Glen Spey is a not very well known distillery in Diageo’s portfolio. And so it was a bit of a surprise when their 2010 slate of special releases included this 21 yo. But maybe it shouldn’t have been. Say what you will about Diageo’s milking of Port Ellen and Brora and older Lagavulin and Talisker for everything they can get for them they have consistently given some of the lesser names their chance in the spotlight as well, and usually at reasonable prices (take a bow as well, Glen Ord, Benrinnes, Pittyvaich, Mannochmore, Auchroisk and Glenkinchie). This Glen Spey got good notices from some reliable quarters upon release, but given the distillery’s low profile–especially in the US–I gambled on it eventually getting deeply discounted a few years later (as happened in some places with the excellent Glen Ord 30 a few years ago). Luckily, the gamble paid off late last year and so here I am.
Glen Spey 21, 1989 (50.4%; Diageo Special Release, 2010; from my own bottle)
Nose: Orange peel, honey, malt, toasted wood. Just a little whiff of wood smoke. With more time there’s raisins and a little maple syrup as well. With even more time a lot of apricot jam and the orange moves closer to lemon. And with a lot of time there’s a nice creamy/buttery note too. Really quite lovely. Water pushes the cream/butter back and pulls out a little sharper wood and some rye and resin. With more time the fruit takes back control.
Palate: The toasted wood leads here and transitions to citrus (orangey-lemon) and malt. The wood goes from toasted to polished after a while and this becomes a mix of marmalade and apricot jam framed by wood and caramel. As on the nose, water makes the wood more assertive.
Finish: Medium. The fruit hangs around but the wood speaks the loudest here and it gets a touch bitter at the very end. Some coffee and cocoa notes emerge late as well. Water lengthens the finish and brings some brighter, acidic notes out.
Comments: I had almost no expectations of this and am well pleased by how good at is (but hold the water). It’s not going to make you leap out of your chair but its “darker” take on the marriage of fruit and wood is rather nice (in fact, in some ways it’s like a darker version of the Balvenie 30). Just pulled down a little bit by the slightly out of balance assertiveness of the wood on the finish. The nose, as I said, is quite lovely. There’s a lot of this still hanging around the US. A deal below $150, I’d say and probably better than most other OBs of this age at a slightly higher price too.
Rating: 89 points.