This is third of five Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection releases that I purchased in mini form from their Marylebone shop in early May. I’m afraid I did not care overmuch for the first two I’ve so far tried and reviewed: the Pulteney 11 yo I found to be overly sour and yeasty/bready; the Balmenach 12 was better but nothing worth getting excited about. I’m hopeful that this Glen Spey may continue the upward trend and move this series more firmly into the territory of the good.
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 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. Continue reading →