Springbank masterclass: That’s How It’s Made

Springbank – ‘Made by people, for people’.

That’s How It’s Made was hosted by Head of Production Findlay Ross & Production Officer Lea Watson on 24th May 2018. Lined up in front of us were 14 small cups containing:

  • 1] Un-toasted barley – smells like fruity popcorn and is like a chewy green-ish porridge to taste.
  • 2] Toasted barley – always a joy to taste. Go right ahead everytime, though it does stick to the palate somewhat.
  • 3] Grist [containing only 10% flour] – smelling more like wheat germ than rolled oats, it tastes pretty much like the toasted barley, albeit with a different texture.

Springbank now also malt barley for Glengyle. They use standard Concerto barley, all of which is malted in-house. We are reminded that “yield is everything”, even at Springbank.

  • 4] Dry peat – remarkably it doesn’t really smell of anything.
  • 5] Wet peat – doesn’t smell either save for a slight hint of sticky rolling tobacco.

Apparently the peat sticks to the husk more than any other part of the grain. Whilst Springbank retain 20% husk, it is suggested Ardbeg may well retain a higher proportion for a smokier result. Also, apparently moist peat helps the phenols to ‘stick’.

How it's made glasses

  • Sadly the wort didn’t make it to the masterclass.

We are told that 65% of wort is maltose. Dextrin’s give body which is importantly maintained in beer making for its mouthfeel amongst other attributes. In whisky making, dextrose is obliterated during the process of extracting as much sugar as possible.

  • 6] Wash – smells of a steam engine train carriage at an engineering/transport museum. Tastes similar. Other washes are available and are far more desirable. It obviously doesn’t travel well, especially during a heatwave.

Average fermentation time at Springbank is 110 hours.

  • 7] Low wines – smells & tastes of coppery toasted barley which basically is what it is.
  • 8] Feints – cleaner, watered down low wines [less dirty metals].

Feints we are told, give off undesirable lipids for example, whereas tails result in too much water extraction.

As for maturation, Springbank have 6 dunnage warehouses. “This means more earth, more humidity, more ‘dunnage’”, says Findley.


The last 6 samples consist of Springbank’s new make spirit, and five malts – only one of which [I believe], has been bottled.


Springbank New Make Spirit [2018] Un-Ob. 68%+

  • N: Airy fruity> vanilla sweet.
  • T: Solid/composed profile.
  • F: Hums along with a vanilla-y light finish.
  • C: With huge distillery character and yet without any distinctive profile features, it’s the most rounded new make I’ve tried.

Not scored, but scoreable.


Springbank 2005 10yo Un-Ob. +/- 50%

Bourbon matured with a little sherry comes this 10yo vatting from 2005, recently found in the label store.

  • C: It would have been no bad thing to present this as a festival bottling, but the trend seems to be for funky coloured ones, regardless of profile & composition. With water, this is malt one could drink & drink.

Scores 85 points

How it's made warehouse.jpg

Springbank Single sherry cask Un-Ob. abv unknown

I didn’t ascertain any further details.

  • N: This is clearly a sherried number.
  • T: Sherry indeed, but tasty nevertheless.
  • F: Oloroso>barley.
  • C: Unbalanced yet tasty, quibbles aside, this is a good example of a sherry-large malt.

Scores 85 points


Springbank Local Barley [year not ascertained] Un-ob. abv unknown

  • N: Back to bourbon I’m guessing with a desirable light toasted ppm. Like dram #1 [the 2005 vintage], though brighter with more distinct notes. A beautiful nose actually.
  • T: This is a a lovely dram with a faultless delivery.
  • F: Follows suit.
  • C: Natural barley character meets superb cask maturation.

Scores 88 points

Springbank casks.jpg

Springbank 1996/2009 12yo Un-Ob. Oloroso cask abv unknown

This was literally found recently in a cupboard.

  • N: More sherry action with an olive brininess.
  • T: This has a bigger more blatant oloroso drive than dram #2, and is wonderfully squidgy & moorish.
  • F: Cake-like fruity>> sulphury >>tannins.
  • C: Another delicious ‘Dark Side’ [WB] styled whisky.

Scores 85 points


Springbank 1996/2018 21yo Ob. Springbank Open Day [534 bts] 46% WB88.65[19] MR8’s&9’s

After a brief snifter in the festival queue [Blog82], I get another bite of this cherry.

Springbank 1996 21yo Open Day 2018

  • N: Promising coconut/tobacco/dusty-umami.
  • T: Sherry speaks again, and with that age we are into wine/Armagnac/Cognac territory.
  • F: There may have been suggestions of deeper umami but the underlying issue remains – the sherry is too dominant. Despite this, some of the barley spirit emerges at the end with an Armagnac & Merlot-like finish.
  • C: Issues, yes. Issues potentially outweighed/overlooked by the moorishness, probably yes.

Scores 85 points





How it's made flight

2 thoughts on “Springbank masterclass: That’s How It’s Made

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s