Although little-known in the UK, Speyburn is the sixth most popular single malt in the US thanks to the efforts of owners Inver House, who bought the distillery from United Distillers (later to become part of Diageo) in 1991.
United Distillers, had bottled Speyburn as a 12 year-old for their Flora and Fauna range - this bottling is now very rare and has become something of a collector's item. The standard expression now is a 10 year-old, although older official bottlings have also been released. Independent bottlings are few and far between.
Tim F (with additional info from Ingvar Ronde's Malt Whisky Yearbook, Michael Jackson's Malt Whisky Companion and Misaka Udo's The Scotch Whisky Distilleries)
From the website:
Speyburn Single Highland Malt Scotch whisky was first produced on the 15th December 1897, the diamond jubilee year of Queen Victoria. To make sure that whisky was distilled in the jubilee year, men worked through the night in a heavy snow storm in a still house without windows, managing to bond one single butt of 1897 Speyburn.
Although no longer in use, Speyburn is the only distillery in Scotland to retain 'drum maltings', and is also one of the very few distilleries to use traditional 'worm tubs' to condense the spirit vapour in to liquid, adding complexity to the final product.
Situated in the famous Speyside region of the Scottish Highlands, Speyburn is the only distillery to use the fresh spring water of the Granty Burn, one of the major tributaries of the River Spey. It is this soft Speyside water that is acknowledged as a distinctive characteristic in the unique flavour and bouquet of this classic single malt.
Often described as the most photographed distillery in Scotland, Speyburn Distillery sits nestling in a valley on the northern edge of Rothes. There is a timeless feel and an air of serenity - the type of place whisky was meant to be made.
The distillery has a compact layout, due mainly to the geography of the land. The architect, Charles Doig, designed the distillery using height as opposed to width. The unique drum maltings occupy a smaller area than a conventional floor maltings and other buildings, including the cask warehouses, are on two or three levels.
Very little has changed over the last 100 years with most of the original features still intact - indeed still being used, although the maltings are no longer in production. Once milled the grist and hot water is transferred to a traditional rake mash tun from which 25,000 litres of wort is pumped into Douglas Fir wash backs. The still room has never been extended and houses a single pair of stills. True to form the alcohol vapours are condensed using over 100 metres of copper pipe emerged in cold water worm tubs.
Although 80% of Speyburn is tankered away to be filled at Inverhouse's headquarters at Airdrie, the remaining spirit is filled into cask and stored in one of two warehouses for single malt use. Both have two floors and use wooden rails and tables to store casks two and three high.
Character and Style of Speyburn
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