Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scotch Part III - Speyside

Today we'll be checking out Speyside, the fine scotch whisky producing region in the north-east of Scotland.  This is Part III in our ongoing scotch series!  If you missed Part I, an Introduction, or Part II, about peaty scotch producing region Islay, check them out.

Speyside has the highest number of whisky distilleries in Scotland, which is saying something considering its relative size when compared to the Highland and Lowland regions.  But it's not merely a whisky region, it was also the birthplace and longtime home of arguably the most famous literary character of all time.  Know who it is?

I'll give you some hints:

1.  It's a male.

2.  He lived in the 11th century.

3.  He was the King of Scotland.

Many of you should know who it is by now, but for those still on the fence, here's one last hint: His name sounds traditionally Scottish.  No?  Nothing?  Fine, one more: "To be, or not to be, that is the question."


So what does Speyside whisky taste like?  Here are a few ideas:

"Speysides are essentially sweet whiskies. They have little peaty character (although some have a whiff of smoke) and their salient characteristic is estery - typically, this aroma is compared to pear-drops or solvent (nail varnish remover, particularly). They can be highly perfumed: scents of carnations, roses, violets, apples, bananas, cream soda and lemonade have all been discovered in Speyside malts. They take maturation in sherry-wood well and can be rich and full bodied, medium and light-bodied." 

From thewhiskyguide.com:

"If you wish to introduce a friend to the world of whisky, a Speyside is a good choice with its rich flavour, complexity and relatively mild character."

My favorite scotches from the region at reasonable price points, are the following:

Balvenie Doublewood, 12 year old:  This is a very reasonably priced bottle, around $40 or so, and has a really nice clean taste.  Anything from the Balvenie distillery is a good choice.  I'm particularly fond of their 21 year old Portwood - it's a little over $100, so definitely more expensive.  It's fantastic though.

Macallan, anything.  You could buy their 10 year old, or something aged 25 years, and it will be great at its price-point.

Cragganmore, 12 year old: A nice little complex 12 year old bottling, worth the $40 or so that it costs.  You'll get more peat/smoke notes, but they are not overpowering in the way many Islay scotches would be overpoweringly peaty. 

Give these a try, or try one of the many other Speyside offerings - you really can't go wrong.  Wikipedia actually has a stellar listing of all of the distilleries in the region.  You can find their listing here.


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