The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Hidden Gems of Speyside

Explore whiskies from five of the less well known Speyside distilleries.

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Celebrating its thirteenth year in 2012, the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival is an annual event held during the first long weekend in May. It involves a wide range of distillery themed activities and is a must for a Speyside fan. To celebrate the festival, we have launched our second Speyside tasting with less well-known Speysiders that you may never have heard of, let alone tried. This doesn't signal a drop in quality, though, as you will see when you try them. From the delightfully light and fruity Tomintoul to the ever so slightly smoky Strathisla via the massively underrated Aultmore, Glen Elgin and Glen Spey, these are some of the hidden treasures of Scottish whisky.

Glen Elgin 12 year old

Glen Elgin distillery was the last distillery to be built during the boom years of the 1890s. It’s owned by drinks giant Diageo and most of the 1.8 million litres annual production goes into blends such as White Horse. Glen Elgin has a quirky set up, including the use of worm tubs, an old fashioned means of condensing spirit hardly used these days. This 12 year old is the only official single malt bottling, and it is a fresh and fruity dram with a classic Speyside profile.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Floral, light wispy honey, chicory and bay leaves. Strong hints of toffee and lardy cake.
Palate: Initially honey, then dry, dusty and slightly perfumed fruit. Faintly smoky. Hint of caramel and carroway seed. The finish is increasingly spicy with fresh wood.

Retails for around £35

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Glen Spey 12 year old

Glen Spey is closely linked to Diageo’s J&B (Justerini & Brooks) blend range. You don’t see J&B much in the UK, it is mainly for export, and is very big in Koria. Glen Spey has a relatively small capacity (1.4 million litres) and this 12 year old Flora and Fauna release is the only official bottling. This is a straight up honest Speysider

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: A sherried mocha maltiness. Hot cross buns. Raspberry vinegar. Slightly smoky with a hint of cough sweet and more than a hint of bitter lemon.
Palate: Soft, sweet, malty and rounded with fresh coconut and vanilla and a dry spiciness. As with the nose, a burst of citrus at the end as spiciness gradually becomes drier and drier.

Retails for around £40

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Strathisla 12 Year Old

As the sign says, Strathisla is home of Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Regal, one of the blended whisky global mega brands. Strathisla claims to be the oldest distillery in Scotland, but it is not alone in that claim!

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Overripe fruit, grape jelly, digestive biscuit, a hint of smoke, marzipan and a sizeable blast of menthol.
Palate: Sweet and then sour with increasingly minty smoke, then lychees with a minty return and hints of vanilla.

Retails for around £35

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Tomintoul 14 Year Old

Tomintoul (pronounced tom-in-TOWEL) distillery was founded relatively recently in 1965. It takes its name from the nearby village, the highest in the Scottish highlands. Initially Tomintoul went mostly into blends, but recently it has released a range of excellent single malts, and these have been very well received: Jim Murray gave this 14 year old 95/100 in his 2012 Whisky bible.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: A soft light honey with light wood spice and a veritable fruit bowl with apples, oranges, lemons, raspberries, pears, apricots and kiwi fruits.
Palate: Immediate oranges and lemons. Buzzing oak and a soft buttery maltiness and a hint of fresh coconut on the finish.

Retails for around £35

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Auchroisk 1996 Connoisseurs Choice

Situated near the Speyside town of Mulben, Auchroisk was completed in 1974 and official releases are infrequent. It started life as the “Singleton” because of its unpronounceable name. A 10 year old was then added to Diageo’s Flora & Fauna series (see Glen Spey). It is mostly been available through independent bottlers. In case you’re wondering how to pronounce it, no-one agrees on its proper pronunciation. According to Michael Jackson: “Auch-roysk says the distillery’s manager, Ach-rusk say the locals”. Either way, we don’t care because it tastes nice!

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Clean and sweet. Tinned pears. Menthol. Nip of oak.
Palate: Sweet and fruity. Light licorice. Oak held in check throughout. A long sweet finish.

Retails for around £50-60

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