...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, September 11, 2015

WTF Is This? Macgavin's Highland Single Malt

Speyside Distillery makes some exceptionally poor whisky.  Their 12 year old is probably the worst official age-stated single malt on the market.  Drumguish is drum-gross-ish.  And Cu Dubh is loose poop in a cup.

So when Oliver Klimek tweeted out that Speyside Distillery was releasing another e150a-flooded thingy, Jordan from Chemistry of the Cocktail had the only appropriate response.

The Speyside Distillery's ownership used to also own Scott's Selection, one of the first indie bottlers to bring cask strength whiskies to The States.  Good stuff (courtesy of other distilleries' casks of course) and at good prices.  When I heard that the company had divested themselves of Scott's Selection, I realized that their (both old and new) management's bad choices extended beyond the confines of what's inside the bottle.

This is unfortunate because they (Harvey's of Edinburgh) are one of the few small businesses remaining in the Scotch industry -- though on the SWA's site, Harvey's lists a Grand Cayman address. The company's former owners specialized in a number of bottom shelf blends, such as Old Monarch, Blackburn, and King Henry VIII, thus malt quality was probably not their first priority.  This new Harvey's ownership seems to have banked on a new "Spey" brand in China and Serge V. seems to like the 18 year old.  Perhaps this means they're attempting to improve things.  Or they're just betting the house on China, which, if economic trends continue, would prove to be another bad decision.

One of the products produced by the previous owners was the Macgavin's series of single malts.  There's little to nothing official about the range online, but I do know that there is or was a "Highland" and a "Speyside" (apparently there's an Islay and Lowland too).  I attended a tasting three years ago (an experience that really deserves its own post) at which I tried both of the "Speyside" and "Highland" whiskies.  According to my notes, both whiskies use single malts from The Speyside Distillery, the difference between the two being "Highland" contains a bit of peated malt.  Way back then I liked the NAS "Highland" more than both the NAS "Speyside" and the official 12 year old.  My whisky buddy JLR (and his wife) were at that very tasting and he bought a bottle of the Highland.  We both eventually departed with much more expensive whisky, but that's another story.  Many thanks to JLR for this sample.

Distillery: The Speyside Distillery
Range: Macgavin's
Ownership (current): Harvey's of Edinburgh
Region: Speyside (but almost not)
Age: ???
Maturation: probably ex-bourbon barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Likely so
Colorant added? Likely so

Color - Brass
Nose - A light but ever-present grungy peat coated with vanilla simple syrup and white flour.  A little bit of Ethyl (in my life. A little bit of Monica in---oh shit, I'm sorry).  It's quite cheery and candied.  At first.  After 10 minutes, a sour milk note announces itself.  After 20 minutes, it becomes stinky cheese.  After 30 minutes, it starts to pick up some baking spice and caramel.  It sort of redeems itself as the expired dairy floats away.
Palate - Pencil lead, vanilla, sugar, and light smoke.  Watery texture, though not surprising at this ABV.  A slight peppery zip.  Malt first, then oak.  At first.  After 15 minutes, the sour milk note arrives, but then so does an oaky bitterness.  Then some oak spice, sand, and salt.
Finish - A little citrusy, then peaty.  Some of that milky residue comes and goes.  The citrus builds with time, but so does the oaky bitterness.  A hint of cardboard appears after 30 minutes.

First off, this is better than Cu Dubh, Drumguish, and Speyside 12yo.  I'm not saying it's great.  I'm saying it's drinkable.  And its price point doesn't suck.  It wouldn't be the worst idea for the distillery to bottle something like this at 12 years old and put their name on it, discarding the current "Speyside 12" recipe.

It starts off as a C+ whisky and then goes weird after 10 minutes.  It does pick itself back up after more than a half hour, but never gets back to where it was at first.  It's much too thin and light for water, if you're drinking to taste.  But if you're just plopping it on the rocks, go for it.

Availability - Some specialty retailers in the US
Pricing - $20-$25
Rating - 72