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

March 31, 2014


Tasting Springbank from 2004 to 1954

It’s a constant thrill to follow Springbank throughout the decades, and to try to check what’s changed and what has not. Let’s do that again today, over exactly 50 years.

Springbank 9 yo 2004/2013 'Gaja Barolo' (54.7%, OB, 11000 bottles)

Springbank 9 yo 2004/2013 'Gaja Barolo' (54.7%, OB, 11000 bottles) Four stars It seems that this baby's the very last expression in this series, and so that there will be no more. I have to say I've never been a huge fan of these red wine finishings or double maturings. In this case, the whisky spent more than half his life in the Barolo casks, so 5 years out of 9. Colour: pale gold. Rather strange as it’s supposed to be ex-fresh Barolo casks, but probably better like this. Nose: unexpectedly light, with some fresh butter, yellow flowers and touches of tangerines at first nosing, then even pears, guavas and pineapples. I do not find much red wine at this point, let alone a usually rather heavy Barolo feeling. With water: more ‘Springbank’, with quite some raw barley and a little chalk, but all the fruits remain there. Mouth (neat): sweet and creamy, with a lot of spicy European oak and quite some lemon zest, then the same fruits, including tropical ones, as in the nose. Also a little salt and brine, but not a lot of petroly/phenolic notes. With water: the heavy spices got milder, while the fruits got tarter. Maybe more mangos and rhubarb this time, as well as a discreet peatiness. Finish: long, zesty and rather cleaner than the usual young Springbank. Quite a lot of tannins in the aftertaste. Comments: I really like this one. They must have carefully rinsed the casks, or maybe they even steamed them. All for the better in my opinion. SGP:551 - 86 points.

Springbank 15 yo 1996/2012 (56.3%, Douglas Laing, Directors Cut, sherry butt, DL ref 8700, 302 bottles)

Springbank 15 yo 1996/2012 (56.3%, Douglas Laing, Directors Cut, sherry butt, DL ref 8700, 302 bottles) Four stars and a half It seems that Douglas Laing have never bottled much Springbank. Colour: bright amber. Nose: big and very cigary at first nosing. Many tobaccos, cigars, pipe tobacco… And cedar wood, a little porridge, cherry stem tea, then a typical earthiness and quite a lot of bitter orange marmalade. And then metal polish, shoe polish, coal smoke and mown lawn. It’s a big nose, with a lot of presence. With water: more leather, seal blubber, liquorice wood, tobacco… I find all this beautiful and appropriately singular. Mouth (neat): very rich, extremely marmalady, spicy, with quite a lot of icing sugar as well, which keeps it kind of nervous. In the background, this earthiness and touches of salt. Really a big boy! With water: touches of thyme, more tobacco, chlorophyll, ultra-dried raisins and even a touch of smoked salmon. Finish: long, greener, grassier and more peppery. A drop of brine in the aftertaste and more green tannins. Comments: really a big boy! Characterful and flawless. SGP:452 - 88 points.

Let’s try to find two or three older Springbanks now…

Springbank 1975 (43%, The Merchant's Collection, Italy, +/-1998)

Springbank 1975 (43%, The Merchant's Collection, Italy, +/-1998) Five stars I think this series was bottled by Signatory Vintage. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: oh! This is wine indeed, like a wonderful dry chenin by a great maker, such as François Chidaine. A great Vouvray, really. Honeysuckle and lime-tea, then rather pink grapefruits and oranges, then grassier and more mineral notes. Limestone. The only problem is that it tends to lose steam over time, maybe that’s the 43% vol., but other than that, it’s a lovely ultra-fresh and clean Springbank that would rather hint at Rosebank in my opinion. Mouth: the distillery’s typical greasiness is back, together with pepper and a little ginger, as well as notes of ale. Beyond all that, the same fresh fruitiness, maybe rather peaches this time, rather than citrus, although there is some grapefruit again. Finish: not very long, but this blend of pepper and grapefruits works very well. Comments: this one reminds be of the young pale official ‘black labels’. It’s a wonderful old-school spirit, even if it was somewhat on the easier side. SGP:552 - 90 points.

Springbank 34 yo 1967/2001 (40.9%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection)

Springbank 34 yo 1967/2001 (40.9%, Hart Bros, Finest Collection) Five stars We’ve already tried many wonderful 1967s, it was a great ‘vintage’. Colour: light gold. Nose: I think it’s in those years that Springbank was closest to Bowmore, and vice versa. Indeed this bursts with tropical fruits such as mangos, passion fruits and papayas, before some fresh mint and fennel join in, as well as touches of vanilla and acacia honey. It’s not a hugely complex old whisky, but the fruitiness is totally impressive. Very elegant. Mouth: very same notes on the palate, expect that there’s a little white pepper from the oak. Same papayas, oranges, honey and mangos, with just touches of butterscotch and then a little more Springbankness, that is to say more oils and ‘mineral and grassy stuff’. Finish: long given the strength, with a little more grapefruits and some cinnamon and green pepper in the aftertaste. Comments: it’s the relative simplicity that will prevent me from going even higher, but what’s sure is that this baby’s one of the most easily quaffable old Springbanks. SGP:641 - 91 points.

Let’s compare that one with another 1967 that was bottled at the same time…

Springbank 33 yo 1967/2001 (41.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Ref #3370, 204 bottles)

Springbank 33 yo 1967/2001 (41.4%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Ref #3370, 204 bottles) Five stars I’ve already tried this baby two or three times and even scored it, but never managed to write proper tasting notes. Now’s the time. Colour: straw. Nose: there are some obvious similarities with the Hart Bros, but this one is fuller on all accounts. Very fruity but less emphatically so than the HB, and more Springbanky at the same time, that is to say with more linseed oil, pencil lead, grease, tar and hay heap. Cream. Wonderful notes of blood oranges, mangos and papayas, then a little more fresh wood. Broken branches. What a nose! Mouth: perfect. Grapefruits and oranges with many herbs and the same oils that we found in the nose. Perfect body. Tends to become slightly fizzy, with a feeling of Schweppes, but it’s never becoming akin to, well, gin and tonic. Phew! Finish: quite long, clean, very zesty and oily at the same time. Same spritzy feeling again, this could be Scottish champagne. Kind of. Comments: a terrific old Springbank, very fresh and very drinkable. So, if you ever find this oldie, watch out! SGP:642 - 92 points.

And now, a last one that’s a miracle...

Springbank 25 yo 1954/1979 (80°proof, Cadenhead, dumpy)

Springbank 25 yo 1954/1979 (80°proof, Cadenhead, dumpy) Four stars and a half Why a miracle, you may ask? Because there are many fakes around, and because it’s not very easy to put your hands on one that’s genuine, that’s all. But how do you know it’s genuine? First, the label looks right (no weakness in the finer parts of what’s in white) and second, it does taste like old Springbank. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s certainly drier than the 1967s, obviously sootier, somewhat fatter and, above all, well in line with this prestigious series’ style. For example, the Old Bottle Effect is rather metallic and phenolic, and we’re far from anything too, say fruity. So it’s obviously old whisky, certainly old-school, with ashes and coal smoke, rocks, sand, touches of old turpentine and wee whiffs of sea air. A little lemon oil too, waxes, plasticine, shoe polish... All that is really quite superb, but I think it’s not totally mesmerising. Mouth: tastes old indeed, quite peaty for sure, with a long development on orange juice and apple crumble, then more bitter marzipan and a little pepper. There are also touches of old chartreuse, peppermint liqueur, a drop of limoncello and something quite sooty and waxy again. Finish: very long, rather salty, smoky and peppery, with a lemony background. Comments: rather fat spirit, with a perfect oiliness, but I think we’re not quite in the same league as that of the swinging 1960s. Oh well, lets leave these to the collectors! SGP:563 – 88 points.

(Cheers Patrick, Philip and Tom)

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







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