigan Spring Water (C-/C)

Availability - The whisky is available at most specialty retailers in the US, not sure about the availability of the water gift pack
Pricing - the water gift pack has an MSRP of $29.99, the whisky itself is $20-$35 in the US
Rating - 81


  1. I vaguely recall the Malt Advocate blog (that's how long it's been) or another blogger wanted some horror stories from their readers and one involved a one liter bottle of Speyburn 10. The two roommates got the bottle cheap and left it on the kitchen counter. That night one roommate's girlfriend and two of her friends proceeded to finish the bottle (A ONE LITER)! A lot of comments including mine were questions on whether the guy broke up with the girl because I'm pretty sure that's a violation of the Scotch Bro Code.

  2. I don't see tasting notes on the Speyside water. What's the nose, palate, and finish like?

  3. This is my go to camping drink. It's reasonable, easily available and most enjoyable under the stars when the smoke gets in the eyes, ears and throat. One doesn't worry too much about spilling a drop here or there getting from the bear locker to the chair, but once seated it's friendly and not the least bit obnoxious (like those campers across the Merced yelling and shining highbeams every which way).