Google A Happy New Year, with… Springbank!

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

January 1, 2016



A Happy New Year, with…

Can you mention one distillery that everyone just loves, that’s never tried to bully anyone, that believes in tradition (given that tradition is just the point where a product became so perfect that you just couldn’t enhance it anymore), that remains true to its style and personality, and that keeps its prices kind of fair? Of course, that’s Springbank! A good reason to select a few Springbanks for our first session of 2016. Oh, and to add a little spice, we’ll do it randomly, without any ideas of verticale, horizontale, ascending strengths, or else. Because this is a free website (what what what?)

Springbank 1950-1978/1996 solera (+/-45%, solera firkin, demijohns) Five stars A very moving story. A 50l firkin was first filled in 1964 with 9 gallons of Springbank 1950 from Eaglesome of Campbeltown, by a Scottish gentleman who wished to remain anonymous, then topped up on various occasions with vintages such as 1958, 1960, 1962… to 1978.

In 1996 the content of the firkin was transferred to 6 demijohns, which were, in 2015, decanted into a carboy at our friends’ Dornoch Castle. This is a sample of that vatting, which will be bottled eventually. I just cannot wait… Colour: chestnut honey. Nose: this is so plainly and utterly old Springbank! It’s got this greasy minerality that can still be found in contemporary bottlings, then a leafy smokiness (garden bonfire), then plenty of roasted nuts as well as a touch of old oloroso. It’s also got the typical leather and sulphur – we’re not talking about sulphur candles here, at all and a blend of pipe tobacco and chocolate cream. Superb! Mouth: they say only approx 45% vol., but it feels more like 50. Starts with some pepper, some ginger, and some orange zests, and develops more on chestnut honey, pinesap, tobacco, leather, and a fantastic liqueury bitterness, as can be found in Cynar and Fernet Branca. Maybe even in Aperol ;-). The oranges are ‘singing back’ after a while, making the whole fruitier, but always appropriately heavy. Finish: long and graciously bitter, with an oaky signature that’s not quite too oaky. And some salt and pepper too, as in Springbank ;-). The pepper is lingering on your tongue. Comments: magical story, magical whisky, a true work of love by a dedicated whisky enthusiast who was already around… In 1964! Prof Saintsbury would have approved – and so do we. SGP:372 - 92 points.

Springbank 12 yo (80° proof, Cadenhead's, 1960s)

Springbank 12 yo (80° proof, Cadenhead's, 1960s) Five stars That’s right, this is the distillery’s official label, but it’s well an old bottling by Cadenhead of Aberdeen that was done way before Springbank bought Cadenhead, of course. Colour: white wine. Nose: aaah… I’m a chick finding its mother again. Rarely has raw, natural, virtually unoaked malt whisky been so immediately impressive. You just have to like limestone, fresh rubber, coal dust, paraffin, soot, lemon, and leatherette in your whisky. We’ll be quick, rather bizarrely, this baby reminds me of the latest Kilkerran bourbon. As if they had tried to replicate old-school Springbank… Dear Springbank, was that what you’ve tried to do? If you did, success success! Mouth: astoundingly clean, yet oily, mineral, yet lemony, almost fat, yet bright and ‘jumpy’, massive, yet fresh, sappy and resinous, always with these lovely gingery touches (ginger can be either great or a nightmare in whisky, IMHO), and a smoky sootiness combined with iodine and a few medicinal touches. Mineral camphor, does that exist? It’s an exceptional palate, everything’s perfect. Finish: long, magically herbal, a little bitter again (like the old solera), very mineral, and marvellously lemony. Which, naturally, adds zing and freshness to the finish. I think too many distillers don’t care much for the finishes of their whiskies, if I may. Comments: I’m afraid I should have started with the younger ones. Yeah, go innovate with anything related to whisky! SGP:463 - 94 points.

Springbank 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1985)

Springbank 12 yo (43%, OB, +/-1985) Five stars Twenty years forward, and a true official 12. Note the lower strength, most of these Springers were usually bottled at 46% vol. if I’m not mistaken. Colour: straw. Nose: very different. It’s also got this mineral side, the waxes and the paraffin, or the sootiness, but it hasn’t got any fruits this time, not even lemon. So it’s rather drier, leafier for sure, with plenty of fresh hazelnuts. I don’t think I’ve ever found this much fresh hazelnut in any whisky. It’s no big aroma, but when there’s plenty, it feels. More and more chalk after that, and a little beach sand. Perhaps one drop of wine vinegar, which goes well in this context. Mouth: oh yes, same fatness, same oiliness, same bigness. It’s to be wondered if Springbank couldn’t bottle at 12% vol., just like wine, and remain very good. Grape pip oil, some lemon this time, some chalk again, soot, angelica, gooseberries that kind of lift it, and this sooty smokiness again. Superb again, perhaps just a tad less ‘wow’ than its older bro. Finish: long, with more pepper and lemon, and always the same sooty/waxy smoke. And this salt in the aftertaste. What a distillate! Comments: glorious, as expected. An essential bottle (I’m saying that because you may still find one of these, while I’m afraid the older version is, well, introvabile). SGP:463 - 92 points.

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015)

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2015) Five stars That’s right, a contemporary bottle for a change. Colour: straw. Nose: this baby didn’t benefit from some long bottle ageing/resting, obviously, so it’s still got a few rougher edges, but the similarities are totally astounding. I do not know of any other distillery that managed to keep and cherish its DNA this well, beyond back stories about wrong casks and such. So it’s obviously a little simpler, but the core is there. Limestone, soot, bitter herbs, paraffin (which can be a flaw but not here), beach sand, these rubbery touches that are so funny in Springbank… In short, love this too. And it’s cheaper ;-). Mouth: don’t they push the smoke these days? Because I find this baby very smoky. All the rest is perfect as well. Lemons, limes, bitter herbs, soot, wax, you name them. I’m very fond of this style, but that’s no secret. I think any whisky club in the world should erect a statue to the glory of Springbank. Finish: sadly. Comments: this is refreshingly void of any vulgar oak influence. But they could mature Springbank in plastic tanks, would that be allowed, that would work as well. Exceptional spirit-driven whisky. I’m sad I’m publishing this in 2016, it could have been a strong contender to some kind of Best Bang For Your Buck Award 2015. But one last thing, this is no commercial ‘consensual’ whisky, so try a sample or something before you rush out and buy a bottle. Unless you already know that Springbank can be glorious. SGP:452 - 91 points.

Springbank 21 yo 1993/2015 'Brothers Reserve' (49.4%, Lockett Bros, bourbon hogshead, cask #470, 235 bottles)

Springbank 21 yo 1993/2015 'Brothers Reserve' (49.4%, Lockett Bros, bourbon hogshead, cask #470, 235 bottles) Four stars and a half Ah, an indie! Colour: white wine. Nose: I don’t think longer aging did change much, this is as bright and fresh as the official 10. And as sooty, paraffiny, and waxy. There’s also this cool ‘chemical’ thing, is that leatherette? Is that Bakelite? Having said that, it’s also got a little more raw herbalness. Cut grass, perhaps. Or cactus? Mouth: so good, so good. Bizarrely, it’s a little simpler, and harsher than the 10 OB, and that’s not just the higher strength, but other than that, it unfolds of grassy smoke, oils, lemon peel, and just lemon juice. I find it extremely fresh. The strength is perfect. Finish: long, sooty, a tad pungent-like-it-should-be, with a mineral, lemony, and slightly mineral aftertaste. Some pepper too. Comments: it’s the rawness that will prevent me from going up to 90, but we’re close. Natural whisky at its best. SGP:362 - 89 points.

And a last one…

Springbank 14 yo 2000/2015 (49%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, New Zealand whisky cask, 234 bottles)

Springbank 14 yo 2000/2015 (49%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, New Zealand whisky cask, 234 bottles) Four stars and a half Many questions here. First, is a Springbank bottled by Cadenhead an official bottling or an independent one? Discuss… And second, haven’t we seen very few Scotches that were matured in whisky casks from other countries? Nah, not talking about bourbon barrels, of course. I guess they reused one of these casks of Lammerlaw that they had in the early 2000s, but I could be wrong. Bah, let’s try it. Colour: white wine. Nose: oh yeah, there, some very obvious Kiwi notes, and this thing that really reminds us of the southern hemisphere… I’m joking! It’s some pure, rather more austere than others, stony and grassy Springbank. There’s a little more porridge (NZ porridge?) and whiffs of damp raw wool, then muesli and lemon squash, with a wee smokiness. Rather coal smoke. And perhaps turnips? Celeriac? Uncooked, no need to say. Definitely one from the countryside. Mouth: indeed, it’s very austere, sharp, tense, angular, and sooty. And smoky (rather wood smoke this time). Grasses, bitters, stones aplenty, with sour apples as well (which we like)… It’s the austere sharpness that works here, this is some uncompromising whisky. Perhaps not one for the mother-in-law, unless you ant to get rid of her. Finish: quite long, with a smidgen of sweetness. Candy sugar, perhaps? But really smidgens, it remains austere. Nice bready aftertaste. And some grapefruits too! Comments: this baby loses you at times, as if it was only 95% Springbank (yeah, that’s smart, S.), but it’s my favourite style of whisky anyway. Did Richie McCaw try it? SGP:362 - 88 points.

As you could see, I made sure that the new year started well! So happy New Year! We’ve got many more rare, funny, or interesting whiskies up our sleeves. So, as they say in free jazz, stay tuned!

(Many thanks to Phil from Dornoch, Angus, and Tomislav, guys do you rock!)

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






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