Google Seventeenth Birthday Springbank

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

July 27, 2019


Seventeenth Birthday Springbank

Indeed, Whiskyfun is 17 right today, which suggests that it’ll be of legal drinking age next year! (upon French law). Hurray! What’s more, Angus, who just turned double last week, will join us for this very short, but highly celebratory little session. We’ve chosen Springbank because we’re a bit lazy; we had planned to do half a dozen pre-war Cognacs, but it’s quite warm in Alsace today, at least by Angus’s very Nordic standards. As for Springbank, and as I may have written before, it is the grand cru of Scotland for now, is it not? But first, a little apéritif, chosen randomly...

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (59.3%, Kingsbury, Or Sileis, hogshead, cask #Z382, 92 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (59.3%, Kingsbury, Or Sileis, hogshead, cask #Z382, 92 bottles) Three stars and a half
A low-outturn decanter for Taiwan, not something we’ve never seen before. Colour: anniversary gold. Nose: oh nice! Mineral, coastal, chalky and very honeyed, not something we’ve never encountered with these vintages. Some kind of crazy cocktail made with brine, mead, and dates. Then we have the expected sheep wool, hessian, and this wee earthy/rooty thing, between beet and gentian. Angus is finding more herbal cough medicine. Angus would add: ‘sometimes when you roast root vegetables with a teaspoon of honey, you get this’. We ought to believe him, given his long career as a chef (but in the UK). With water: doesn’t change much, except that water brings a little soap out of the nose, which would come with some metallic touches that weren’t unseen in old Springbanks (we’ll check that later). Mouth (neat): again, a wee bit of floral soap at first, not too much but enough to be discombobulating (Angus speaking, as you may have guessed). Just enough to be distracting. Soapwort? Otherwise still quite earthy, a little tarry, and with good crystallised fruits. With water: more salt and some kind of grassy, punchy olive oil note. The soap disappears a little bit, leave room for some waxier notes. Finish: medium, salty, a little bouillony, still quite earthy and rooty. Comments: not the easiest, nor the most well-defined of all Springbanks, but those were these vintages, as we’ve seen many times before. Still an excellent drop, it just needs water to eradicate that wee soapiness.
SGP:462 – 85 points (Angus 84).

Let’s get serious, you don’t turn 17 every day!

Springbank 12 yo (Proof, Cadenhead, +/-1965)

Springbank 12 yo (Proof, Cadenhead, +/-1965) Five stars
A super rare bottle and comfortably early 1950s distillate. It was bottled by Cadenhead before they became part of the same company, and we’ve tried the 80°proof version a while back and just loved it (WF 94). That one was a bottle that Angus had opened for his 30th birthday, why don’t these guys have their birthdays several times per year? (he did, says Angus). Naturally, ‘proof’ means 100 proof, which means from 56.9 to 57.1% vol. depending on the bottlers’ moods at time of bottling. Only an empirical observation, right. Colour: straw. Nose: I find it extremely pure, firmly mineral (pebble and chalk), very petroly, and full of rapeseed oil (Angus’s favourite) and salty butter. It’s also pretty floral, with gorse flower, perhaps elderberry, before it gets tarter, with UK gooseberries (ha) and lime skin. Perhaps also a very clean, raw cereal character, adds Angus. With water: explodes, bringing out the waxiness. All kinds of polishes, while Angus finds lemon barley water. Just superb. After a few minutes, more soups, such as high-end miso from a former 3-star Japanese restaurant (aren’t they all giving up these days?)…

Mouth (neat): one that stuns you and makes you speechless (sadly, it’s too expensive for your mother in law). It’s so pure and so mineral, with salt, wax, camphor, lemons, ink, paraffin, flint smoke, crushed seashells (Angus), even some slight autolytic yeast notes, umami… Angus says it’s some kind of Frankenstein whisky made with bone dry Riesling – which is a very positive comment, mind you. I for one find it pretty Old-Clynelishy, as it’s got this pure wax and minerals combination. Pure class, that’s all, and not a splinter of wood to be seen anyway. With water: last time a drink left me this speechless, it was with Pichon-Baron 1990. Angus would agree if he wasn’t left speechless as well. Finish: endless, salty, mineral, close to perfection, should perfection exist in this world. Comments: if only Scotland could produce 20 million barrels of this kind! Per year, let’s not exaggerate. Angus says it’s the kind of profile were there’s almost no point trying to describe the flavours (although that didn't stop us trying), because it’s so much about the power, the texture, and the length. Humbling whisky. To me, it brings to mind Giaccone’s Clynelish 12 yo 100 proof rotation 1969.
SGP:463 – 96 points (Angus 96).

Springbank 12 yo (57.1%, OB, for the UK, +/-1980)

Springbank 12 yo (57.1%, OB, for the UK, +/-1980) Five stars
The fine sleuths (that’s us) are out trying to find similarities and differences with the very famous version for Samaroli. The neck labels are the same, but the main label is a bit different here (big S is above the name Springbank this time, and not below), while the back labels are totally different as there’s just a small one stating that it is ‘Matured in sherry wood’. But once again, we’re splitting hairs, with old Springbanks you would just never know. And now, on to the whisky! Colour: darkish amber. Nose: it’s not as easy as with the other 12, which was so pure that the feelings were pretty immediate, while in this very case, there are two forces that, while mingling very well, are working in tandem and may confuse you at times. What I’m trying to say is that this one is less immediate. Angus says that however, the fruit is quite magnificent, with lots of dark fruits, while I’m rather noticing honey-coated pastries, almost Turkish style.

But it keeps changing, and in that sense it’s very close to the Samaroli, which tended to evolve for hours and hours, which makes any tasting session a little complicated to organise (unless you are already divorced). Angus finds dried mushrooms, umami yet again, and orange peel. It keeps throwing up these quite specific tertiary aromas, making it extremely complex. I for one am thrilled with the dried fruits that are running freely here. Prunes, dates, which gives it armagnacqy edge of some sort. Anyway, a true movie malt that tells you many stories. That’s enough Serge, says Angus, who’s found his voice again. With water: H2O brings out the pure Springbankness, and tones down the sherry. So more minerals again, roots, petrol, waxes, camphor, a bit of soot, a peppery quality, our beloved ultra-umami-y miso. Angus, who’s got ten litres in Edinburgh (the address is…) is mentioning Maggi. Asparagus soup. Mouth (neat): it’s rather tight, a closed fist says Angus, but one can feel that it’s the calm before the storm. It’s robust and even rustic and narrow, but you feel these little flashes and sparkles of flavour darting out. I find a lot of fudge and some maple syrup. Fruit scented pipe tobacco. With water: of course. Angus says it’s very resinous and much more broad and complex, and fat in the mouth. Bitter herbal extracts, old chartreuse that’s had its sugar taken away, some kind of herbal, pine-y sauce made with meat stocks, plus this wee glutamate-y side. Angus is finding fennel seeds, and I agree. The problem is that you could go on listing flavours forever. We have to finish this. Finish: extremely long, herbal, bitter, salty, tarry nutty, peppery… Well it’s just got everything. Comments: Springbank’s greatest hits. A shame that we haven’t got an opened Samaroli on the side. I would add that it needs water. H20 multiplies the complexity threefold.
SGP:662 – 93 points without water, 95 with water. (Angus agrees).

Happy birthday, Whiskyfun! Other than that, all is fine in the best of worlds at WF Towers. We might even have a wee malternative anniversary session tomorrow, stay tuned…

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