A quick revision session for my own benefit.
‘Springbank is the only distillery in Scotland to malt, distil, mature and bottle on the same site. It manages to do this while operating a highly complex distillation regime, which creates three different styles’ scotchwhisky.com.
- Founded in 1828 by William Reid who sold the distillery to in-laws, John & William Mitchell in 1837.
- In 1872, John’s son Alexander joins the business as William leaves.
- J&A Mitchell [officially founded in 1897], buys independent bottler Cadenhead’s.
- maltmadness.com says ‘Despite the ‘whisky boom’ that had been well under way for a few years, Springbank was mothballed in 2009’.
- springbank.scot says that Springbank closed in 2008, ‘in the wake of rising stocks and soaring production costs, the distillery takes a six-month break from production to allow new warehousing to be built, with the whisky-making process resuming in 2009’.
- 99% of its 750000 lpa of production goes to single malt.
To the whisky!
Springbank 2004/2019 14yo Ob. Un-Caged RBHHD Warehouse 7 Rotation 589 51% WB0
I’m down to the last dram already. Better take some notes and sum this one up. This bottle was procured at the Campbeltown Malts Festival 2019 [WLP]. It was one of a few bottles left in the cage after a few hours of early morning raiding.
- N: Honeyed bourbon straw, suggestions of cheesy [& onion-y] straws, sweetened sawdust, cloudy/well-stewed orchard fruit juices, milky-sweet oat Hobnobs,…
- T: With a lively start [the only obvious indicator of the high abv], we’ve Littlemill meets < Strathmill vibes in the form of a straight/candid grassy/straw barley profile with a soft-yet-cloudy lime-green citrus drive .,,,
- F: .,,,, that steers towards a slightly [Mini]- milk-y [mild lactose], chewy-to-puckering narrow cloudy barley sugar finish and sour-ish dry savoury > sweet lemon conclusion.
- C: In a nutshell: moderately aged, unadulterated barley spirit. I can imagine farmhouse whisky in the 1800s tasting like this. I forgot to score it. Like the price, it wouldn’t have been that high [probably low 80’s].
Next up, two Living Cask bottles from the Cadenhead’s shop in Campbeltown.
Springbank Tasting Room  Ob. Living cask 57.6% [20cl] WB89.50
Once again, I get to the last dram before making notes. In summary:
- N: First off, I get fatty soft savoury-sweet ‘bourbonised’ notes with a peat mix that speaks of a fine mixture of vegetal, farm and smoke. Under that, there’s a vinegary rubber note that directly speaks of sherry casks. Particular descriptors talk of soft [synthetic] < leathery caramel, old down-filled pillows and wet leaves on a recently tarmac-ed road.
- T: Plenty of sulphury sherry casks in the mix, but an underlying bourbon cask sweetness also rings true. The broad rubbery bitter-sweet arrival soon turns towards a delivery of bitter cinnamon and acute pepperiness to the front and sides of the palate. Adding water brings mixed blessings, so experiment.
- F: After the peppery heat, rubbery cocoa, caramel and > honeyed < malt conclude.
- C: No need to over-analyse these living casks, or indeed Cadenhead’s caged bottlings. Generally, simply decent affordable drinking whisky ‘made by people for people’.
Scores 84 points
[Springbank] Hazelburn Tasting Room  Ob. Living Cask 57.5% [20cl] WB87
Colour: ‘Classic’ [as French Buba Frik would say] – i.e. light gold.
- N: ‘Classic’ whisky on the nose too. That is, a nicely weighted oily, honeyed, husky=grassy clean yet rugged/wholesome malt with some raisins, a mixed fruit collection between fresh & dried, dry sweet honeyed sour citrus, something of a motorcycle mechanics yard and old plastic-y treated leathers. Backing up the barley sugar is a keen yeasty zestiness also. The more I nose, the more I receive. A rather fine spectrum of flavours. Later: sweet grape juice-infused whipped light vanilla ice cream.
- T: Toasted oily dry barley malt to taste with some middle-of-the-palate sour putty-like peppery prickles throughout. Briefly, it becomes rather Irish [putty and dry tropical fruits] before shooting away into the finish. I suggest experimenting with various dilution to bring differing results that affect the array of fruits and fruit styles on offer from fresh, dry > medicinal and < confectionary. it’s not the easiest of pleasers and you gotta like your sourness. If sourness is a problem to you, add less water. Either way, it’s hard to drown. Varied and colourful results ensue with varied journey lengths, mouthfeel, and sweet-sour differentials as well as descriptors.
- F: Sour lemon > grapefruit alongside what’s gone before, and an ever so slight green-fresh note in the form of eucalyptus leaves which comes out of the pepperiness. Furthermore, there’s [more] dry-fruity dry-sour citrus pith before a more subtle sweeter conclusion on barley sugar and light toffee. However that sour lingers with a faint and occasional medicinal soapy note from time to time.
- C: Decent whisky for drinking, plain and simple.
Scores 85 points
Having just reviewed a recent [late 2019] batch [WLP], here are two bottle reviews of the official 15yo I bought in June & August 2019 respectively.
This bottle was going down so quickly, I soon bought a second bottle a few weeks later. As seems prevalent these last few months, I’m down to the last few drams before taking a single note, but with the second bottle, I won’t be without!
- N: Gentle, slightly drying fruits and smoky wisps, Initially Ben Nevis & Port Ellen-esque with a slightly sulphury/pongy minerality, some mouldiness, sooty dried rolled oats, scorched earth, wet clay, ceramic vases,… but this whisky changes by the minute, and radically as the weeks pass. I also get that cracked oak vanilla note unique to early batches of Glen Scotia’s 15yo funnily enough – more coincidence than a regional quality or a conveniently shared cask order to the peninsular.
- T: Initially very quiet/shy, soft and gentle even a suggestion of subduedness. yet it’s never thin. This all changes over time, unusually perhaps, becoming more assured and present as the weeks pass. Stylistically then, we’ve an incredibly moreish fruity sherried and smokey malt but the sherried cask element took its time to show [to my palate]. What then emerges is a rather predominant note of bitter lemon kept in tin cans alongside a faint-yet-certain liquorice note, rosehip tea, soot, and oak smoke. Later, it’s decidedly waxy=briny, slightly plastic-y and sulphury in the best way possible.
- F: Delicious relaxed finish on smoky toasted fruit-steeped oak. Months later, that bitter lemon note digs its heels in, accompanied by more sootiness and a light smokiness. Against expectations, there’s very little farminess.
- C: A cracker of a whisky, just as I’d experienced in Campbeltown in May of the same year [WLP189].
Scores 88 points
- N: Compared to the previous bottle, this one is firmer & crisper from the off and also sweatier/saltier with a sweet & creamy > farmy < sulphury note – the sherry casks far more obvious up-front than with bottle #1 [initially].
- T: I find this bottle firmer and crisper on the palate too, and appearing more youthful than the previous. Strangely I’m missing the softness and slightly subdued nature of that first bottle. I might let this one sit out a few weeks to open up, and indeed a few weeks later – whereas the first bottle did the opposite – this one begins to soften. Water brings out the lightly smoked & oaked maltiness whilst red fruits appear without being blatantly attributed as indicators of sherry cask maturation. Slightly waxy > sooty > briny on the turn – all rather natural/candid as is the Springbank way.
- F: A little pepperiness with some bitter & sour lemon from the oak. Bitter & slightly salty sooty lemon coats the underlying barley in keeping with bottle number #1, yet with more minerality at the tail. Dry oaky smoke, a touch of toasted Shreddies, only a farmy hint and that slightly sulphury minerality holds out till the last. Under it all, barley sugar-Smarties casings remain true.
- C: Though some particular differences from bottle to bottle remain, the sibling resemblance between these two same-batch bottles was startlingly clear. It just took [me] some time for those qualities to converge comfortably.
Scores 88 points.