The Whisky Tasting Club The Whisky Tasting Club

Arguably the most famous of the whisky regions is Speyside, situated in the North East section of Central Scotland, incorporating Morayshire, Nairnshire, Banffshire and part of Aberdeenshire. Half of all Scottish distilleries are situated in the region and include some of the most famous distilleries on the planet, such as Macallan, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Balvenie. Part of the reason for its popularity as a region was its ready supply of high quality water and good access by the railways which provided transport of manpower, raw materials and the finished product into and out of the distilleries. The lifeblood of the region is the river Spey, its tributaries and adjoining rivers, such as the rivers Deveron, Isla, Fiddich, Findhorn, Dullan, Livet and Lossie, which flow like veins through the region. Although the Speyside style is considered to be creamy, honeyed, fruity and easy drinking, distilleries situated along the various tributaries produce subtly different malts. The river Livet, for example, has Glenlivet, Tamnavulin and Tomintoul, all noted for their gentleness. In addition to these creamy and honeyed Speyside malts are produced famously robust and heavily-sherried whiskies such as Macallan, Glenfarclas and Glendronach. And, just to show that Speyside can also do peat, you need look no further than distilleries such as Knockdhu, Ardmore and BenRiach. The names of many Speyside whiskies are justly famous around the world, with brands such as Glenfiddich and the Glenlivet being found in homes and bars from Timbuktu to Tokyo, but it's fair to say that many of the region's distilleries will be unfamiliar to most people. The reason is that a majority of Speyside distilleries exist solely to produce malt for blended whisky (which accounts for approximately 95 per cent of all whisky sales). Distilleries such as Allt-a-Bhainne, Braeval and Royal Brackla may not be well known in their own right as single malts, but are crucially important constituents of blends. It would be fair to say that, as good as they are (and some really are), if the majority of Speyside distilleries were to close tomorrow, most whisky drinkers probably wouldn't even notice. Despite their rarity, however, many of the lesser known malts occasionally pop up as official bottlings through, for example, Diageo's Flora and Fauna series; others can be found through independent bottlers such as Cadenhead, Douglas Laing and Gordon & MacPhail.

Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old

Balvenie is the sister distillery of Glenfiddich. It has a similarly sky-high production standard to its sister but is produced on a much smaller scale. Its older expressions are a match for any whisky on the planet. the Doublewood is a 12 year old whisky with a sherry finish; the whisky spends the final few months in sherry casks prior to bottling.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Much lighter than expected. Oranges. Spicy and lightly charred Dundee cake.
Palate: Light sherry, with lighter vanillas soon becoming apparent, as is a light nuttiness and the juicy Seville oranges which becomes slightly bitter at the end.

Retails for around £35

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Cardhu 12 year old

Cardhu caused a furore some years back with the release of their Cardhu Pure Malt, confusing the consumers who didn’t know whether it was a single malt or a vatted malt (it wa s the latter). No confusion with this one, though. This is a beautifully light and sweet fruitfest that has been tantalisingly hard to find in the UK of late because of its popularity in Spain.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Arguably the finest Speysider of them all, and certainly a perfect example of the regional style. There's fresh rosy apple here, assorted fruits and fresh sweetness.
Palate: The taste of a clean and sunny day, with orchard fruits, vanilla, honey blossom and enough oak to give proceedings a puckering richness.
Finish: Medium, fresh and fruity.

Retails for around £35

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Speyburn 10 year old

Although not one of the better-known Speyside whiskies, Speyburn is actually over a century old and is one of the most photographed distilleries in Scotland. It is situated just outside the town of Rothes.

There are few official expressions of Speyburn (and evidently even fewer independent bottlings), but what official expressions there are are excellent quality and even better value.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Very heavy, gloopy and sweet. Poached pear. Orange chews. Slightly vegetal (carrot and celery juice?). Distant whiff of burnt fruit cake.
Palate: Spicy at first, smoothing off and becoming malty and sweet but with a lighter vanilla core. Creamy. Coconut ice cream and white chocolate.

Retails for around £30

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Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera

Glenfiddich is the best-selling single malt whisky in the world. There is a reason for this. Firstly, they make great whisky. Secondly, in the sixties they were the first to sell whisky as a single malt, and have lead the field ever since. All devotees of single malt owe them a huge debt of gratitude for this ground-breaking decision.

Glenfiddich continue to innovate. This 15 year old is produced with a Solera system, which involves constantly topping up the Solera casks with whisky previously distilled in three types of cask: bourbon, Portuguese sherry and virgin oak.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Spice, submerged by juicy grape. Clear and fresh. Menthol. Apricots and nectarines.
Palate: Rounded, light, fresh and fruity; light licorice and vanilla. The oak is again held in check by the fruit. Smooth lightly spiced finish with marzipan and coconut.

Retails for around £30-35

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Tamnavulin Double Cask

Tamnavulin was closed in 1995 by then owners Whyte and Mackay. It started distilling briefly in 2000 and then, in 2007, after a seven year hiatus, started again on a permanent basis. Its previous bottling was a much lighter-coloured 12 year old. This expression celebrates the distillery’s 50th anniversary, and is matured in bourbon and sherry casks. It is likely to be the distillery’s only release for the foreseeable future until its older stocks are ready to be released.

The Whisky Tasting Club Notes:
Nose: Light and yet rich and fruity. Spicy. Egg custard. Herbal. Mint humbugs. Peardrops.
Palate: Sweet, clean and zesty. Lightly oaked. Marzipan. Sherbet. Vanilla. Green apples.

Retails for around £35

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