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Glen Spey

Glen Spey

Although located in Speyside, the heart of Scotlands distilling culture, Glen Spey (pronounced: glen SPAY) has managed to revel in obscurity its entire life. There in not a shortage of bottlings out there, if fact there are quite a few very nice independent examples. Glen Spey has also had some miniscule promoion in an official copacity through the 12yo Flora & Fauna bottling that was launched in 2001. Yet it still remains a fundamentally obscure distillery, not unloved just not considered at all. It operates under most aficionados radar, probably the name says it all Glen Spey one of the most generic names possible (apart probably from Speyside distillery itself). It might as well be Glen Safe, that's the problem, people perceive it as safe, generic and boring. This is a shame because, while some bottlings give this charge weight, there are many fine examples that are very beautiful expressions of a classic Speyside style.

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Glen Spey Distillery

Founded: 1878
Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit
Water Source: Doonie Burn
Capacity: 1.4 Million Litres
Owners: Diageo

1970-Present: Glen Quiet

Glen Spey was modified in 1970, it had a second pair of stills added and was updated with condensers and steam heating. Glen Spey has always been quite a light spirit, one of the main reasons for this is the purifiers that are fitted to the spirit stills. Purifiers increase reflux by recycling the heavier parts of the distillate as they pass into the lyne arm of a spirit still, the overall effect is a concentration of estery and fruity aspects in the new make. As a result of this Glen Spey is one of those distilleries that really seems to need age to show at its best. Younger expressions can be very thin, flowery and can often taste blendish. There are good examples, the recent Managers Choice cask was bolsterd by some very good modern wood characters, some oily vanilla and spice gave weight and posture to the delicate fruit signature of the distillate. There was also recently a 21yo official bottling that was part of Diageos 2010 special releases. This had spent quite some time in virgin oak and as a result is a very divisive whisky. Technically it is a flawless, super clean dram but its intense sweetness and notes of vanilla, pastry, cocoanut, creme caramel and big spiciness make it very much one for modern whisky fans, or possible bourbon drinkers.

Perhaps this difficulty in youth explains why the majority of expressions of Glen Spey are older ones. With age it can become a delicately fruity, quite green, malty and well composed dram, always slightly poised on the edge of fragility it shows the lighter, more modern face of Speyside very well. The best bottlings are a 1974 by Murray McDavid for their mission series. A 1977 by great German bottlers Malts Of Scotland, another 1977 by Dewar Rattray and a very fruity 1973 by Jack Weiber.

Glen Spey seems fit to continue undisturbed as a small but quiet blending machine. Its lighter style make, while not spectacular in youth, is no doubt prized by the blenders as a crucial component in their wares. What can seem mundane to malt drinkers can often work magic in conjunction with other spirits. The older expressions will probably keep popping up from time to time so it is worth trying them if you can, youll probably be pleasantly surprised.

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