May 7, 2019
Distillery: Unknown (independently bottled by Alexander Murray & Co)
Type & Region: Scotch, Scotland, UK
Composition: 100% malted barley
Aged: 25 years in ex-bourbon casks
Price: $90 MSRP (750mL), but discontinued in 2017
From the back of the bottle:
“Named for its location bordering the river Spey, Speyside is the true heart of scotch whisky production. While every whisky has its own defining characteristics, Speyside malts are commmonly thought of as Scotland’s most refined whiskies. Kirkland Signature 25 Year Old Speyside Single Malt lives up to the Speyside tradition, having been aged in ex Bourbon casks for over 25 years. The result is a Scotch that is amber in color with sweet aromas of polished wood, medium bodied, with hints of whipped cream, leaving a smooth, long oaky finish. An amazing antique Speysider.”
Kirkland Speyside Single Malt 25 year is another Costco Scotch independently bottled by Alexander Murray & Co, and the third that I have reviewed. There are rumors about which Speyside distillery provided the whiskey, but no one can say for sure. Without a specific distillery name, the big selling point was the $90 price tag for a 25-year old Scotch, considered super-luxury.
With comparable name brands such as Glenlivet and Macallan costing over $500, $90 was an absurd deal. Unfortunately, the 25 year was discontinued in 2017. I believe it was one of the oldest Kirkland Scotches that they sold at the time, with the 20-year sherry-finished version taking over that mantle in 2019. For this review, I let it sit for 20 minutes before diving right in.
The nose is very interesting and pleasant, full of dark honey covered in pineapple and grapefruit juice with some vanilla and berries. It’s kind of syrupy and sweet like a pina colada. There’s a very developed and defined fruitiness that can’t be missed. Underneath the fruit-forward nose are faint hints of oak, wood spices, and alcohol that add a refreshing brightness, but always let the fruit be the star. With all the berry notes, Kirkland Speyside 25 smells like it was finished in sherry, but it wasn’t.
Swirling brings out the bright honey and fruit sweetness. It’s a sorbet-like blend of sweet tropical fruits, citrus, and cherries that remind me a lot of the incredible Ben Nevis 18 that was aged in a sherry cask. There’s also underlying vanilla ice cream and flowers with a light walnut-type nuttiness and a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. Again, there’s virtually no alcohol to get in the way. It’s so light that I could smell it all day and my nose wouldn’t become overwhelmed. Even at 40%, the scents are very well developed, but it could have been so much more at 46% or 50%.
Kirkland 25 starts with a round and well-defined savory fruit sweetness of honey, berries, and citrus followed by some nutmeg, clove, and cocoa that provide additional depth. No surprise, but the alcohol is incredibly light, as if it’s not there. With “chewing”, honey, berries, oranges, and savory dates wash over my palate. It’s very much a fruit-forward Scotch with light to moderate spiced cocoa and candied ginger added to the blend. Within all of that, I also taste a pinch of cinnamon and cloves with a slightly grassy and floral quality, adding to Scotch’s very enjoyable nectar-like flavor.
Fruit nectar sweetness with a little rind and gently charred wood lead the finish, fading into more wood, cocoa, and cinnamon. “Chewing” brings more of the same noticeable sweetness that quickly fades into lingering wood, cloves, and nutmeg with faint honey, grass, cocoa, and cherries. While light initially, the wood tannins, nutmeg, and cloves build on each sip. It’s all quite interesting, but terribly held back by low proof that dulls the otherwise excellent flavors.
Kirkland Speyside Single Malt 25 Year may not be as loud or bold as I like, but it’s still a very good Scotch that I would happily drink while it lasts. The scents and flavors are very well developed and interesting, reinforcing its maturity, but extra proof would have added the punch it needed to elevate it to near “Top Shelf+” status. At 40%, you have to take your time to make sure you don’t miss every nuance, because there are a lot of them. Kirkland 25 is by far the best Kirkland Scotch I’ve had, and one of the most expensive as well. It’s so easy and nice to drink.
In a coup, this $90 Kirkland 25 Year Speyside Single Malt is much better than the $450+ Glenlivet 25, which has a legendary brand name. The Kirkland 25 has more deep and complex fruit flavors that pop, while the Glenlivet 25 is dull in comparison and a real letdown. Even with all the positive things I have to say about the Kirkland 25, I wouldn’t buy another bottle even if it were still available. It’s very good, but not quite $90 good. For $90, Glenlivet Nadurra or Aberlour A’bunadh among others are better choices.