...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Single Malt Report: Speyburn 10 year old, old label (a re-taste)

One of my original goals for the continuing single malt reports series was to find good whisky at great prices.  Most folks cannot afford to shill out $50 for a single bottle of whisky on a regular basis, let alone $100 a bottle.  So, here and there, I've reported on my experience with blends, starter whiskies, and younger malts in the hopes of digging up some recommended cheapies.  Thus when I panned both Speyside 12yo and Speyburn 10yo in what I dubbed "The Least Epic Taste Off Ever?" last year, I did so with considerable disappointment.

Zip forward to this year's recent blind taste test (posted on Tuesday) when I was very surprised to find out that I'd mistaken Speyburn 10 for a Balvenie 15 year old Single Barrel.  I'd blindly given what I'd once considered a crummy whisky a very high rating.  Was my estimation high because I thought it was the Balvenie Single Barrel, or was the stuff really that good?

Last year's crap sample came from a 99-cent mini, while the sample I enjoyed came from Florin's bottle. Because I was in need of a new Tier 3 bottle as my previous two turned out to be stinkers, I zipped over to Hi Time and bought my own 750mL Speyburn 10 for $18 (it was $15 the previous week!).  I then began further studies.

Please note: all of the Speyburn 10s being mentioned here are those with the old green label.  Inver House gave the range new white, gold, and green labels this year.  But I'm still seeing more of the old labels in the shops today.

Distillery: Speyburn
Ownership: Inver House Distillers (Thai Beverage)
Age: minimum 10 years
Maturation: refill ex-bourbon American oak
Region: Speyside (Rothes)
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Bottle Code: L11-318

The color is a light gold.  The nose starts with baked apples and vanilla.  Then it moves to dried berries, orange drink mix, dirty pear skins (weird specific note), wood pulp, soil, and maybe an afterthought of peat smoke.  The palate has a little spirited kick to it, along with fudge, simple syrup, pine, caramel, and brown sugar.  I know that sounds extra sweet, but it doesn't actually get to that point.  There's a strong layer of barley grains keeping it in check.  It also has a slight tang to it, as well as a texture that's pretty silky for a young 43% ABV whisky.  It finishes with lots of fudge & malt and little bit of bitterness.  It gets tangier and more citric with time.

This stands up best when served neatly; water or ice or club soda subtract rather than add.

My notes here differ a little bit from those of Tuesday's "Sample #1".  But what remains consistent is the mildness of the oak and the forwardness of the malt.

Most of us are looking for a bottle that's going to be a Drinker; you know, the cheap whisk(e)y that we can enjoy any time, guilt free.  Something close to case-of-beer pricing, not keg pricing.  I'm happy (and very surprised) to say that this one fits the bill.  Here in California, Glenfiddich 12 and Tomatin 12 also fit into that category.  On a 100-point scale, I'd actually give Speyburn a point over Glenfiddich.  It's a little dirtier (in a good way) on the nose, good texture, not much apparent caramel coloring, oak is kept to a minimum in the mouth, plus there's the extra 3% of ABV.

There's quite a leap between 3 and 3.5 stars.  After further review, this one does not make that leap.  But Speyburn 10 is a better Drinker than a number of whiskies twice its price.

Availability - Many liquor purveyors
Pricing - $17-$25 (don't pay more than $25 for this, seriously)
Rating - 82


  1. Speyburn 10 is also one whisky that's relatively cheap in 1 liter or 1.75 liter bottles. Why am I mentioning this? Well, John Hansell asked people for horror stories and I remember reading one particularly interesting one involving Speyburn 10. The storyteller and a friend split the cost on a cheap 1.75 liter bottle of this fine whisky and after sampling a couple drams left the bottle at the friend's apartment with the friend's girlfriend and two of her friends. Big mistake. The 1.75 liter bottle was EMPTY the next morning.

    1. The story ended at that point but I think John Hansell and everyone else reading that story were wondering the same thing. Did the friend stay together with the lady in question?

    2. That is a lot of whisky consumed. I'm wondering, was she conscious the next morning? If so, she'd better be buying the drinks going forward.

    3. I don't think the original poster ever added more to the story. I'd have loved to read about the aftermath of that event.

    4. Yeah, there's more story to be told. He left us hanging...

  2. You may have lost some pride, but it sounds like this story had a pretty good ending.

  3. And as of yesterday, Ralfy likes Speyburn 10yo! 86pts no less (for the 40% European version). My favorite line: "everything that Glenlivet should be". Ralfy, are you trolling Michael's website? Michael, we need to get ourselves I Heart Speyburn hats, we're starting a trend. I'll get the new label version soon.

    1. He just sold me on the new label version too. I had my doubts, being the Luddite that I am, thinking it would change for the worse. There was a place in Orange County selling it for $14.99, plus Costco was selling handles of it for Costco prices.

    2. So now you have your Spunbery refill #3 for your cask! I opened the new label bottle and is very good, I can't tell the difference from the older label, for better or worse.

    3. Just don't get all greedy and get the Bradan Orach, it's not worth the $2 saved.

    4. Spunbery would definitely be amongst my top 5 options for the new cask. It's good to hear they've kept it consistent. And yes, I'll skip the Speyburn B.O. From the looks of the reviews I've read, it sounds as if it's very young and but half baked.