The Speyside 13 year old – Glenkeir Treasure Selection (The Whisky Shop)
40% ABV, £21 for 20cl; £40 for 50cl
What they say:
A citrus light nose welcomes this whisky but this is just the beginning of a more complex infusion of ripe fruits, pear drops and honey. The finish adds further soft fruit notes before the final surprise warm fresh apple pie. Wow can we have some more?!
What I say:
Speyside (or ‘The Speyside’) distillery is a relatively unheard of distillery, not least due to the confusion its name must produce. Whilst most supermarkets stock a ‘Speyside’ whisky, the whisky in the bottle will have been distilled at an unknown/un-named distillery within the Speyside region (most likely one of the big hulking distilleries that produces several millions of litres of spirit each year for blending – see Diageo’s new Roseisle for example). The Speyside distillery in comparison produces a rather modest 1/2 a million litres per year; again mostly blended, however a small amount escapes to remain as single malt. The Speyside distillery have a had a limited range of official bottlings (OB) in recent history including a 10, 12 and 15 year old on various occasions. I had been investigating independent bottlings of The Speyside whisky for a little while when I cam across this particular one. The main reason I purchased this one was because it was also one of the Whisky Shop’s Glenkeir Treasures Selection. This is a set of whiskies; presumably small batch or even single cask (?) that the Whisky Shop purchase and then sell from there shops in giant tapped casks, allowing you not only to choose your exact bottle size but also potentially bottle your own. I was curious about the quality of the Glenkeir Treasures range (and so I purchased a 2nd one that would allow me to compare it to other whiskies and a particular distillery I was well acquainted with).
Cloudy golden apple juice (the entire stock seemed cloudy)
Lemon juice (jif), cereal oats and pineapple cream
Malty cereal and oats , slightly fizzy citrus, buttery and oily, sweet vanilla icing sugar, bitter oaky wood, pineapple tarts, shortcrust pastry, cream and sweet pineapple flavouring
The finish was a little watery but also quite oily and long with more of that cereal malt and creamy fruits
Would I buy it again:
I was actually quite taken with this whisky, however I felt its one flaw was that it had been over-watered down to achieve the Whisky Shops target 40% ABV. The whisky itself was thick with oily tears, resulting in the clouding but also the phenomenal amount of flavours going on despite the dilution. This cloudiness also indicates that the whisky has not been chill-filtered. This is a boon as chill-filtering removes some of the flavour and character from the whisky; basically the flavourful oils in the whisky are usually solubilised within the alcohol content. Cooling or reducing the alcohol content (by dilution with water) leads to the fats becoming insoluble and so they form small droplets (or micelles) within the water. This mix of water and oil is known as an emulsion (like paint, mayonnaise, vinaigrettes and milk), however emulsified whisky seems to be quite off-putting to the casual drinker and so often the oils are removed/reduced by chill-filtering. Chill-filtration is a process whereby the whisky is cooled and passed through a series of filters (previously asbestos, but now quoted as cardboard – as asbestos is a bad word?) which remove the droplets of oil and most importantly the flavours they contain.
During a whisky tasting masterclass I attended, one of the attendees asked what the difference was between ‘non chill-filtered’ and ‘un chill-filtered’. The host replied (correctly) “None, why?”. “Ah” said the bemused attendee “I though un chill-filtered whisky was produced by chill-filtering out all the impurities and then mixing them all back in again…”. Every day is a school day.
Anyway – this is one of the tastiest (and definitely the cloudiest) 40% ABV whiskies I have tried; I think next time I will look out for something with a little higher ABV from The Speyside, especially if this oiliness is a character of their spirit; though I can’t rule out the possibility of some of it deriving from the cask it was matured in.