The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Arguably the most famous of the whisky regions is Speyside, situated in the North East section of Central Scotland, incorporating Morayshire, Nairnshire, Banffshire and part of Aberdeenshire. Half of all Scottish distilleries are situated in the region and include some of the most famous distilleries on the planet, such as Macallan, Glenlivet and Balvenie.

Part of the reason for its popularity as a region was its ready supply of high quality water and good access by the railways which provided transport of manpower, raw materials and the finished product into and out of the distilleries. The lifeblood of the region is the river Spey, its tributaries and adjoining rivers, such as the rivers Deveron, Isla, Fiddich, Findhorn, Dullan, Livet and Lossie, which flow like veins through the region.

Although the Speyside style is considered to be creamy, honeyed, fruity and easy drinking, distilleries situated along the various tributaries produce subtly different malts. The river Livet, for example, has Glenlivet, Tamnavulin and Tomintoul, all noted for their gentleness. In addition to these creamy and honeyed Speyside malts are produced famously robust and heavily-sherried whiskies such as Macallan, Glenfarclas and Glendronach. And, just to show that Speyside can also do peat, you need look no further than distilleries such as Knockdhu, Ardmore and BenRiach.

The names of many Speyside whiskies are justly famous around the world, with brands such as Glenfiddich and the Glenlivet being found in homes and bars from Timbuktu to Tokyo, but it's fair to say that many of the region's distilleries will be unfamiliar to most people. The reason is that a majority of Speyside distilleries exist solely to produce malt for blended whisky (which accounts for approximately 95 per cent of all whisky sales). Distilleries such as Allt-a-Bhainne, Braeval and Royal Brackla may not be well known in their own right as single malts, but are crucially important constituents of blends.

It would be fair to say that, as good as they are (and some really are), if the majority of Speyside distilleries were to close tomorrow, most whisky drinkers probably wouldn't even notice. Despite their rarity, however, many of the lesser known malts occasionally pop up as official bottlings through, for example, Diageo's Flora and Fauna series; others can be found through independent bottlers such as Cadenhead, Douglas Laing and Gordon & MacPhail.

Doublewood 12 year old.

Balvenie Balvenie is the sister distillery of Glenfiddich. It has a similarly sky-high production standard to its sister but is produced on a much smaller scale. Its older expressions are a match for any whisky on the planet. the Doublewood is a 12 year old whisky with a sherry finish; the whisky spends the final few months in sherry casks prior to bottling.

Tasting notes:
Nose: Much lighter than expected. Oranges. Spicy and lightly charred Dundee cake.
Palate: Light sherry, with lighter vanillas soon becoming apparent, as is a light nuttiness and the juicy Seville oranges which becomes slightly bitter at the end.

Cardhu 12 year old

Glenkeir Islay

Cardhu caused a furore some years back with the release of their Cardhu Pure Malt, confusing the consumers who didnít know whether it was a single malt or a vatted malt (it wa s the latter). No confusion with this one, though. This is a beautifully light and sweet fruitfest that has been tantalisingly hard to find in the UK of late because of its popularity in Spain.

Tasting notes:
Nose: arguably the finest Speysider of them all, and certainly a perfect example of the regional style. There's fresh rosy apple here, assorted fruits and fresh sweetness.
Palate: the taste of a clean and sunny day, with orchard fruits, vanilla, honey blossom and enough oak to give proceedings a puckering richness.
Finish: medium, fresh and fruity.

Speyburn 10 year old

Glenfiddich 15

Although not one of the better-known Speyside whiskies, Speyburn is actually over a century old and is one of the most photographed distilleries in Scotland. It is situated just outside the town of Rothes.

There are few official expressions of Speyburn (and evidently even fewer independent bottlings), but what official expressions there are are excellent quality and even better value. The 10 year and the un-aged and highly spiced Bradach Orach can be found for under £30.

Tasting notes:
Nose: Very heavy, gloopy and sweet. Poached pear. Orange chews. Slightly vegetal (carrot and celery juice?). Distant whiff of burnt fruit cake.
Taste: Spicy at first, smoothing off and becoming malty and sweet but with a lighter vanilla core. Creamy. Coconut ice cream and white chocolate.

Cragganmore Distillerís Edition Distilled 1993. Bottled 2006.


This is part of a series of distillerís editions from Diageo, where each whisky in the range is Ďsecond matur edí in additional, non-bourbon, cask. This is second matured in a port pipe, giving it a lovely peachy colour. The port pipe also softens the complex, floral nature of the Cragganmore, giving it a softer and fruity dimension.

Tasting notes:
Nose: a great big fruity carnival, with a burst of apple and other green fruit, and lots of refreshing sherbety niceness.
Palate: full, fruity and with rich, deep and intense with a swirling, whirling and impactful body. It's sweet and captivating.
Finish: medium, rich and full.

Aberlour 16 year old

aberlour 16

A good deal of Aberlour's whisky goes to France and many expressions are exclusive to our lucky Gallic cousins. Aberlour's whiskies tend towards the nutty and sherried end of the Speyside spectrum and this beauty is no exception, being matured in first-fill sherry casks and unspecified oak casks, giving it a rich depth as well as "the fruitiness and spiciness".

Tasting notes:
Nose: the nose is a sherried delight, as crisp and clean as a Jerez dress on washing day. Seville gets a look in through oranges, and juicy berries invite you in.
Palate: full, rounded, juicy and balanced, with some honey and a delicate touch of spice filling out the fruity theme from the nose.
Finish: gentle, rounded and unhurried. Perfectly weighted.

This Speyside tasting is an ideal whisky gift for a whisky lover, especially someone who loves peaty whisky. A great whisky gift (or whiskey gift) for a birthday present, christmas present, Father's day, St Patrick's day or just to be nice! Looking for a corporate gift? A whisky tasting or whiskey tasting is ideal.