Glen Spey is a distillery that not many people would have heard of, let alone tried. The reason for this would be due to its vast importance in several blends within the industry and its relatively small output when compared to other distilleries within the area of Speyside in which the distillery is located.
The whisky from Glen Spey plays an important role in the formation of the backbone of the J&B blended Scotch whisky brand and as such, most of its annual production is earmarked for use in the blend as well as several other blends which come under the purview of its parent company, Diageo.
Glen Spey distillery was founded in 1878 by James Stuart & Co. under the name of Mill of Rothes. The distillery remained under the control of James Stuart (who would go on to purchase The Macallan distillery in 1886) until 1887, when it was purchased by W. & A. Gilbey for a sum of £11000.
This purchase by W. & A. Gilbey was significant as it meant that Glen Spey was the first Scottish malt distillery to come under the control of an English company. IUnitedn the years after this initial acquisition, the company would go on to purchase Strathmill and Knockando distilleries.
The distillery remained under the control of W. & A. Gilbey (who are a largely unknown entity these days, although the Gilbey's brand of gin is a reminder of the company's existence and heritage) until 1962, when it joined forces with United Wine Traders to form International Distillers & Vintners (IDV).
Under this new entity, Glen Spey was expanded and a further pair of stills were installed, bringing the total to 4 stills. IDV was then purchased by Watney Mann in 1972 and they too were then acquired the same year by international conglomerate, Grand Metropolitan.
Grand Metropolitan then agreed to a merger with Guinness in 1997 and this led to the formation of the present incarnation, Diageo. IDV, which was under the purview of Grand Metropolitan, merged with United Distillers, which was under the purview of Guinness, to form United Distillers & Vintners (UDV) in the same year as the merger of its parent companies.
At present, there is only one official bottling of Glen Spey and it is a 12 Years Old expression which has been released under the Flora & Fauna range which was initiated by United Distillers in the late 1980s.
There has also been a handful of limited releases, including a 21 Years Old expression which was a part of the 2010 Special Releases as well as a single cask which was distilled in 1996 and released as a part of the Manager's Choice range in the same year.
In terms of equipment, the distillery sports a semi-lauter mash tun, 8 stainless steel washbacks and 2 pairs of stills where the spirit stills are equipped with purifiers in order to produce the lighter style of spirit which is required for use in the J&B blend, among others.
This week's review focuses on an expression of Glen Spey which was distilled in 1991, matured first in an ex-bourbon cask before being finished in an ex-sherry cask and bottled after 21 years of maturation at a standard abv of 46% by independent bottlers Cooper's Choice.
Glen Spey 1991 21 Years Old Sherry Wood Finish (Bottled by Cooper's Choice, 46% abv)
Colour: Burnished copper
Nose: Initial entry hints at a heavy and complex nose which gradually opens up to reveal notes of orange peel, canned peach and apricot as well as a mildly vegetal note. Wood spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg emerge after some time and are complemented by oak, tarragon and caramel.
Palate: Initial entry presents more of the canned peach and apricot notes along with the cinnamon, nutmeg and oak. The vegetal note lingers in the background without becoming obtrusive and this allows for the tarragon, orange peel, mild sherry and chilli notes to emerge. There is also a hint of creme brulee, which adds a sweetness to the mildly savoury nature of this dram.
Finish: Medium to long on the finish, with the wood spices fading but the oak becoming more pronounced and intermingling well with the citrus, fruit and sherry notes.
Balance: A relatively well-balanced and pleasant representation of Glen Spey which showcases a fair bit of complexity as well as variety. The sherry finish has allowed the spicy nature of the spirit to be complemented by the fruit and it has also given some body to the otherwise light nature of the spirit.
This expression of Glen Spey is available for purchase by the dram or the bottle for in-bar consumption or by the bottle for retail/takeaway purposes. Please approach our friendly staff and they will be more than happy to assist you with any enquiries that you may have.
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