The 10 Best Speyside Whiskeys

The Speyside region of Scotland is best known for its production of Scotch whisky. The area is home to more than half of the whisky distilleries in Scotland.

It is responsible for producing some of the world’s most famous Scotch brands, including Macallan, Glenlivet, and Balvenie.

The climate and geography of Speyside are ideal for growing the barley that is used to make whisky, and the region also has an abundance of peat, which is used to smoke the malt.

The water of the River Spey, which runs through the region, is soft and rich in minerals, providing the perfect base for making whisky.

With its unique combination of factors, it’s no wonder that Speyside is considered the heartland of Scotch whisky production.

What is Speyside Whisky

what is speyside whisky

Speyside Whisky is known for its smooth, mellow flavor, with hints of fruit and spice, unlike its Islay counterpart, which is typically full of smokey, peaty flavor.

Scotch from Speyside gets its lighter flavor from its proximity to the rivers that run through the area. According to Forbes, The abundance of high-quality water is the primary reason that whisky distilleries have flocked to the Speyside region.

With vast quantities of clear, soft water, the region can support large-scale whisky production. It takes roughly 50 liters of water to produce 1 liter of whisky.

The majority of this water is used in the condensers, and once cooled, it can be returned to the water source from which it was drawn.

The region’s water also has a very low level of dissolved minerals, making it ideal for mashing. The combination of these factors makes Speyside a perfect location for whisky production.

Brief History of Speyside Whiskey

King George IV’s trip to Edinburgh in 1822 brought attention to the illicit whisky production in the Speyside region of Scotland. The region’s remote location made it difficult for tax collectors, known as “gaugers”, to reach the distilleries.

This created an advantage for the distillers, who were able to operate without fear of government interference. The publicity surrounding the King’s visit resulted in a boom in Scotch whisky sales, with Speyside whisky becoming especially popular.

The Top Speyside Whiskys

Glenlivet 18-Year-Old Batch Reserve

glenlivet 18-year-old whiskey

Glenlivet 18-Year-Old Batch Reserve is a malt whisky bottled at 40% ABV.

The 18-year-old is the winner of 2 gold medals in the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) and remains one of the best-value expressions of sherried Speyside.

On the nose, it features dark chocolate and glace cherries, with apple and creamy vanilla-infused creme brûlée.

On the palate, it is thick and fruit, with cream, stewed apple, candied orange, and sweet vanilla. The finish is dry, with lingering spice.

Glenfiddich 21-Year-Old Gran Reserva Rum Cask Finish

glenfiddich 21-year-old whiskey
Image: Yelp Inc.

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Gran Reserva Rum Cask Finish is a single malt scotch whisky that has been matured in ex-bourbon casks for 19 years before being transferred to rum casks from the Caribbean for a further two years of maturation.

The result is a whisky with a unique flavor profile that is perfect for sipping on its own or enjoying in a cocktail.

The tasting notes from the Whisky Exchange describe the 21-year-old Glenfiddich as featuring beeswax and honey, with milky coffee, buttered brioche, apples, pears, and orange zest notes on the nose.

On the palate, it is sweet and rich with a thick mouthfeel, with soft spice and orchard fruit balanced by sweet caramel. The finish is long and lingering, with apples and pears accompanied by dark chocolate and a touch of spice.

Macallan 12-Year-Old Aged in Sherry Oak Casks

macallan 12-year-old aged

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak has a nose of vanilla with hints of ginger, dried fruits, sherry sweetness, and wood smoke.

The palate is sweet raisins, plums and prunes, rich sherry, dark barrel char, and soft spice. The finish is sweet toffee, dried fruit, and lingering spice. This whisky is 40% ABV, and retails for around $100.

Glen Grant 18-Year-Old

glen grant 18-year-old

Glen Grant, 18-Year-Old, is a single malt whisky that has received high acclaim, most notably being named the second finest whisky in the world by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2019. It is distilled in Speyside, Scotland, and bottled at 43% ABV.

The whisky has a rich floral aroma, oaky overtones, and hints of baking spices. The taste is malty with caramel notes, delicate dried raisins, and vanilla. The finish is long and sweet with hints of nuts and spice.

The Benriach Twelve

the benriach twelve whiskey
Image: Nigab Pressbilder

The Benriach Twelve is bottled at 46% ABV and is a big and bold whisky, perfect for those who enjoy a dram with a rich and complex flavor profile.

Aged for 12 years in bourbon, sherry, and port casks, this whisky has layers of dried fruit, spice, and soft sweetness. The nose is full of dried fruits and spices, with a hint of sweetness from the sherry cask aging.

The palate is rich and oily, with more dried fruits, spice, and a touch of menthol freshness. The finish is long and warming, with a touch of sweetness from the port cask aging. This whisky is perfect for enjoying neat or on the rocks.

Benromach 15-Year-Old

benromach 15-year-old whiskey
Image: Benromach

The Benromach 15 Year Old is a single malt Scotch whisky matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. Benromach Distillery is known for its high-quality single malt whiskies, and the 15 Year Old is no exception.

According to its website, this whisky is matured in the highest quality oak casks and has a unique flavor profile. Cracked pepper, charred oak, apples, dark chocolate, and forest fruits are some of the primary flavors, which are complemented by rich sherry notes and a touch of smoke.

Glen Elgin 2007 12-Year-Old Reserve Cask – Parcel No.3

glen elgin 2007 12-year-old

Glen Elgin 2007 is a small-batch single malt from indie bottler Elixir Distillers. It was distilled in 2007 and matured in four hogsheads for 12 years before being bottled as part of the third parcel of its Reserve Cask series.

Aromas of apple cider, warm custard, figs, grapefruit, rosemary-seasoned sweet potatoes, and maple-glazed pecans fill the nose. The palate offers notes of cardamom, clementine, vanilla cream, sticky toffee pudding, and strawberry coulis that linger in the finish.

This 48% ABV whisky is perfect for those who enjoy a complex and well-rounded dram.

Cragganmore 2007 Distillers Edition

Cragganmore 2007 Distillers Edition

The 2007 Distillers Edition Cragganmore single malt is a rich, jammy whisky that has been finished in ex-Port casks before being bottled in 2019.

This whisky offers notes of honey-covered raspberries, tobacco, wild berry compote, and cacao throughout the palate.

The Cragganmore distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland, and this particular single malt is distilled using water from the River Livet.

The use of ex-Port casks for finishing adds a unique sweetness to the whisky, and the bottling strength of 40% ABV ensures that the flavor is well-balanced.

Speyburn 10-Year-Old

speyburn 10-year-old

Speyburn 10-year-old single malt whisky is a gold medal winner at the 2006 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and has also won gold at the International Wine & Spirit Competition and the Single Malt Scotch – to 12 Yrs – 2013. Speyburn is widely available for less than $50.

This classic Speyburn whisky has a light amber color and is fruity in flavor. The nose features hints of orange, mandarin, and cooking apple, with a touch of oak, peppermint, and spice.

The light, gentle palate has soft malt, sweet, toasty barley with licorice, and dried herbs. Just a touch of smoke trails off on the finish.

Tamdhu 15-Year-Old

tamdhu 15-year-old

This 15-year-old Tamdhu is a single malt scotch that has been aged in oloroso sherry casks for 15 years, giving it a rich flavor profile. Bottled at 46% ABV

The whisky is non-chill-filtered, which means that it has not been treated with chemicals or other agents to remove impurities. As a result, the whisky retains its natural color and flavor.

The Tamdhu 15-Year-Old is also socially conscious, being that it is certified vegan and sustainable, meaning that it has been produced without harming animals or the environment.

On the palate, this whisky is equally enjoyable, with apricots, raspberries, and almonds. The nose is full of aromas, including apple pie, spiced currants, and orange zest.

The finish is long and complex, with malty biscuits and creamy sherry notes rounding things out nicely.

Lastly, as a certified vegan dram, this whisky is suitable for a wide range of drinkers. Whether you’re a fan of sherry-aged whiskies or not.

Speyside Whiskeys – Final Thoughts

In the end, if you’re looking for a smooth, gentle whisky to enjoy, Speyside is the place to go.

The region is home to many of the most famous Scotch whiskies in the world, and visitors can take tours of the distilleries to see how the whisky is made.

Whether you’re a single malts or blends fan, there’s something for everyone from Speyside.

Further Reading