Speyburn – A distillery built for the Queen

Previously, we have spoken about a distillery that was once a favourite of the King of Scotland. Now, we will talk about a distillery that was built for a Queen – Queen Victoria of United Kingdom, to be exact. The Speyburn distillery is located in the heart of Speyside, right in the glen near to Granty Burn – one of the major tributaries of the River Spey.

History of Speyburn

John Hopkins & Company founded Speyburn distillery in 1897 after Hopkins discovered the site of Granty Burn. He knew that the untouched nature and the refreshing waters of Granty Burn were perfect for a distillery. Going with his instincts, Hopkins built the distillery in the glen, using stones from the river.

Hopkins appointed the famous architect, Charles Doig to design the distillery and, to this day, Speyburn sports the classic pagoda ventilator, a trademark of Doig’s design.

John Hopkins had built the distillery as a commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Hopkins was determined to run the first spirit before the end of 1897. When the stills became operational, the distillery had no doors or windows. Therefore, the distillery men worked in overcoats and mufflers to battle against the bitter cold to run the first distillate on 15 December when the distillery’s construction delayed. For the next two weeks, the men worked in terrible conditions as snowstorms raged around them. Their hard work finally paid off, and they produced and bonded one butt that bore the year 1897 on December 31, 1897.

120 Years of Speyside Experience

Speyburn has been in operation since Hopkins first built it in 1897. After 120 years, the distillery is well-known for its bold and bright whiskies. Speyburn whiskies are pure but full of character, symbolising the speciality of Speyside. Their core range of whiskies is a symbol of what Speyside can offer. Often, you can hear people saying, “Speyburn is Speyside”.

Currently, Speyburn is owned by Inver House Distillers Limited. With only one wash still and one spirit still, the distillery produces 1 million litres of alcohol annually.

Speyburn Whisky

Speyburn has three different bottles for their core range. They are the Bradan Orach Single Malt, the Speyburn 10-year-old and the Speyburn 15-year-old.

Bradan Orach Single Malt

The Bradan Orach Single Malt is a NAS expression that is a classic, welcoming Speyside Whisky. It is matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks and named after the world-class salmon fishing found on the River Spey. In fact, “Braden Orach” means “Golden Salmon” in Gaelic.

Speyburn 10-year-old Single Malt

The Speyburn 10-year-old single malt is another classic expression of the Speyburn range. Matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry American oak casks, it is sweet and refreshing as a typical Speyside single malt.

Speyburn 15-year-old Single Malt

The Speyburn 15-year-old single malt is a bold expression that embraces the precious elements of Speyside. It is matured in both American and Spanish oak casks for 15 years before bottling. The vibrant nature of this liquid has endeared itself to many whisky drinkers around the world.

Besides the three whiskies above, Speyburn has another expression – the Arranta Casks Single Malt.

The Gaelic word meaning “intrepid and daring” inspired the Arranta Cask Single Malt. The spicy whisky is matured in specially selected first-fill bourbon American oak casks. The bold and flavourful character of the whisky earns an “A-star” from the distillery Manager as a seal of approval.

Event: Launching Macallan Edition No. 3

WhiskyGeeks attended the media launch of Macallan Edition No. 3 last Monday, 16 October at the Luxe Museum. If you have seen the pictures on their Facebook page, you would know that it was a grand event indeed!

The Greeting

The above picture was what greeted us when we walked in. The cask that you see on the left was one of the casks that they used in the Macallan distillery. Macallan shipped to Singapore specially for the event. We were ushered into the main hall behind the frontage to a bar where the staff offered us a cocktail.

We were feeling a little cheeky that night, so we asked for a glass of neat Macallan instead. The lovely staff told us that the good stuff was in the last room. We were surprised at the mention of rooms, and upon further queries, we understood that Macallan has split up the Luxe Museum to various “rooms” where different flavours of Macallan Edition No. 3 were displayed.

The Journey in the land of Macallan Edition No. 3

The setup was a series of “rooms” where guests explored at their leisure. The relaxing atmosphere created here was a luxury that many guests enjoyed. The stroll through the flower garden, the woodlands of oak casks and the modern chic living room filled with precious liquids from Macallan was splendid. Staff members were on hand to serve small bites to the guests. There was a station for ice cream too! We tasted the blood orange ice cream – delicious!

The journey ended in an inner room where they hid the real gems. Staff at the bar were dishing out glasses of Macallan 12 Years Fine Oak to all patrons, and we finally jumped into the action. Sipping the palatable liquid, we waited patiently for the launch to start officially.

Launching the Macallan Edition No. 3

Macallan had the honours of inviting Roja Dove, the Master Perfumer who collaborates with Master Whisky Maker, Bob Dalgarno, to Singapore for the launch of Macallan Edition No. 3. We also had to pleasure to hear him explain why and how they created Macallan Edition No. 3. This particular edition showcases the nose more than the others because Macallan wanted to impress upon whisky drinkers that the nose is just as crucial as the palate and finish. Macallan wanted to be different by creating this lovely whisky.

After Macallan officially launched the whisky, all the guest (that’s us!) got to taste it! The beautiful notes of floral and citrus waft up the nose immediately. The chocolate came after with vanilla sweetness in the background. Lovely! The palate was elegant and slightly dry. Caramel and vanilla mixed to complement each other without overpowering sweetness. It was somewhat typical Macallan. The finish was reasonably long, with the taste of vanilla cupcakes lingering for quite a while.

Meeting Roja Dove

We managed to meet Roja Dove while heading to the counter for a second glass of Macallan No. 3. The jovial fellow greeted us warmly and patiently answered all our questions. In return, he asked how we like the Macallan Edition No. 3. Well, let’s just say that he wasn’t the happiest man after hearing it! That’s because we told him that we love the nose of the whisky, but the palate seems a little flat. While he was not too happy about our comments, Roja was a perfect professional. We spoke a little longer before we left him to be surrounded by others. It was only much later that we realised we forgot to ask for a picture together!

Rounding Up

It was a dazzling night for us, but it was time to call it quits before all of us get too tipsy to head home. While we were a little disappointed with the liquid, we had an enjoyable evening. On a side note, we got to say that the Macallan 12 Years Fine Oak is a fantastic dram! If you have not tried it, you should.


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    Whisky Butler Special November Box

    November has come around, and the jingle bells are getting louder as we approach the end of the year. With December and Christmas just one month away, there is no better reason than the festive seasons to wind down and take a well-deserved break.  We have found a great way to wind down – sampling alcohol from Whisky Butler’s monthly box!

    The box in November is a special one because it showcases three of the most exceptional whiskies from America and one barrel-aged whisky cocktail! Well, that’s special, isn’t it? Do you remember our experiment from Manhattan Bar? We have shared information about the La Louisiana cocktail and the Sazerac Rye in our weekly updates, and now it has turned fruitful. All Whisky Butler’s members are going to taste it from the November box!

    Here are some interesting facts of the four drams that members will get to taste.

    1. Port-washed Sazerac Rye 6-year-old
      The port-washed Sazerac Rye is the highly anticipated whisky in this box because it is part of our experiment with Manhattan Bar. The Sazerac Rye has been placed into a port-laced barrel to age for almost a month before bottling. We have followed the changes of the rye from six days, thirteen days and nineteen days. The changes had been incredible. The finished product is fantastic!
    2. Michter’s 10-year-old Bourbon
      The Michter’s 10-year-old Bourbon has got a complicated history, and that appears to translate to its bourbon. The distillery has made many firsts, including promoting a lady – Pam Heilmann – to be their Master Distiller. That marks the first lady to serve as a Master Distiller in a Kentucky Distiller Association since prohibition. This bourbon is a balanced, caramel liquid that soothes rather than excites. The well-coordinated nose, palate and finish mean that you could probably drink this all day long.
    3. High West Campfire
      High West Campfire is a unique whisky because it is a blend of peated blended Scotch, straight bourbon and straight rye. Inspired by a visit to Bruichladdie distillery, High West founders, David and Jane Perkins decided to create a blend of whisky that transpires both geographic and stylistic borders. The final formula has produced a whisky that is perfect for a campfire, or perhaps a road trip to nowhere.
    4. La Louisiana Cocktail (High West OMG Pure White Rye Blend)
      The last one is the exceptional whisky cocktail that is exclusive to Manhattan Bar. The whisky in this expression is the High West OMG Pure White Rye. What is unique about this cocktail is the marrying of the various spirits in a fresh American oak barrel instead of a shaken one. The barrel acted as a stability cask to blend the spirits and neutralised the jagging notes of each spirit. The outcome is a thick, chewy and sweet cocktail that is pleasing to almost every palate.

    Such offerings do not come often, and what’s more with such exotic whiskies to try! As WhiskyGeeks are part of the experiment for the November box, we are extending an invitation to all WhiskyGeeks’ members to sign up for the Whisky Butler’s membership. The first five members to sign up will also be invited to an exclusive pilot tasting session at the Manhattan Bar.

    What are you waiting for? Send your contact details to WhiskyGeeks at slainte@whiskygeeks.sg or PM us via Facebook, and we will link you up with Whisky Butler for the membership application!


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      Whisky Review #56 – Sazerac Rye 6 Years Old

      The port-washed Sazerac Rye is the experiment that Whisky Butler, WhiskyGeeks and Manhattan Bar had partnered to do. We detailed the analysis in three different posts that shared how the whisky has changed in 6 days, 13 days and 19 days in a barrel that was previously holding a Penfold’s Father 10 Years Tawny Port.

      This is the final result of the experiment after 25 days.

      Tasting Notes:

      Colour: Deep Gold
      ABV: N.A

      Nose: The first nose brings pronounced notes of sugar cane and floral overtones of a scented rose candle. Dark cherries and blueberries soon surface, and signs of Woods cough syrup begin to take over. After a few minutes, malty notes of Graham crackers appears! A very complex and yet elegant nose indeed! (18/20)

      Palate: The first sip brings on crispy celery with hints of rose syrup. The oily and nutty mouthfeel soon set some lovely cinnamon and vanilla notes on the tongue. After a few minutes, herbaceous notes appear with slight tannic bitterness. (17/20)

      Finish: The finish is long and tannic with notes of cherry drops. (17/20)

      Body: An elegant, balanced dram that is well aged in the port barrel. The complexity on both the nose and palate sets the scene for a long and lovely finish. The experiment had yielded good results! (32/40)

      Total Score: 84/100


      Geek Flora: “Yummy! This is an experiment gone right. The finished product is a balanced, elegant drink that is set to please even the most discerning palate.” 


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        Whisky Review #55 – High West Campfire Blend

        This is another American blend – with a twist! The High West Campfire Blend is a mixed of peated blended Scotch (we are not lying), straight bourbon and straight rye. This blend comes about after High West founders, David and Jane Perkins visited the Bruichladdie distillery in Scotland. Drinking the peated whisky produced there made them visualise a blended whisky that transpires both geographic and stylistic borders. With that aim in mind, both of them set to work. The final formula produces a blend of whiskey that is perfect for a campfire or a road trip.

        Interested to find out more? Let’s dive into the review.

        Tasting Notes:

        Colour: Gold
        ABV: 46%

        Nose: The first nose brings notes of hay with high-end furniture lacquer. It is followed by sweet peaches and hints of peat smoke and herb spices. There is also some caramel sweetness hiding in the background. (17/20)

        Palate: The first sip brings peat smoke and honey. The second mouthful brings some cinnamon and green grassy herbs. Hints of sultanas danish can be found floating in the background. (16/20)

        Finish: Long finish that is tannic with some toffee sweetness. (17/20)

        Body: This is perhaps not as well balanced as Michter’s bourbon, but its unique flavours of peated sweetness is an appeal. For whisky drinkers who are not sweet-tooth, this may be the solution to their choice in bourbon. (28/40)

        Total Score: 78/100


        Geek Choc: “I finally found a bourbon with peat! It is an interesting drink and one that I will go back to for my choice of bourbon. Great stuff!”


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          Whisky Review #54 – Michter 10-Year-Old Bourbon

          What do we have here? The first bottle of American bourbon that WhiskyGeeks is sharing! It is momentous which is why we choose to share a bottle which we think is fantastic! This bottle of Michter’s 10-year-old bourbon is never far from our minds when we think about bourbon.

          Let’s dive into the review.

          Tasting Notes:

          Colour: Golden Brown
          ABV: 47.2%

          Nose: The first nose is that of rich maple syrup followed by notes of potpourri with sugary notes. Dried fruits like figs and melon are also prominent. It gets a little rummy as time passes. After 10 minutes, vegetal notes surface as well. (16/20)

          Palate: The mouthfeel is that of red dates candy with menthol. As the liquid stays in the mouth, it gets a little peppery before notes of dark chocolates with raisins surface prominently. As time passes, the palate gets drier and bitter, almost like chewing on toasted cacao beans. (17/20)

          Finish: Long finish that is dry and minty with some fresh oak. (17/20)

          Body: The whiskey may not be the most balanced of drams we have tasted so far, but it has a lot of potentials. The complexity of the bourbon is evident, which is good enough. (30/40)

          Total Score: 80/100


          Geek Choc: “First bourbon that I have drunk and I think it is a fantastic dram! While it may not be the Scotch that I am used to, but it is something that I do not mind as a daily drink. 


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            Whisky is brewing at Manhattan Bar!

            We are back with Edition 3 of What’s brewing at Manhattan Bar and we are sure that most of you are excited to know how the whisky has evolved. After sharing our updates for the past two weeks, we are now ready to share Version 3!

            Sazerac Rye Whisky

            Before we move on to the tasting notes and changes on version 3, let’s recap the previous posts. When the experiment first started, we tried the Sazerac rye whisky as it is and after it was aged in the barrel for six days and we compared the difference in their characteristics. Then last week, we updated the changes in the whisky after 13 days in the barrel. Today, we are bringing you version no. 3. How has the whisky change after 19 days?

            The whisky after 19 days

            After ageing the whisky in the barrel for almost three weeks now, the whisky has changed its characteristics again. The cane sugar, floral and herbaceous notes come back to the whisky. It is now richer and more elegant as compared to version 2 at 13 days. The palate is fuller in flavours, with cinnamon cough syrup with sherry. It almost tastes like a sherry rye whisky now. Spice tingle at the corner of the mouth to complement the sweet and herbaceous notes perfectly. The finish is also fairly long now with sweet cinnamon forming the aftertaste.


            The main difference between version 3 and version 2 is the richer, more intense and elegant flavours found in the whisky. Now it tastes like whisky again with its slightly more complex profile and the reasonably long finish.


            Kilchoman – Islay’s First Farm Distillery


            Picture Credits: Kilchomandistillery.com

            Kilchoman is one of the newest distilleries to be built on Islay in 124 years. Anthony Wills, the founder and managing director of Kilchoman chose Islay because of its reputation for producing exceptional malt whiskies. Kilchoman is one of the smallest distilleries in Islay, producing 120,000 litres of alcohol annually.

            History of Kilchoman Distillery

            Picture Credits: www.kilchomandistillery.com

            Anthony Wills founded Kilchoman in 2005, after running an independent single cask bottling company for eight years. The first distillate of Kilchoman ran in December 2005, and the first cask sealed on 14 December 2005. Anthony noted the interest in limited release single malt whiskies growing from the 1990s through his independent bottling company. He wanted to begin a distillery to cater to the growing demand, but he wanted his distillery to be different. Choosing Islay wasn’t difficult because of his family roots, the fertile land and the plentiful water and peat for drying the malt. Kilchoman is the ultimate farm distillery where Anthony “takes whisky back to its roots”. Whisky distillation mainly began as illegal operations on farms back in the 1700s and 1800s, so “taking whisky back to its roots” means that Kilchoman mirrors the beginning of whisky distillation.

            Building the Kilchoman Distillery

            Rockside Farm is selected because it grows the best malting barley on the island. The buildings on the farmland are also perfect for a distillery. Nonetheless, the real challenge was raising funds for the distillery. Anthony raised £1 million from private individuals, the local board and bank. These individuals and enterprises rose to the challenge when the distillery needed a further £3.5 million in the early years of the distillery. Kilchoman’s success is a direct reflection of the passion and dedication of these people in the community.

            The Whisky-making Process

            The exciting video above explains the whisky-making process at Kilchoman distillery. From barley to bottle, Kilchoman did it all.

            The Whisky from Kilchoman Distillery

            Kilchoman distillery has an impressive range of whiskies despite its relatively young age. Many of their whiskies have won awards, including their flagship Machir Bay, which we have reviewed. Two other note-worthy bottles are the Kilchoman 8-year-old, which we found to be excellent and sophisticated, as well as the Kilchoman Single Cask.

            Kilchoman Distillery Moving Forward

            We believe that Kilchoman will grow bigger and better in the years to come. The young whiskies from this distillery have been a pleasant surprise to the whisky community; so we believe that the older ones that are to come will be satisfying too!


            Whisky Review #53 – Kilchoman Machir Bay

            Picture Credit: masterofmalt.com

            We had a taste of Kilchoman Machir Bay at one of our local bars sometime before we tried the 8-year-old. We would say that this pales in comparison to the 8-years-old on many levels. Nonetheless, it is a dram that bears the typical Kilchoman signature.

            Let’s dive straight into the tasting notes.

            Tasting Notes:

            Colour: Gold
            ABV: 46%

            Nose: Light peat and sea-salt air come first before hot chilli spice springs up unannounced. Once the spice envelops the nose, nothing else is prominent. Even airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes did not bring changes to the nose. (15/20)

            Palate: The first taste is some sweet berries with some light peat. Some sea-salt lingers in the background. However, the chilli spice comes head-on shortly and envelops the whole mouth, blocking out the sweetness of the berries as well as the peat. We tried airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes to see if things change, but besides a more prominent sea-salt note in the background at the beginning, nothing much changes. (16/20)

            Finish: The finish is long with sea-salt and some fruity sweetness that surfaces again after the liquid goes down the throat. The finish remains long after airing the whisky for more than 10 minutes. There is no significant change. (18/20)

            Body: This is not the most well-balanced dram in our opinion. The whisky lacks complexity when compared to the 8-year-old. The overwhelming chilli spice is also a minus point in our opinion as it covers up all the other flavours of the whisky. (28/40)

            Total Score: 77/100


            Geek Flora: “This is quite disappointing as we were expecting a little more complexity and punch from Kilchoman, especially when this whisky has won numerous awards. The overwhelming chilli spice is possibly the culprit. However, what is truly lacking is the complexity of the whisky.”


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              Whisky Review #52 – Kilchoman 8 Years Old

              Kilchoman distillery is the newest distillery on the island of Islay. It is also the first distillery to be built after 124 years of relative inactivity. Anthony Wills, the founder and managing director of Kilchoman distillery, founded the distillery in 2005 and the first distillate ran off the stills in the same year.

              It is one of the smallest distilleries in Islay, producing only approximately 120,000 litres of alcohol annually. What makes Kilchoman stands out is the fact that they grow their barley on site and owns a traditional malting floor.

              The bottle for review today is distilled in 2009 and matured for more than eight years. It is an 8-year-old because of strict Scottish laws on its labelling.

              With such impressive backing, let’s dive into the whisky and see how it holds up!

              Tasting Notes:

              Colour: Pale Gold
              ABV: 46%

              Nose: The nose is full of smoked bacon and aromatic peat smoke at first. Floral notes and soft ripe fruits surface after a short while. After airing for about 10 minutes, the smoke went into the background. Lemon and citrus fruits notes come forcefully to the forefront while the aromatic peat stays in the background. (17/20)

              Palate: Spicy chilli padi assaulted the palate straight on without warning. It almost feels like drinking chilli oil. The peaty smoke is still aromatic but stays in the background. Nothing more is tasted because of the strong chilli spice. After airing for 10 minutes, the spice receded, and ripe fruits notes begin to surface. The peat smoke also wafts into the forefront. The sweetness of the fruits now coats the palate pleasantly. We added one drop of water to the dram to test out how it reacts with water. The effect is great! The spice reduces to reveal sweet white fruits and floral notes immediately. (18/20)

              Finish: The original finish is relatively short with peat smoke and the soft sweetness of citrus fruits. After airing for 10 minutes, the finish becomes more protracted and sweeter. The peat and spice are now very pleasant and lingers in the mouth and throat. After adding a drop of water, the finish extends longer, and the ripe fruits coat the mouth and throat. Gentle spice lingers in the throat for a while. (18/20)

              Body: A well-balanced dram for an 8-year-old with enough complexity. The way the whisky evolves with air and water is fantastic. It is whisky that is worthy of the time spent on it. (35/40)

              Total Score: 88/100


              Geek Flora: “This is one surprisingly good whisky. That initial chilli padi spice was not something I enjoyed, but the evolution of the whisky with air and water was good. I had another Kilchoman previously – the Machir Bay – and it wasn’t the most fantastic. So this young whisky certainly surprises me. Recommended to try!”


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