Decadent Drinks just released a Secret Speyside Malt 2003 in the Whisky Sponge series. Although the label only mentions a major Speyside distillery, you can recognize J & J sitting next to a barrel. This clearly refers to the semi-official bottlings by Gordon & MacPhail.
According to Decadent Drinks this whisky was distilled in 2003 from an unusual batch of very lightly peated malt. Angus confirmed that the spirit is peated and originally earmarked for blending purposes.
However, previous 2003 examples used ex-Islay casks for maturation. At some point hogshead(s) from an unspecified Islay distillery showed up among a parcel of casks, and unpeated spirit went into them. At least that’s what the tour guides were saying during the 2017 Spirit of Speyside festival. Back then they offered this style as a distillery exclusive. I assume only one of these explanations is correct…
Speyside Single Malt 19 yo 2003 (51,2%, Whisky Sponge 2022, lightly peated, refill hogshead)
Nose: pleasantly light and frisky. Lemons, green apples and melons. Plenty of blossomy notes, with an oiliness underneath. Barley with hints of walnuts and a trace of Thai basil. A light gingery / chalky note underscores the freshness, leading to a barely noticeable earthy smokiness. Then the hint of vanilla custard. Total purity.
Mouth: the same crystal-clear Speyside character. Fresh barley notes and hints of ales. Then assorted orchard fruits (apples, pears, yellow plums) with nice lemon zest, limoncello and a dollop of floral honey. Something of a dry white wine character. Still a lightly chalky / peppery hint, as well as some aniseed and crushed mint leaves. Now I wouldn’t call this peaty, but it does add a faint mineral touch that you wouldn’t expect from this distillery.
Finish: medium long, with lemons and apples, subtle mineral notes and zesty freshness.
This is not a radically unconventional whisky as such, but indeed a bit of an outlier for this distillery. The natural fruity character of this Speysider works nicely alongside the very subtle echoes of peat. Now available from Decadent Drinks.