Google Simply Springbank bearing white labels, from 1998 to 1958

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

August 18, 2014


Simply Springbank bearing white labels, from 1998 to 1958

Ha, another session that doesn’t make much sense, does it.  Let’s start with two private ones. In my experience, Springbank’s private bottlings could and can be rather extreme, that is to say very extractive, possibly because cask owners tend to favour first fill casks when buying new fillings. As they say, ‘it’s a thing’… So let’s have these two private ones today, and then we may drift away a little bit…


Springbank 15 yo 1998/2014 (51.1%, OB, private bottling, fresh sherry, cask #440, 264 bottles) Four stars and a halfColour: gold. Nose: forget about what I have written, this isn’t particularly extractive, it’s even nicely spirit driven, with this typical mineral and oily/waxy Springbankness. There are these whiffs of rubber bands that imply ‘good sulphur’, a little iodine, soot, some engine oil, and then more apple peelings and fresh walnuts. A characterful nose, very Springbanky, and a sherriness that rather hints at fino or manzanilla (which it probably wasn’t.) With water: bicycle inner tube, great! Mouth (neat): impeccably sharp, heavily lemony and sooty, then very mineral and pretty mustardy. No compromise, and this ‘artisan’ profile that Springbank lovers, well, love. Great bitterness and acidy, like in a great bone dry Riesling (not the sweetish j**k one can find here and there.) With water: more marmalade and sweet mustard, with some ginger. Finish: long, with a salty tang. Lemony and peppery aftertaste. Comments: great combo, appropriately rough and wild, yet approachable. SGP:462 – 89 points.

Springbank 21 yo 1989/2012 ‘MW’ (49%, OB, private bottling, hogshead, cask #509, 242 bottles) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: a rounder version of the 1998, with more vanilla and marzipan. Then whiffs of varnish and even nail polish remover. A little more mustard too, green tea, those rubber bands again, the peelings, some linseed oil and, behind all that, touches of this very peculiar sucrosity that I think Springbank had in those years and then lost, maybe not for the worst. Between Ricola and strawberry sweets, perhaps. With water: all gone, it’s now a gentle fruity Springbank, rather on apples, peaches and watermelons. Mouth (neat): oily, rather sweeter again, fruity, with this varnishy side again, and sweets, green tea, vanilla and grass. A very grassy grass, said the other guy. With water: more oak, and a bourbon/rye side. Hey, was there some rye in Springbank’s mash bill at the time? Finish: quite long but a little too drying for my taste, the oak stands out. And it’s not a sweet one… Comments: high quality again, but it’s a tad too much on the oaky side for me, and the 1998 overshadowed it. I also think that vintage was better at Springbank, if I may. SGP:552 - 85 points.

So! And now, how about a short verticale? 1969-1965-1958, how does that sound? Hold on, maybe we’ll rather have the 1965 as the last one, because it’s stronger…

Springbank 1969/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Narsai's Restaurant & Corti Brothers, USA) Five stars There used to be quite a few 1969 Springbank by various bottlers, many just excellent but not all of them have been utterly great in my experience. As you very well know, 92 US proof means 46% vol. No, contemporary bottlers did not ‘invent’ the 46% vol. According to good old Wikipedia, Narsai's used to be a famous restaurant in Berkeley, where many rock and movie stars used to go dining. It doesn’t seem that having their own whiskies did them well, as the restaurant closed in 1986, but the owner, Narsai David, seems to remain a rather famous TV and radio 'chef'. Colour: gold. Nose: ah, metal polish and old coins! It’s really that style, it’s more or less like nosing a bag full of old bits of iron, copper and brass. And then, only in the background, we have various candied fruits, quite some hay, herbal teas (honeysuckle, thyme) and just a spoonful of cigar ashes. Maybe a drop of shampoo? It’s not a trumpeting Springbank at all, maybe thanks to a ‘light’ cask (most were very sherried at the time), but it’s extremely elegant and refined. Love the herbal teas and love the metallic side. Mouth: Jesus Mary and Joseph! I had thought it would be light and even slender, and we have a punchy, very fresh, peppery old Springbank. The bottle and its cap were great because you would think it was bottled just yesterday, as there isn’t the slightest trace of Old Bottle Effect. Should be perfect for detected style nuances wrt modern Springbank, but I’m afraid there aren’t many. Beeswax, paraffin, cooking oil, grass, herbal teas, chlorophyll, bitter oranges, a touch of rubber, grapefruits… Finish: rather long and quite salty, but the grassy bitterness came to the forefront. Not my favourite part. Comments: brilliant and moving –and quite ‘modern’, only the finish was a little less to my liking. SGP:462 - 90 points.

Springbank 1958/1983 (92 US proof, Duthie for Narsai's Restaurant & Corti Brothers, USA) Five stars Another one for Narsai and Corti Bros. You don’t find these vintages under the hoof of a horse, as we say in France – which you could translate as ‘they do not grow on trees’ – go figure... By the way, Corti Brothers still exist, it’s a rather famous Italian grocery store and restaurant in Sacramento, CA. Colour: gold. Nose: oh this is unusual. It’s got the trademark greasiness for sure, but it’s also got unexpected floral scents, maybe even wee whiffs of violets, or maybe even lavender. But nothing to do with the repulsive lavender that could be found elsewhere, this is all very elegant again. Other than that, it’s rather more phenolic than the 1969, but it’s all quite whispering and, yes, refined. A little smoked tea, some light pipe tobacco, a little shoe polish, hints of burnt cake, old chardonnay, a small stalk of celery (perhaps)… All that is hugely complex. Mouth: another world after the 1969, this has more stamina, more individuality, and some flavours are almost nowhere else to be found in my meagre experience. For example, these notes of elderberry syrup, or genepy liqueur, or light absinth… Maybe there’s more OBE here, but what a glory! And the metallic side is here as well, the shoe polish, the walnut oil, the liquorice wood… Please call them, I mean, the anti-maltoporn brigade! Thank you. Finish: quite long and beautifully sappy and mentholated, with more smoke and salt in the aftertaste. Almost an Islay in the aftertaste. Comments: what an incredible series, these Cortis! This 1958 was simply fabulous, and rather smokier than the 1969. SGP:463 - 95 points.

Springbank 1965 (54.5%, Cadenhead, white label, cask #2164, +/-1993) Five stars A superb pedigree, but will this strong sherried oldie stay the course after the stunning 1958? Let’s see… Colour: coffee. Nose: another school, another paradigm. Chocolaty sherry at both its heaviest and its brightest. I cannot not think of a very old Demerara rum, of a cup of ristretto, of a glass of tar liqueur and of a bowl of beef stock. Then chocolate, various herbs (parsley, chives), smoked meat and just whiffs of wood smoke, or is that charcoal? Add a spoonful of artisan strawberry jam. With water (bloody procedure): a magnificent development on aromatic herbs, it’s funny that we’re now finding in this nose what used to be in the 1958’s palate, that is to say wormwood, aniseed, sorrel, celery, absinth… There’s also a magnificent oak, I don’t know why I’m now thinking of the old Willets from the good old US of A. Mouth (neat): I’m tempted to just write ‘same’. Except that there’s even more chocolate than in the nose, more chocolate than in chocolate, in any case. Chocolate filled with orange marmalade and just bits of coffee. Water should further unlock it… With water: you bet it does! Could you please give another buzz to the anti-maltoporn brigade? We’re now finding in the ‘diluted’ palate what was in the ‘undiluted’ nose. Strange echoes, or the fourth dimension? So old Demerara rum, ristretto, tar liqueur, beef stock, more chocolate, various herbs, smoked meat and charcoal. Finish: long, a tad drier as (almost) usual, with some ‘black’ tannins akin to those of Russian tea. And bitter chocolate. Comments: by no means I could decide on which one I liked best, between the 1958 and this 1965. I could quaff three bottles of each and remain undecided. That’s right, and I would be flat dead. SGP:362 - 95 points.

(Heartfelt mercis to Diego, Jeroen, Max and Thomas)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Springbank I've tasted so far







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