By Richard Thomas
Scotland’s tradition of independent bottling offers whisky connoisseurs a variety of choices they wouldn’t ordinarily have were they limited only to the brands owned by the companies that actually owns the distilleries. This is true not only of crafty blenders, such as Compass Box, but also in the realm of single malts.
Take this Gordon & MacPhail bottling of Glen Spey, from their Connoisseurs Choice line. Most of what the Glen Spey distillery, a Diageo-owned plant, makes goes into the J&B line of blends. The bottler picked up some made in 2004 stock in bourbon barrels, and bottled it was a 9 year old in 2013. Thus, Gordon & MacPhail Glen Spey 2004 provides a glimpse at a malt whisky that is not usually seen standing alone in a moderately early stage of its development. Early by single malt standards, anyway, because 9 years old is likely a bit above the norm for what actually goes into J&B.
Bottled at 46% ABV, the Glen Spey is nonetheless a very pale whisky. The coloring is so pale, in fact, that the yellow is barely even there and the whisky is very nearly clear.
The nose carried a predominately apple and pear scent, enhanced with notes of toasted cereals and a strain of dry, peppery wood. The latter aspect is one that carried through the entire experience, making this Glen Spey a light, but still quite peppery whisky.
The liquid was light on the palate, with a flavor of soft pears and dry pepper. It’s a simple profile, but well-developed. The sweet side turns to tobacco leaf on the finish, with a touch of ash, this rolling over quickly into a light, peppery tingle.
Gordon & MacPhail Glen Spey 2004 is priced at €46/£41.