Speyside whiskies are among Scotland’s lightest, sweetest single malts. Age often brings a bit more body and the profusion of heavily sherried whiskies from the region exhibit superb power. Though a comparatively small appellation, Speyside has, by some distance, the vast majority of Scotch whisky distilleries. Indeed there are eighty-four working distilleries, including the world’s best-sellers: The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant and The Macallan.
The Speyside style has altered over time, a traditional Speyside single malt would be more akin to a Highland whisky, with a definite robustness and a marked peat. More recent expressions are lighter, sweeter whiskies; honeyed and fine. Lacking the peat of Islay or the Highlands, the ozone and salinity of coastal malts or the dry, perfume of the Lowlands; Speyside whiskies are sweet and subtle. There is however, no hard and fast rule as to the characteristics of Speyside whisky, for more than half of Scotland’s distilleries are to be found in this sub-region of the Highlands.
Older variants, particularly from those powerhouse distilleries: Macallan and Glenfarclas are often well-sherried, thick drams. There is a tendency to steer away from heavily finished whiskies, indeed most are matured in either ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. A heavily sherried Speyside single malt to be the perfect companion to a medium-bodied cigar, and a particularly well-aged expression can be the utmost of postprandial swigs.
Some of the light, youthful Speyside whiskies, perhaps from Allt-á-Bhainne or Glen Elgin, are charming and delightful. There is a low mineral content in the waters of Speyside, lying on the Grampians, with their granite content proffering soft waters. As a rule, the whiskies are either very low or totally devoid of peat, there is not a great abundance of it locally, though it has been used with some successful results in the cases of BenRiach and Tomintoul’s Ballantruan respectively.