I’ve not had too many Glen Speys. But I’m not alone in this—very few people have had very many Glen Speys. This is because Glen Spey is mainly a producer of bulk malt for Diageo’s blends and is rarely seen in single malt form. Diageo did release an excellent 21 yo as part of the annual special release a few years ago (and I really liked it), but there are no other official releases out there. Nor does it see much exposure from the independents. This part is more mysterious as, usually, indies tend to get their hands on a lot of casks from these kinds of distilleries: compare a total of 120 entries on Whiskybase for Glen Spey against 202 from Braeval or 320 from Benrinnes (only five of those 120 Glen Speys on Whiskybase are OBs, by the way, and of those three were the aforementioned one-off 21 yo and the likewise one-off Manager’s Dram and Manager’s Choice—the other two are an older 8 yo and one in the Flora & Fauna series that may or may not still be a going concern).
As such it’s always hard to resist a Glen Spey when it is available. And as this one was released by Whiskybase in their Archives series, it seemed like a good bet: everything I’ve had in the series has been at least solid, some have been very, very good, and none have been duds. Let’s get to it.
Glen Spey 25, 1988 (47.3%; Archives, bourbon hogshead 356079; from my own bottle)
(Once again, while the photograph was taken before the bottle was opened, these notes were taken when the bottle reached the halfway mark.)
Nose: Apples at first, crisp sweet apples with tart edges; then the acidic notes move towards citrus (lemon) with some malt and then a slight grassiness. With more time there’s vanilla, with some icing sugar, and a bit of sweet pastry. The citrus note starts getting sweeter—more orange now—and there’s some other muskier fruit in there too now. With water, there’s something reminiscent of wet concrete but also sweeter notes in the back (berries of some kind).
Palate: Hmm less interesting on the palate. Starts out acidic, though closer to vinegar than to lemon, and then gets more grassy than it did on the nose. Sweeter notes begin to emerge mid-palate but then there’s a big acidic burst again as I swallow (more zesty than fruity). More alcohol bite than you’d expect at the strength. Will water make this more interesting? Alas, no. It does get the acid under control but nothing of interest emerges.
Finish: Medium. As the acidic notes wash out there’s a growing chalkiness. More lime than lemon on the finish, with some pepper as well. The chalky quality expands with water, more’s the pity.
Comments: I liked the nose a lot, the palate and finish less so. Not bad at all, but rather anonymous—I’ve had a large number of bourbon cask Speysides that resemble this greatly, mostly from other blend fodder distilleries such as Imperial, Auchroisk and Braeval. The special release 21 yo shows the greatness Glen Spey is capable of; this single cask seems like it emphasizes the qualities blenders are looking for. Still, a pleasant malt for when you don’t want to be thinking about your whisky too much.
Rating: 83 points.