Monday, February 19, 2024

Review | Speyburn 18 years old

This 18 years old single malt form part of the core range from the Speyside distillery of Speyburn. It sits the no age statement Bradan Orach, plus 10 years old and 15 years old in the range. There are also three travel retail exclusives currently available - Hopkins Reserve, a higher strength version of the 10 years old and 16 years old. The Speyburn 18 years old has seen spirit matured for the full term in either American oak ex-bourbon or Spanish oak ex-sherry casks, which are then married together. It was first released to the core range in 2018.

The Speyburn distillery was founded by brothers John and Edward Hopkins, plus their cousin Edward Broughton, in 1897. It is located in the Speyside village of Rothes and was designed by legendary Victorian distillery architect Charles Doig. The current owners are Inver House Distillers, who took control in 1991. 

Much of the single malt produced at Speyburn has traditionally been allocated for blending and it remains a key ingredient for brands such as Catto's and Hankey Bannister. However, the single malt range has considerably grown in popularity over the last 10-15 years. The annual production capacity is 4.5 million litres. Tours are now also available at Speyburn with the distillery having opened its visitor centre for the first time last year.

The Speyburn 18 years old is bottled at 46% ABV and is both non-chill filtered and of natural colour. It is available worldwide in specialist whisky and spirits retailers. A bottle will cost around £85.


Our Tasting Notes

The colour is a deep coppery amber and the nose is soft, sweet and fruity. Aromas of green apple and crisp pear mingle with caramel, toffee and plenty of dried fruit - think of raisin, sultana and prune especially. There are also lovely milk chocolate and honeyed aromas with hints of cocoa powder, orange oil and dusty wood spices.

On the palate this whisky feels gentle, soft and luxurious. There is plenty of sweetness and fruitiness up front as on the nose - imagine caramelised apple (or maybe fairground toffee apple) with some golden syrup and plenty of dried fruits. Sultanas are evident again, and they are joined by chocolate coated raisin and brandy-soaked prunes. A hint of candied orange peel and some crumbly brown sugar both add depth.

The chocolate-like characteristic really begins to develop in the second half of the palate. There is an evolving malty quality that sits just underneath the main elements and the combination is reminiscent of a good chocolate biscuit. Then comes a hint of poached pear with fresh vanilla pod and butterscotch sauce, and a pinch of cinnamon. A final suggestion of gingerbread and white pepper also evolves.

The finish is of decent length and some elements linger well. This is especially true for the dusty wood spices that really begin to shine once the sweeter and fruitier notes begin to fade. There is a distinct oaky note now that is supported by cinnamon bark, a hint of tiasted almond and a whiff of delicate and soft peat smoke.

What's The Verdict?

This Speyburn 18 years old is a lovely whisky and one that exhibits classic Speyside characteristics. It is soft, gentle and with plenty of sweetness and green orchard fruit - these have been maintained well despite the increased age. The maturation is clearly towards the ex-sherry cask end of the scale and these barrels have given a delicious caramel-like sweetness with some delicious dried fruits and woody spices. 

All in all a very nice whisky, if not spectacular. Very easy drinking and enjoyable. Well worth a try, especially given the competitive price - many 18 year old single malts from Speyburn's competitors are now at least £100, if not more.

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