Today we move just half a mile down east from the focus of yesterday’s review – Glenrothes – to a distillery founded in the very same year of 1878 - Glen Spey. Diageo’s J&B filler malt was infrequently bottled in single malt form before 2012. And indeed, when it comes to OB’s - barring a reasonably regular 12 year old Flora & Fauna release along with one Special Release back in 2010, two Manager’s Choice’s (2008 + 2009) and a lonesome 25 year old Casks of Distinction - that’s your lot. But over the last eight years, Glen Spey, whilst hardly a darling of independent bottling has seen over 160 releases from a wide range of global bottlers.
It's now Boutique-y’s turn to get in on the Glen Spey act. Which leads me to speculate that there’s just more of the distillery’s 1.3m LPA available on the open market. A supposition which could be supported by the fact that despite still being a world-leading blend, J&B’s sales fell consistently between 2013-2018 - shrinking 7.9% in 2018 alone. This said, there equally might be no relationship at all between the gradual waning of this long-standing blend and the volume of IB’s now being produced – J&B is composed of over 40 different component Scotch whiskies – and Glen Spey is but one cog in a much larger machine.
Boutique-y’s maiden bottling from the distillery is a 21 year old vatting that has produced 1,278 bottles. It’s delivered at 49.7% ABV and costs £119.95 a bottle from Master of Malt.
Nose: Nervy and taut straight out of the bottle offering a subdued selection of aromas. Peaches served with vanilla-imbued Chantilly cream alongside royal icing. Resting is beneficial here adding barley water, creamed rice and hot house vines. But it’s still all exceedingly meek. The addition of water broadens things with notes of grassiness and herbalness with dried reeds joined by lemon verbena and sage.
Taste: Much more animated and expressive now. Orange and lemon (St Clements) oils and sherbets alongside a Millionaire’s shortbread consisting of butter biscuit (base), crunchy tempered chocolate and set caramel. Touches of golden tobacco leaf join dusty white pepper, whilst a mineral pan of salted nuts with granite persists in the back-palate. Reduction reveals a pleasant syrupiness with tinned fruit salad - it does however unlock the cask tannins resulting in noticeable dryness.
Finish: Medium with sandy pepper and nutmeg spices.
Glen Spey 21 year old Batch 1 doesn’t act its age. From its particularly pallid hue, to a rather vapid nose – everything here screams of slothful nth refill casks. Fortunately, the palate takes on a much better shape and possesses substantive, bright flavours which sit pleasantly with baked goods and nicely balanced, though drying spice. Affable in places but sadly disenchanting for me in others. Overall, I can’t help but think that a £120 (50cl) bottle of Scotch needs to offer more than this.
Perhaps Sorren got along better with this one than I did? Click over to OCD Whisky to find out.