Springbank is one of the three remaining distilleries in the Campbeltown region, the others being Glen Scotia and Glengyle, which was once known as The Whisky Capital of the World and was home to over 30 distilleries. To celebrate this often loved, and sometimes reviled, distillery The Malt Nuts gathered in the backyard of our gracious host here in Los Angeles to eat, drink and talk about Springbank.
True to Malt Nuts form we tasted everything blind and broke it up into the 3 rounds listed below.
2. Refill sherry (and 1 ex-bourbon) cask Springbank
3. Madeira finished Springbank
Now on to the Springbank!
1A: Springbank 12 years – Bourbon Wood (56.5%)
- Nose: Malt, touch of dark sweetness, citrus, fruit and chocolate licorice.
- Palate: Malt, wood, cocoa, citrus, spice and a bit of fruit.
- Finish: Malty with a bit of dried red fruit and spice
- Overall: B (83-86) Pretty good, a decent whisky with nice notes and a medium body, great for sipping.
Refill sherry (and 1 ex-bourbon) cask Springbank
2A: Springbank 14 years – Single Cask (48.7%)
- Nose: Malt, fruit, citrus, spice, honey, apples and brown sugar heavy dark sweets.
- Palate: Malt dark fruit, cocoa, spice, honey and a bit of dark sweets.
- Finish: Malt, cocoa and spice.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Great balance and a rich full body. It’s crisp and flavorful.
2B: Springbank 17 years – Cask Strength (57%)
- Nose: Red fruit, wood varnish, caramel heavy dark sweets and spice.
- Palate: Red fruit, wood varnish, creamy caramel, oak and vanilla with a dash of spice.
- Finish: Oak, dried red fruit and dark sweets.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) I’ll admit I was one of the few who liked this one – I enjoyed the weirdness of this dram. It reminded me of an old bourbon but with a bit more fruit and lacking some of the spice driven complexity that can appear in older bourbons.
2C: Springbank 18 years – Single cask (56.4%)
- Nose: Malt, graham, honey, cinnamon, hay, vanilla, butterscotch and toffee.
- Palate: Dried red fruit, malt, honey, cinnamon, hay, toffee and some light earthy undertones.
- Finish: Woody and earthy with a bit of dried fruit, spice and red apples.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Nothing wrong with this whisky, just not very exciting and light overall.
2D: Springbank – 1997 Vintage (55.2%)
- Nose: Malt, caramel, spice, rich sherry sweetness, dark fruit, earth and grapes.
- Palate: Sherry, vermouth, char, cocoa, malt, leather and grilled citrus.
- Finish: Malt, citrus, mineral water, cocoa and dried red fruit.
- Overall: A- (90-92) This one bordered on an A for me and I’m fairly sure if I was tasting it all on its own at home it might have scored that high. However, that’s not what happened and this isn’t about conjecture it’s about how I felt about it that evening. Nevertheless it was my favorite of the night by far.
2E: Springbank 31 years – Dun Bheagan (56.2%)
- Nose: Varnish, spice, char, iodine, butterscotch, malty sweetness and freshly blown out birthday candles.
- Palate: Sherry, overripe citrus, dried berries, potpourri and varnish with a light malty sweetness.
- Finish: Sherry, char, spice and overripe citrus.
- Overall: B- (80-82) I don’t mind odd notes in whisky, in fact part of me looks for them and enjoys them, they just need to be balanced out – which was not the case here. That lack of balance was its detriment, but the noticeable presence of some, but not enough, balancing notes was its benefit.
2F: Springbank 19 years – Single Cask (54.4%)
- Nose: Worn out wood, smoke, bergamot, mineral water and an overall “dirty” aroma.
- Palate: Worn out wood, burnt nuts, char and spice with a bit of overripe fruit.
- Finish: Oak, orange peel and Earl Grey.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) A tiny perverse part of me liked this one, but it was quickly squashed by the entire rest of me that didn’t. Almost dropped it to a C, but the finish was quite nice and saved it.
2G: Springbank 17 years – Sherrywood (52.3%)
- Nose: Malt, marshmallow, spice, caramel, fruit and wood.
- Palate: Fruit, malt, marshmallow, spice and char.
- Finish: Toffee, nougat, hay and almonds.
- Overall: B (83-86) A pretty good whisky, just needed a bit more complexity to make it pop. I tried adding water and it didn’t do much to help open it up.
2H: Springbank 16 years – The Bottlers (ex-bourbon) (53.5%)
- Nose: Rich fruit, malt, honey, citrus, spice, mineral water and a touch of root beer spice
- Palate: Rich fruit, malt, honey, citrus, complex spice and Canada Mints.
- Finish: Malt, honey and spice.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Like with 2D, I think if i had been trying this one by itself at home it could have gone up a notch. It’s a fantastic whisky and was among my favorites of the night.
2I: Springbank 16 years – SMWS 27.107 (56%)
- Nose: Butterscotch frosting, vanilla, birthday cake, waxy, smoky and sulfury – like a combination of freshly struck match and blown out birthday candles.
- Palate: Vanilla, butterscotch frosting, cloying sweetness and a waxiness – like when you get a bit of wax with a bite of birthday cake.
- Finish: Vanilla buttercream frosting and the sweetest dessert wine I can imagine.
- Overall: C (73-76) This is another controversial malt, however this time I was on the side of not liking it and I found it to be cloyingly sweet. Others did enjoy it, like my friend The Whisky Anorak, and if you’re into super sweet whiskies then this one would be right up your alley.
2J: Springbank 21 years – Lombard Jewels of Scotland for D&M (49.7%)
- Nose: Fruit, mineral water, spice, malt, touch of dark fruit, hay and oranges.
- Palate: Hay, fruit, minerality, oranges, dark fruit and a bit of wood.
- Finish: Malty sweetness, candy and fruit.
- Overall: B (83-86) This one bordered on a B+ and was just all around pleasant to sip on.
Madeira finished Springbank
3A: Springbank 11 years – Madeira Cask (55.1%)
- Nose: Tang (what astronauts used to drink), sweet creamy caramel, red fruit and hay.
- Palate: Citrus, hay, malt and dark sweets.
- Finish: Orange creamsicle and malty hay.
- Overall: B (83-86) I always struggle a bit with super sweet whiskies, but thankfully this one had some nice malty hay notes that helped to even things out.
3B: Longrow 14 years – Madeira Cask (50%)
- Nose: Peat, sherry, red fruit, iodine, malt and a wee bit of acetone.
- Palate: Peat, sherry, red fruit, cocoa, iodine, malt, ash and touch of acetone.
- Finish: Peat, malt, wood, sherry sweetness and acetone.
Overall: B+ (87-89) Peat + Sweet, this is right in my wheelhouse. Well balanced with a nice complexity.
There you have it, a whole bunch of older Springbanks tasted with the malt nuts. Like always it was a fantastic evening and the Springbank history lesson we received from Whisky Redhead at the end of the evening was fantastic. I wish I had taken notes, but I was busy listening and drinking. C’est la vie.
Until next time… Cheers!