Google Whiskyfun is eighteen

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

July 28, 2020


July 28, 2020, Whiskyfun is eighteen
I'm really glad that Angus accepted to pen down something for us today. Our Scottish friend has been an invaluable asset to this wee website for quite a few years already, thanks mucho Angus, over to you... - Serge




Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
The ‘fun’ line between innocence and cynicism
Serge has asked me to write something about Whiskyfun for its 18th birthday. So, in true ‘Whiskyfun disclaimer’ fashion: please be aware that I am writing this more from the perspective of a whisky lover and a ‘fan’ of Whiskyfun - less as a ‘late era’ contributor.


So, 18 years of age! In whisky terms this website is now entering the ‘mature’ bracket. Whereas in human years it is finally legally allowed to buy itself a celebratory pint. Let’s just call the nearly 19000 tasting notes for whiskies, rums, Cognacs, brandies and other spirits ‘practice’.



What’s for sure is that Whiskyfun is now old enough to incite pause for thought, when we hear ’eighteen years’ most of us can cast our minds back to what we were doing (I was in school!) and wonder what on earth happened to those intervening years that evaporated like so much angel’s share through the pores of daily life.



Much has changed since 2002: we live our lives now in an almost constant state of exhaustion from the relentlessness of upheaval. Society, politics, the environment - this pandemic. We have grown used to impermanence, flux and a sense that if there was a time before all this of stability, continuity and consensus, it was real all too briefly - an oasis of time now ticked dry. The world we live in today is not the one into which Whiskyfun was born back in 2002 - something as true of whisky as it is of the more serious aspects of our lives.



2002 was still firmly in Whisky's ‘age of innocence’, an era that is glanced back at in a convoluted gush of nostalgic adulation, jealousy and a pinch of revisionism. Perhaps what is most important, and often easily lost amidst the clattering virtue signaling and grouchiness of much contemporary whisky discourse, is that it was a time when the internet itself still smelled fresh. It was populated but more sparsely so; still a frontier that held promise, excitement and a sense of optimism.



What you might define as ‘Phase One’ of Whisky’s collision with the internet began in 1995 with Johannes Van Den Heuvel’s Malt Madness and the various scattered ‘forums’ and ‘conversations’ between people who gravitated around this fascinating drink. Whiskyfun (which let us not forget originated on Malt Madness), I would argue, blew the whistle on ‘Phase 2’.



Serge with Johannes Van Den Heuvel (circa 2004)

Whereas Malt Madness pro-actively started a process of connecting threads and joining dots, Whiskyfun instead reflected a culture that was still fledgling and ill-defined. It was conversational and irreverent in tone, you could be eavesdropping on some whisky nerds giggling about whisky and jazz in a pub - writing in English with a French ‘accent’.  


It formalised tasting notes but kept the language of description direct and unfussy. It popularised, and to a degree standardised, scoring as part of a shared system of communication and maintained a regular and reliable stream of meaningful content.



I would argue that the effects of this were not immediately apparent. The early years of Whiskyfun were very much characterised by jokes about bottles of 1976 Ardbeg being laughably expensive at £170 and the adventures of a posse of pals called the Malt Maniacs. In 2002 an Ardbeg wasn’t so profoundly more hallowed than an Ardmore, a position we are almost pre-conditioned to reflexively assume today.



While Whiskyfun undoubtedly reflected a culture, it wasn’t long before it also began to inform that same culture. As the style of writing and recording notes and scores became slightly more detailed, defined and elaborate - the SGP being introduced in November 2007 was, I would argue, a pivotal shift - so the increasing readership began to take notice of these ‘reviews’ and include them in their considerations about whisky. And - let’s not kid ourselves here - their purchases too.



Perhaps more than any other site Whiskyfun played a key role in proliferating knowledge and establishing a consensus about whisky that was independent of, and divergent to, the officially sanctioned industry narratives of the time. It is the medium of the internet that has shattered and reshaped whisky and its associated culture. However, if high speed broadband, social media, online auctions, new platforms of exchange and immediate communication are the techno-nervous systems that rewired us all, Whiskyfun’s content provided some timely lifeblood to flow throughout these new systems.



There are criticisms to be made, and plenty who have made them, that Whiskyfun scores carry silly weight or that it helped inflate the desirability of certain types of whisky into distantly isolated financial reach. However, there are some key considerations to bear in mind about these critiques. Firstly, Serge did not set out to achieve an end goal with Whiskyfun - it is a site devoid of ‘agenda’ in that sense. The power of this ‘wee’ website is that it has never forgotten the other, most important, part of its name: fun! It remains deeply uncommercial, it has never become more than a hobby for its creator, and it still manages not to take itself or its subject too seriously - while also maintaining a strong level of consistency in its critical approach to spirits. Crucially, it was also always honest about what it found in the glass while never making any presumptions to express some kind of absolute ‘truth’ about any particular spirit.



Indeed, given the lurching and disquieting world of 2020 we now live with, there is power and comfort in the unchanging, low-fi permanence of Whiskyfun - both in its content and aesthetic. Because it remains, give or take a few additions and tweaks, at heart the same as it was in 2002, it is understandably a source of daily amusement, reliability and joy to whisky lovers across the world. It states its opinions clearly, does not concern itself with whisky fashions - in fact I suspect Serge would argue it remains deeply un-fashionable in many of its opinions - and continues to revel in an unashamed love of the one thing that still unites us all. Which in 2020 is sadly the real rarity.



In 2020, Whiskyfun’s more revolutionary capacity is arguably complete, or certainly finite. It is penalised by Google due to its refusal to ‘play ball’ with today’s web rules but remains sustained by a growing and loyal audience of whisky literate readers. I suspect the extent of the effects of its upheaval are pretty limited in nature from here on out.



Today’s whisky world is one of endless debates about what ‘type’ of scoring system is better. Moaning continually about the dreaded ‘flippers’ and prices - sometimes with good reason; other times with blatantly congealing jealousy. In 2002 Japan was on the ascendancy and there was a lot of chatter about how Scottish single malts were naff compared to what they used to be - a situation arguably inverted in 2020. Some of Whisky’s narratives are cyclical, while others linear - the topic of terroir evolves in ways I haven’t the space to touch on here. On one hand, whisky in 2020 exists in an era of profound cynicism. But on the other there are better and more deeply considered things being written and discussed about whisky than ever before. Unsurprising when you consider just how much bigger whisky’s world and population of admirers is now. You can sense it is a subject and a product on the cusp of something brighter and better in my view.



I believe Whiskyfun has played an important role in the evolution of whisky culture and community over the past 18 years. If it has a role to play in the coming decade, in my view it is not one of leadership, but of reflection again. To try to shut out the noise for a few quiet moments, to inhale and to think deeply with an open mind about what these many new spirits are telling us. What messages are being smuggled through by new generations of keenly inquisitive minds that take issue with homogenisation and mediocrity and demand something better of this great drink - wherever it is being made. Whiskyfun, after 18 years, has nothing to prove. But as long as whisky matters to enough people and as long as we love whisky, it will always have something to say. Hopefully it will continue to say those things with depth of thought, but only a pinch of seriousness.



At least, that’s what I think anyway. Serge may disagree entirely. - Angus






And on that note: battle mode initiated!





WF 18th Anniversary Mega Session
From Alsace and Edinburgh at the same time, a true cross-border session so probably a big, costly mess. You shoot first, Monsieur l'Ecossais!




Serge has suggested we do a kind of ‘Springbank battle’, where we will retaliate back and forth with different examples. He also then proceeded to tell me he had mostly samples of amazing old rarities he picked up at the Whisky Show Old & Rare. So, please excuse me while I just slip into my Kamikaze officer’s uniform…






Springbank 14 yo 2003/2017 (57.1%, OB for 30th Anniversary of Cadenhead Edinburgh shop, ex-Guadeloupe rum barrel, 186 bottles)

Springbank 14 yo 2003/2017 (57.1%, OB for 30th Anniversary of Cadenhead Edinburgh shop, ex-Guadeloupe rum barrel, 186 bottles)
This seems like a good jumping off point. I admit Guadeloupe rum is a tad scary, but this being full term maturation it could be ok… Colour: pale gold. Nose: slightly austere at first nosing, grass, chalky medicines, hessian, sunflower oil and some encroaching mechanical notes like WD40 and bicycle chains - I suppose that must be the rum speaking. It’s not jarring or loud in any way which is good news I think. With water: easy, lean, mineral, lightly medical and feeling all quite oily and gently coastal. Keeps this slight chalky edge which retains freshness well. Mouth: plenty coastal Springbank juiciness! Very oily, lemony, briny and fatty but also still with these medicinal and mechanical accents. I think in this instance the rum has reached a kind of ‘full integration’ which is great news and works very well. Some cactus, sandalwood, salted honey, brine and camphor. With water: indeed, the oiliness is more emphatic now. Superb salinity, pepperiness (almost Taliskerish) minerals, some herbal infused olive oil, and actual olives in brine too. Some salty liquorice and more sandalwood. Wonderfully fresh, vivid and coastal. Finish: Long and focussed on medicines, gauze, soft tarry notes and wee mechanical things like brake fluid or oily old rags. Comments: I have to admit, this was something of a surprise. I had it around 88 but then water really propelled it forwards. Definitely bring your pipette to this party! And the rum is really pristinely integrated, great and worthy selection for an Edinburgh whisky institution.
SGP: 463 - 90 points.




Serge: ha-ha-ha, Springbank in rum? Like that old ‘Green’ Springbank? Well played but actually, I was having some recent, ‘simpler’ and ‘purer’ Springbanks as well, it was just a little trick in the spirit of Whiskyfun… Like this baby from their core range…


Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020)

Springbank 10 yo (46%, OB, +/-2020) Five stars
Not too sure this one was bottled in 2020 but if it wasn’t, that would be late 2019. Utterly loved the 10 last time I tried it three or four years ago, that’s why we’re having this one now, in this unusual context ;-). Colour: light gold. Nose: A fireplace the next morning, full of ashes, tar and soot, before it would gear towards manzanilla-y aromas, that is to say mustard, green walnuts and seawater. Would please pass the langoustines? The oak was not inert either, as we’re also finding touches of yellow curry, vanilla, and a wee blend of caraway and anise seeds. Mouth: wonderfully salty, coastal, ashy, sooty and waxy. It’s a rough style, as always, one from the countryside. Lemon and bitter orange, tar, liquorice, mustard, ink and plasticine, and a whole bag of fresh walnuts on your tongue. Quite some cinchona too, tonic water, bitters… It’s not impossible that these newer batches would display a little more active oak than before, not too sure. Finish: rather long, dry, still sooty, salty and ashy, rather with walnut skins and green peppercorn in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely lovely lovely, perhaps just a notch less ‘blade-y and vertical’ as previous batches (circa 2015).
SGP:362 - 90 points.




Ok, ok, it appears I have been lulled into a ‘false sense of purity’ (Angus, quit while you’re behind!) Let’s see what a logical next step could be…






Springbank 18 yo (46%, OB, rotation 2019)

Springbank 18 yo (46%, OB, rotation 2019)
I’m told this batch is composed of 88% bourbon and 12% ex-port wood. Colour: bright straw. Nose: quite elegant at first, wet rocks, sheep wool, carbon paper, sunflower oil. Also this familiar, gentle medicinal profile which includes crushed aspirin, gauze, bandages and rather subtle embrocations. I’d also add that it’s nicely mineral and fresh. Mouth: a little more grizzly than the nose suggested, some rather farmyard qualities and then it swings back towards honey, heather beer, miso, ink, waxes and mineral oil. Extremely easy and I would say pretty well balanced. Lots of medicine again, more cooking oils - olive oil now - gentle notes of seawater, herbal ointments, putty and hessian. Finish: medium and with a lot of medical, mineral and coastal flavours in the aftertaste. Comments: Perhaps not as thrilling as previous batches but this is still devastatingly confident whisky. And I love that it really feels like ‘pure Springbank’. Blind I wouldn’t have spotted any port lurking within. I think something the good folk at Springbank don’t get enough credit for is their skill at putting these kinds of batches together and balancing these different wood types.
SGP: 562 - 90 points.




I see, so we want something pure, but yet with a little seasoning. You could, indeed, achieve that by adding a small proportion of ex-sherry, Port or Madeira wood, but you could also just use a good old refill sherry cask. Also simpler when you’re into single casks!


Springbank 19 yo 2000/2020 (50.8%, The Whisky Kingdom for Wu Dram Clan, refill sherry hogshead, cask #669, 249 bottles)

Springbank 19 yo 2000/2020 (50.8%, The Whisky Kingdom for Wu Dram Clan, refill sherry hogshead, cask #669, 249 bottles) Five stars
I’ve heard this was good, and I hear like a wolf! (yeah yeah, S.) Colour: straw. Nose: when it all starts will olive oil and brake fluid, you know you’re on the right train, knowing that this is a Springbank that’s actually a tad ‘Longrowy’, so rather more petroly, chalkier and smokier than usual. Add a handful of barley and one of beach sand at high tide, plus the usual raw wool (or old tweed jacket), and there. With water: rather tenser and earthier, also more on dough, ink, tar… A reaction that’s not unseen with clean Springbanks. Mouth (neat): superb, starting with these wee ‘chemical’ notes that always work (but only in Springbank ;-)), plus limoncello, paraffin, grist, dough and cracked pepper. It’s a little ashy too. With water: gets rather bitterer. More paraffin, beer, soot, and certainly more leaves. Perhaps not the best swimmer ever, better keep it neat. These whiskies are hard to reduce properly anyway. Finish: long, rather fat and oily, with some bitter wax, lemon marmalade, and the usual sootiness. Comments: terrific Springbank, as expected, but keep your water for watering the geraniums.
SGP:363 - 90 points.




The amazing Serge Valentin: eyes of the earthworm! Ears of the cuttlefish! Speed of the Sea Anemone and smells like a badger! (You can get away with more in ‘virtual’ sessions when you’re not ‘within reach’ I believe.)  Anyway, seeing as we are talking sherry and single cask, let’s stick with the officials and try this one…






Springbank 24 yo 1994/2019 (46.2%, OB for UK, sherry hogshead, 294 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1994/2019 (46.2%, OB for UK, sherry hogshead, 294 bottles)
This one caused quite a stir when it came out I believe, although I think that was more to do about the predictable scramble for bottles and resulting tsunami of disappointment that ensued. Anyway… Colour: amber. Nose: expressively earthy and full of toasted nuts at first. Peanut brittle, waxed canvass, sultana, mushroom broth, camphor, linseed oil and soy sauce. I have to say, this is impressively fresh, clean and full of old school, sherried richness that you don’t find too often with Springbank’s sherry casks. Lots of lean mineral qualities and motor oil emerge in time, while also getting more towards leaf mulch and tobaccos. Very impressive! Mouth: ah ok, here’s where it falls down a bit I think. Feels a little too faded and ‘light’, rather a lot of balsamic, stewed fruits, some light acidity, a few fruity medicines and strawberry scented pipe tobacco. Very nice but you feel it has been captured on the way down rather than on the way up. Still nicely nutty and a bit chocolatey and overall very clean and still showing some lovely earthy qualities. Finish: medium, earthy, nutty, mulchy, oily and with more wee notes of old vinegars and herbal wines. Comments: The nose was gorgeous, but I feel the palate crumbled slightly. Now, it’s still a very quaffable old Springbank. But I would say one for the tumbler rather than the copita. Serge takes the lead…
SGP: 652 - 87 points.




Crikey, apparently our whisky lemur up there in Edinburgh is trying to play it sneaky, laying a weaker card on the table to try to make us lower our guard. But I too have read The Tortoise and the Hare, so not so fast Mr. Angus....


Springbank 22 yo 1995/2018 (44.3%, Svenska Eldvatten, refill sherry hogshead, cask #498, 137 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1995/2018 (44.3%, Svenska Eldvatten, refill sherry hogshead, cask #498, 137 bottles) Four stars
Our good friends in Sweden are always releasing very interesting bottlings, and when I use the word ‘interesting’ that’s not political correctness. Colour: dark gold. Nose: what, carrots and cinnamon? That’s very unusual indeed, we’re almost wandering throughout the Atlas mountains. Then gentian, wine acidity, cigars, umeshu (Japanese plum wine, more or less) and turnips/celeriac. At times this feels almost like cold vegetable soup seasoned with natural vanilla. Very interesting indeed, but curious about the palate, no need to say… Mouth: loads of fun in there, although the taster would sometimes wonder ‘why?’ and ‘how come?’ More carrot cake, IPA beer, celeriac and turnip, even eggplant, sour wines, tonic water, Campari, then some Indian spices, curries, earl grey, drops of Worcester sauce, tobacco, leather… In fact, this one’s pretty loco, deviant and sometimes dissonant. Captain Beefheart playing the Osmonds (younger readers, even though they’re shameless tax evaders, Google is your friend). Finish: long and sour. This is where it’s revealed that it’s the cask that was totally crazy. Big tannicity in the aftertaste. Comments: very deviant. Good fun to be had but to be handled with much care, it’s not unlike tickling an old lion – not that I’ve ever tried, but my cats give me a good idea.
SGP:462 - 85 points.




Serge always references cats when he is bluffing. Let’s keep our cards close to our chest and shift gears ever so slightly…






Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (52.7%, SCOMA 40th Anniversary, cask #14, refill sherry hogshead, 300 bottles)

Springbank 24 yo 1993/2018 (52.7%, SCOMA 40th Anniversary, cask #14, refill sherry hogshead, 300 bottles)
In case you don’t know, SCOMA is a legendary and very influential whisky shop in Germany that was responsible for importing many great and important names (including Springbank and Cadenhead) back in the era before single malt enthusiasm was widespread. Indeed, you could argue they played a pivotal role in European whisky enthusiasm. Colour: deep gold. Nose: it’s certainly one of these more ‘left-field’ 1993 Springbanks. Lots of flinty notes, mineral oil, graphite, ink and stewed fruits like sultana and prune. It evolves more along this profile with more earthiness, leaf mulch, tobacco, gun oil and hints of various brown breads and dark grains. It’s definitely getting more recognisably ‘Springbanky’ with time. With water: dried mint, ink, miso, umami broths, animal furs, turmeric, dried flowers, waxes. Quite complex and individualistic. Mouth: nice arrival, very clean but quite punchy and powerful. Very bready, earthy, mineral and slightly gamey and saline. Salted almonds, game salami, rye bread, dried tarragon, mineral oil and coal dust. A fascinating ‘teeter’ between weird early 90s and more the assertive, classical style they were transitioning to at the time. Also, it should be noted, this is a very good sherry cask. With water: beautifully complex and ‘broad’ now. Mushrooms, wild herbs, flowers, nuts, breads and more mineral, medical and rather emphatic oily things like camphor, vapour rubs and herbal cough medicines. Really vibrant and superbly fresh now. Finish: long, wonderfully mineral, nutty, saline, oily, herbal and medical. Extremely Springbanky and brilliantly fresh and complex. Comments: It’s like we began in 1993 and ended up at 1995 within the space of the same whisky. Terrific and fascinating distillate in a top notch sherry cask. I’m very happy SCOMA could find such a fun and enjoyable wee glory for their 40th! Great selection folks.
SGP: 473 - 92 points.




I see, some kind of counterattack. I’m sure our friend believes he’s played a decisive tactic and that he’s going to win this one. But remember what good old Napoléon said after Austerlitz, 'The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory’… Indeed we’ve got what ought to be a very secret weapon…


Springbank 25 yo 1993 (47.3%, Exclusive Malts, Creative Whisky Co., 1 bottle)

Springbank 25 yo 1993 (47.3%, Exclusive Malts, Creative Whisky Co., 1 bottle) Four stars
Indeed, this is bottle One of One and guess what, it’s been opened (obviously, since we’re trying it). So this is a worthy representative of yet another whisky category, bottles that have been proven extinct, a.k.a. B.P.E.. Consequently, hoarders and flippers: please go your way! Colour: gold. Nose: cheese and gym socks at first, that’s not unseen in some vintages of Springbank. Iron fillings and old tools aren’t unseen either, and neither are leatherette, heavy menthol, new electronics and rucola salad. Is it a crazy Springbank? Yes it is, but let’s prepare for the palate…  Mouth: starts dissonant in the way we like it (ground coffee, mustard and cranberry juice, anyone?), gets then very peppery and cardboardy, with sour and sweet wines, brine, and just the right amount of plasticine and straight plastic. Some of the sherried officials from similar vintages were a bit like this, except that they were having more sulphur. This one remains kind of civilised. Finish: marmalade, ginseng, and ‘sucking pebbles’. Comments: totally mad. Well, you don’t see these every day, for many reasons.
SGP:372 - 85 points.


Well, looks like I’m getting behind with this whole madness…




Oh dear, how embarrassing. In the immortal words of General Charles de Gaulle: “Somebody order that guy an Uber!” Or was it ‘pass the Speyburn’?



Meanwhile, we shall remain in the notoriously treacherous 1993.






Springbank 27 yo 1993/2020 (51.3%, Whiskybroker for It’s All About Springbank, cask #26, refill bourbon hogshead, 200 bottles)

Springbank 27 yo 1993/2020 (51.3%, Whiskybroker for It’s All About Springbank, cask #26, refill bourbon hogshead, 200 bottles)
How very funny that bottlings are now being done for themed Facebook groups. What a time to be alive! Colour: bright straw. Nose: extremely pure and at the same time with this typical ‘unusualness’ of 93 Springbanks. Lots of canvass, bailed hay, cooking oils, funny old medicines, herbal liqueurs, chalk, putty, waxes, hot clay, aged mead and yellow flowers. Highly characterful whisky, in the best sense. With water: really doubles down on chalk, fabrics, pebbles, flints, lanolin, paraffin and white coastal flowers. Gorse, pollens and olive oil too. Mouth: pow! Superbly lean and medicinal. Herbal medicines, beach pebbles, waxes, citronella candles, oily cereals, mineral oils, camphor and a nicely salty peatiness. Wonderfully flinty, oily, lightly vegetal and showing many wee medical embrocations and things like fermenting lemons and brine. With water: lemon cough drops, linseed oil, horseradish, camphor, tar, bandages, seawater, preserved lemons… terrific! Finish: long, briny, lemony, oily, medicinal and waxy. Also wee notes of salty honey and dried herbs like thyme. Comments: I’ve just checked and I am indeed a member of the IAAS group on Facebook. Guys, please send 6 bottles to Whiskyfun HQ, Flipper Street, Leith… Anyway, terrific selection. I just loved the purity and the freshness of this one. There’s much been said about these slightly more usual 93s but perhaps all they needed was time? This one was close to being 93 points, but we don’t do partial scores here at WF (my eyes are not yet orange and my hat not yet Panamanian) so 92 it remains!
SGP: 462 - 92 points.




Well, this is really getting tough, these youngsters have got no shame, no respect and no decency. Wait, where have I put my enlarged edition of Sun Tzu's The Art of War again? Found it… Blah, blah, blah, blah.… Ah there, let’s try a blitzkrieg!


Springbank 21 yo (100°proof, OB, +/-1970)

Springbank 21 yo (100°proof, OB, +/-1970) Five stars
A bottling of legends, probably late 1940s-very early 1950s distillate, bottled at 57% vol. Remember, all you have to do to convert UK proof to ABV is to divide by 1.76, if I’m not mistaken. So in this case, 100/1.76=… right, err, 56.8%. Whatever, less math, more old Springbank, that’s our new motto! Colour: white wine (hurray). Nose: bang bang bang, this is as smoky as an Islay from the south shore, and as sooty and concrete-y (oh come on, S.!) as an Old Clynelish. It’s been chiseled by masters, this is all distillate-driven, extremely medicinal as well (huge peppermint and pine resin) and just filled to the brim with chalk and clay. I also love these whiffs of old floor-cloth – I know I need an analyst. With water: superlative, pure, incredibly well carved, immaculate, tense, vertical… (I think that’ll do). Mouth (neat): oh the power! Elderflower syrup, rhubarb juice, Austrian riesling (see I’m no chauvinistic Alsatian), limestone and flints, grey pepper, graphite oil, peat, seaweed and oysters… Oh well, please call the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade, we've been friends for eighteen years. With water: that’s the thing with the greatest whiskies, the more water you add, the bigger they get – up to a certain point, naturally. That’s exactly what’s happening here, while proper lemons and grapefruits are starting to take over. Finish: endless, pure, vertical, mineral, lemony, salty. What’s more, the proportions are exquisite. Comments: in these very rare cases, the whisky is the boss. All you do is trying to follow its path. Amazing Springbank!
SGP:465 - 95 points.




Nurse! He’s found the sharp knives again…



In truth, I was wondering when this one was going to show up. Now, I cross my heart, hope to die (well…) and stick a Caol Ila in my eye that this note for the very same whisky was actually written a good two months ago. I know we shouldn’t be in the habit of doing the same whisky like this too often, but I feel this is a special whisky and a special occasion.






Springbank 21 yo (100 proof, OB, UK, circa 1970)

Springbank 21 yo (100 proof, OB, UK, circa 1970)
Bottled around 1970 so should be distilled in the very early 1950s or before. And don’t forget 100 proof in the UK = 57.1%. This is bottle I’ve been chasing and dreaming about for years. Colour: pale white wine. Nose: really another era of whisky production. This rather fat and greasy nose that feels almost viscerally textural. Clay, petrol, oily sheep wool, lanolin and some pure, brutal and pretty chalky medical aromas. Develops the most astoundingly pure medical aroma with the leanest of peat profiles. Cereals, chimney soot, kiln air and the rather fermentary note of distillery wash and carbolic acidity. It’s also rather tangy with things like horseradish, mustard powder and various shades of ground pepper. Humbling and pretty astonishing whisky. With water: the very definition of purity in malt whisky. Putty, clay, ointments, embrocations, raw seawater, petrol, mineral salts and bandages. Mouth: immense arrival. Camphor, metal polish, soot, waxes, tar, iodine, peat, crushed seashells and the most brutal, raw and powerful medical embrocations imaginable. Utterly uncompromising, direct and powerful whisky. Unlike anything else. Cereals, chalk, acidity, flint smoke, ink, fabrics and paraffin. Another whisky that you could just go on with forever. With water: astonishing. Extraordinary. A Venn diagram of medicine, salinity and waxiness with a clarity of personality and a level purity, precision and power that is heart-stopping. Finish: long, bone-dry, austere but also charismatic in the extreme and still touching on these core aspects of purity, medicine and raw, controlled power. Comments: 21 years old and pale as a young Chablis. What’s kind of sad about this is that today this is an almost ideological clarion call of a whisky: the epitome of sculpted distillate, paired back wood and time. But back when it was bottled it was probably just what was available at time of requirement. This is what I talk about when I say ‘old style’ whisky. The closest to this I can think of is 1960s era Clynelish, although this has its own, rather brutal and unflinching style of precision, purity and power. In the end, it stands solitary as its own thing. A poetic old whisky that leaves you speechless with its singular and monolithic style of beauty.
SGP: 464 - 96 points.



But let’s shift things in a somewhat left-field direction if you please…






Springbank 50 yo 1919/1970 (66.3 proof, OB for UK)

Springbank 50 yo 1919/1970 (66.3 proof, OB for UK)
There seems to be a fair bit of confusion about these bottles out there, not helped by the existence of the tall calligraphy label bottle which now sells for ‘houses’ or multiples thereof and various conflicting information about cask numbers and overall numbers of bottles. Not to mention the existence of a number of refills and fakes of this one now. However, I’m confident about the origins of this sample. Colour: gold. Nose: unquestionably an ancient style of malt whisky - we’re really more in the realms of Victorian distilling with this one. That is to say deeply scented with pure waxes, metal polishes, vapour rubs, herbal cough medicines, coal scuttles dust, old cracked leather, sheep wool oils and many deep and compelling mechanical and oily complexities. Lots of dry medical ‘vaporous’ aromas with many dried our wee herbal and liqueur-ish touches. Also old pressed wildflowers kept within very old books. Some cedar wood cigar boxes and various wee mineral oil notes and hints of animal furs and grease. Complex despite being only 37.8% abv. Mouth: dusty initially, very herbal and focussed on bouillon stocks, salty old umami broths, dried out waxes and things like old boot and metal polishes. More impressions of sheep wool and a lot of camphor, hessian and putty. Almost painfully old style; a complete departure from almost anything to do with modern whisky. Indeed, these animalistic and ‘fatty’ attributes being to rise. Barbour grease, more mineral oil, rapeseed oil and hints of natural tar. There’s sweetness too, but it’s like some very leathery and salty aged mead mixed with ancient Sauternes. Finish: medium, which is impressive really, you do feel it has perhaps lost some steam (did it really have ‘steam’ to begin with when bottled?) but there’s a lot of dry earthiness, dusty pollens, ink, bone dry herbs such as tarragon and wee touches of fennel, medicine and this persistent mineral/waxy aspect. Comments: The perfect example of a whisky where the technical score and the emotional score are an ocean apart. I think it’s safe to say that this was left too long in the cask, but at the same time it retains a very vivid impression of an utterly different era of ingredients, process and people. And I would still add, most importantly, that despite these slightly weaker parts, it remains a deeply pleasurable and fascinating whisky to drink.
SGP: 462 - 88 points.




By Keepempure and Noagenodeal, Gods of whisky, a double, this is getting very complicated. And didn’t our fearless friend just knock down one of the very few truly sacred cows of malt whisky? I mean, that 1919 was in Michael Jackson’s very first Malt Whisky Companion, if I’m not mistaken! No respect indeed, but this is not quite over, believe me… And I can start messing with some potential liquid idols too…


Springbank 28 yo 1967/1996 (46%, OB, Germany)

Springbank 28 yo 1967/1996 (46%, OB, Germany) Three stars
Let’s push it all with this little one by the owners. Not sure this baby was only for Germany by the way, but many bottles carry ‘German’ stickers. You know, with words such as ‘Schnapps, das war sein letztes Wort’ usw. Jo-king. Colour: gold. Nose: oh wow, herbs, wee roots and flowers this time. That is to say the usual gentian, chicory, gorse, dandelions, buddleia, then a waxier base – as we said – and some kind of precious mead. Let’s say it, this is pure ambrosia! And I suppose it’s the cask that added some fresh whiffs of fern, undergrowth and young moss. Whiffs of plasticine too – the receivers? (enough with your conspiracy theories, S., there are enough idi… I mean, mad people around.) Mouth: it’s dry, very waxy, probably too dry actually, with too much cardboard perhaps. It is lovely whisky, but I believe oxygen has taken its toll here. Teas, dried things, paper, stale coconut water… But it does improve, with more honey, candied fruits… Finish: rather short and waxy. Comments: indeed I’m going to give a slightly passable(ish) score to a glorious old Springbank, but I’m sure it’s a matter of bottle and not a matter of bottling. The nose was stunning.
SGP:231 - 80 points.


Oh looks like Angus is using heavy artillery yet again… And without saying a word!




Springbank 1972/1991 (59.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.17)

Springbank 1972/1991 (59.0%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #27.17)
Colour: pale gold. Nose: it’s surprisingly close to some refill matured mid-90s examples in some ways with these big notes of soft green fruits mixed with waxes, seawater, olive oil and camphor. Extremely pure, rather medical, punchy and very coastal. Pristine distillate! With water: just exquisitely chiselled, powerful, pure and saline. Raw petrol soaked into sheep wool, hessian, paraffin, ink and still a few glimmers of green and yellow fruits - although they lean more towards the exotic now. Mouth: wow! Petrol mixed with seawater and lemon juice and then smoked. Some particularly saline cured meats, serrano ham etc, and also mint julep, iodine, citronella wax, tar, very grassy olive oil and many sharp, very precise medicines and embrocations. Fermenting honey, aged mead and sandalwood, some dried seaweed flakes in ramen broth and pure, briny pickling juices. Amazing! With water: stunning! Immensely dense in texture, thick, fat, gloopy waxes, salted heather honey, lemon oil, tar, vapour rubs and herbal cough syrups. Majestic! Finish: wonderfully long and full of this particular saline honey quality, beach pebbles, chalk, peat, waxes, medicines and herbs. Comments: We don’t know these vintages as well as their 60s siblings I think, but it seems these early 70s ones, while different, can be no less stunning. This one was just devastating in its power, focus and depth of concentration. Quite simply, some of the greatest distillate ever made.
SGP: 464 - 94 points.




Okay, let’s strike back once more (with the energy of despair, I don’t think I’ll ever manage to catch up anyway…)


Springbank 33 yo 1967/2000 (50.9%, Blackadder, hogshead, cask #1562, 220 bottles)

Springbank 33 yo 1967/2000 (50.9%, Blackadder, hogshead, cask #1562, 220 bottles) Five stars
No need to remind you, I suppose, that 1965-1967 were legendary vintages at Springbank’s. Did you ever try any of those ‘Local Barleys’ or ‘West Highland Scotch Malt Whiskies’? They were the post-WWII Lafites or Latours of whisky! Colour: gold. Little sherry, even better! Nose: oh this waxiness! Why were so many malts waxier than they are today? I have my theory, that may have been, as I’ve suggested above in the note for the official, because they were using cast-iron receivers and weren’t really washing them out like if there was no tomorrow between two seasons, which did let the waxes and oils build-up and stay on the rough walls and impart all their goodness. As I said, just a theory. Anyway, superb clean and complex nose, exceptionally fresh, waxy indeed, with many herbs and fruit peelings, pollen, touches of camphor, honeys (clover), then the most beautiful assortment of old apple varietals. Very beehive-y. With a drop of water: waxy earth or something. Immense and so subtle, and so far from contemporary wham-bam-see-my-casks whiskies. Mouth (neat): shock full of beeswax, pine resin, late-harvest riesling, quince and apricot jams, apple compote, precious honeys and no-less precious marmalades. Beautiful tension underneath, very Springbank. With water: all things oils and waxes in the front, with flying colours. Finish: medium, very waxy, honeyed, on ripe apples and peaches. Dry cider and a lovely earthiness in the aftertaste. Comments: never clean the receivers unless some imprudent tourists from Northern Europa drowned in them. But is that legal? I’m sure Boris will let you do that, but then of course, not my business…
SGP:561 - 92 points.


All right, Edinburgh fell silent, it’s true that it’s 7pm already at time of writing, they must be in bed. So I’m doing the accounts here in Alsace and, wait, it seems that our friend managed to smuggle one more Springbank than me into this session while I wasn’t watching! How unfair is that? What’s more, I thought we could as well push this to eighteen Springbanks since this is our eighteenth anniversary. Let’s see what remains in this vast field of debris… Oh wait, Edinburgh is answering now…




Not so fast Serge! En garde…






Springbank (???) 26 yo 1969/1995 (51.7%, Signatory Decanter, sherry, 790 bottles)

Springbank (?) 26 yo 1969/1995 (51.7%, Signatory Vintage Decanter, sherry, 790 bottles)
Colour: light amber. Nose: bam! A whole punned of apricots and peaches stewed in some luscious old Armagnac. Prunes in juices, figs, strawberry jam, ancient balsamic and a full bodega of rancio. Pretty exquisite stuff and almost certainly some glorious old 60s Springbank. Wonderfully leafy, elegantly earthy and harmoniously fruity - depth, concentration and balance all in check. With water: huge now! Bags of shoe polish, old leather, game meats and rather hefty old school medicines. Lots of old ointments, pressed flowers and herbal cough syrups. Some aspects also really converge beautifully on old Cognac territory with these specific peachy, dark fruity rancio aspects. Mouth: stunningly dense, darkly fruity, earthy and mineral. Full of this leafy and very mulchy style of sherry riddled with tobaccos, hessian and stewed dark fruits. Also leather, game meats and freshly ground coffee. Moving more towards savoury umami and meaty tones over time. Textbook, exquisite old stuff from Campbeltown. With water: herbal bitters now, of the cocktail variety. Brown bread, banana fruit loaf, bitter dark chocolate, kirsch and more of these punchy, herbal liqueur and medical qualities. Some wonderfully bitter Seville orange marmalade and various exotic spices and teas. Finish: Superbly long, resinous, nervous salty sherry, olive oils, camphor, hessian and many more wee herbal touches. Comments: I’ll be damned if this isn’t that 69 Springbank. Totally stunning stuff!
SGP: 662 - 93 points.




Blimey, yet another sneaky attack from Dùn Èideann, this is getting dangerous. But anyway, since in the true words of Taylor Swift, “Nothing safe is worth the drive”, let’s counterattack once more…


Springbank 20 yo 1995/2015 (53%, SCOMA, refill port, cask #42, 537 bottles)

Springbank 20 yo 1995/2015 (53%, SCOMA, refill port, cask #42, 537 bottles) Four stars and a half
Didn’t our friend try some superb Springbank by SCOMA just a few minutes ago? This one’s been double-matured in a refill port butt and spent 5 years in Campbeltown and 15 years on Islay. That’s right, whisky and logics. Colour: rich gold. Nose: starts very medicinal, with a touch of sulphur (stone) and otherwise aspirin and bandages plus tangerine liqueur. Add some coal smoke and notes of ‘old garage’ and I’m sure you get the picture here. I suppose the tangerines came from the port cask. With water: ha, flints, cabbage, limestone, truffle, plasticine, ointments, Vaseline gauze… Mouth (neat): shakes and wobbles a wee bit right at the arrival (smoked tangerines and new plastic, well…) but a reassuring balance is soon to be found. Olive oil, tangerine liqueur, bitter oranges, mercurochrome and aspirin (this would cure just anything), plasticine, walnuts… With water: be moderate with your water, it could become too ‘plastic’. Otherwise, perfectly waxy and medicinal. The port was well-behaved. Finish: rather long, with a wee sourness that’s not unpleasant (mashed turnips) and indeed touches of sulphur. Comments: totally fun, very well done SCOMA, even if it was not a very ‘idiosyncratic’ Springbank.
SGP:562 - 89 points.


Good, I believe we’re at 17, one more and we are done. I think we’ll play it fair and in a spirit of peace and harmony, with this little new one…


Springbank 22 yo 1997/2020 (55.4%, OB, Private Cask for HMMJ, refill sherry, cask #582, 191 bottles)

Springbank 22 yo 1997/2020 (55.4%, OB, Private Cask for HMMJ, refill sherry, cask #582, 191 bottles) Five stars
I believe it’s good to put an official end to this madness with a private cask bottled for four friends, rather than with some superfluous brandola. Not that Springbank are doing much of that anyway… Colour: pale gold. Nose: mangos, Vicks VapoRub, tiger balm, new plastics, cranberries, charcoal, bandages, lemongrass. Typical and harmonious, whatever you may think. With water: unstoppable. You may call 202-456-1111, that’s the Anti-Maltoporn Brigade. No, don’t, it’s the White House. Mouth (neat): oh very good! But who added the mezcal? H, M, M, or J? Let’s say you take a jar and pour 1/3 proper white mezcal (joven), 1/3 manzanilla anada by the crazy Callejuelas, and 1/3 middle-aged ex-refill Caol Ila. Shake well, and there, you’re on. Now I agree buying a bottle of this, should that be possible, would be easier to do. In theory. With water: smoked lemons and plasticine, I buy that. Finish: long, waxier, smokier, with superb lemony notes and wee touches of grassy oils. Oh there, olive. Comments: wow, nothing to throw. Super well done, HMM&J. But between us, while no one’s listening, tell me who-the-hell added the mezcal?
SGP:563 - 92 points


Quick, let’s do the math….

978,145.5 points

978,145.4 points

Let’s call that a draw since we don’t do decimals anyway.

And so the winner is… Whiskyfun! Thank you all, happy 18th birthday Whiskyfun.

Pace, whisky e salute.

(With thanks to Andy, Angus, David, Emmanuel, Hideo, Jon, Lucero, Phil, Sukhinder and all our other friends who keep supporting little Whiskyfun!)

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