For the last review of May I have the 2020 edition of the Springbank Local Barley. Seemingly an annual fixture in Springbank’s portfolio of releases, the Local Barley releases that I have had have all been very good. The ones that I have had and reviewed are the 16 yo released in 2016 that re-launched this series; the 11 yo released in 2017; the 9 yo released in 2018; and the 10 yo released in 2019. There may be others released in this period that I’ve missed; if so, please let me know. The 2020 release sticks close to the age range of the post-2016 releases—it’s another 10 yo—but it departs from all its predecessors in cask type. While those were all either from ex-bourbon casks or ex-bourbon cask dominated (the 2019 release had 20% sherry casks in the vatting to 77% bourbon) this one was matured entirely in oloroso sherry casks. Between the sherry cask involvement—and resulting dark colour—and the general mania that has built up about this series, this release apparently went for pretty silly money in both the US and Europe—for quite a lot more than the retail price of $160 or so asked for the 16 yo in 2016. Such is life. I did not get a bottle but I did go in on a split from which I got all of one oz. For the little they’re worth, here are my notes.
Springbank 10, 2010, Local Barley (55.6%; oloroso sherry casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich oloroso notes (cherry, plum sauce, brandied raisins). Other than a bit of pencil lead/graphite this is missing the earthy complex usually found in Springbank. As it sits the rich sherry notes are joined by some citrus and some brine and it gets a little meaty—drag some grilled pork in the plum sauce—and there’s some damp wood too. A little softer and creamier with water.
Palate: More of the pencil lead here but otherwise it’s mostly as on the nose at first. Then a fair bit of oak. Between the alcohol and the oak this has quite a bite at full strength. More citrus here too with time but also more tannic oak. Okay, let’s add water. Water makes the oak less tannic and pulls out more of the pencil lead/graphite.
Finish: Long. The oak takes over here and gets quite dry, bordering on tannic, as it goes. As on the palate with water.
Comments: Nice but there’s more than a bit of a regression to an oloroso mean. Which is to say, this is not particularly Springbank: I would have believed it was a sherry bomb from quite a few distilleries. And there’s too much oak for my liking and not enough of the earthy notes that I really like in Sprinbank (damp earth, leather, peat) or the savoury. And local barley or not, I don’t think there’s anything here to recommend it over a large number of earlier sherried Springbanks released with far less hoopla. A good whisky, certainly, but at the price I’m glad I didn’t see one to get tempted by. I would certainly not recommend it at the insane prices currently being asked for it on the secondary market.
Rating: 86 points.