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Issue 110 - Speyside Regionalism

Whisky Magazine Issue 110
March 2013


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Speyside Regionalism

Ian Wisniewski asks what is the Speyside style of malt whisky?

The Speyside region (around the valley of the river Spey in the eastern Highlands) has the greatest concentration of distilleries, being home to 50 of Scotland's 101 malt whisky distilleries, which includes The Glenlivet, Macallan, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Benromach. Speyside is also hailed for producing distinctively elegant, complex and sophisticated malt whiskies. Sounds great. But those characteristics are hardly absent from other regions of Scotland. Is it possible to be more specific about a region with so many distilleries that are individual?

Let's start with the flavour profile. One example of what the region offers is Speyside Reserve, a blended malt bottled by Berry Bros & Rudd.

“Speyside Reserve is designed to reflect our view of the Speyside character, and as such has fruit, honey, and slightly floral characteristics,” says Doug McIvor, spirits manager, Berry Bros & Rudd.

“However, this view is inevitably a generalisation, which can be dangerous, and generally I try to avoid making generalisations as Speyside has such a diversity of styles.”

Speyside's diversity includes Balvenie's honey and vanilla character, Glenfiddich is a fruity style led by pears, The Glenlivet's fruityness includes tropical fruit notes such as pineapple, while Macallan has a dried fruit and spice character.

Such variety reflects the fact that each stage of the production process, particularly fermentation and distillation, influences the new make spirit. Each dis...

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