Glen Spey Distillery
Stills: 2 Wash 2 Spirit
Water Source: Doonie Burn
Capacity: 1.4 Million Litres
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.