Let’s stay in Campbeltown, at the Springbank distillery, for one more day; but let’s not get any more timely than last Friday’s 2010 release of the Springbank 18. Indeed, this whisky was released in 2009. It was one of four sherry cask releases for the US market under the “Wood Expressions” banner. All were distilled in 1996. I’ve reviewed two of the others: the oloroso and the fino. This cream sherry cask was actually the first one I opened even though it’s the last I’m reviewing—I’d saved a 6 oz sample from it as used to be my usual practice at the time. Well, usual but not invariable: I have no saved sample I can find of the amontillado cask even though my spreadsheet says I’d consumed a bottle of that around the same time as this one. Ah well. I stopped preserving 6 oz samples from bottles a few years ago, as my shelves had gotten overrun with them and I was worried they’d degrade before I got to them all. Most of the ones I’ve opened recently have been in perfect condition, however, both making me thankful that I saved some of these to try again many years later and making me wonder if I should re-start the practice now so I can savour some of the bottles I’m opening now in another 8-10 years. Time warps and whatnot. Continue reading
Okay, done with the heavy peat but let’s stay on Campbeltown through the end of the week. Having lapsed into relevance on Wednesday with a review of the 2020 release of the Longrow 18—a whisky that is still available—let me now go back to my core competency: reviews of whiskies released 10 years ago. I reviewed the 2016 release of the Springbank 18 last month and mentioned then that I had a reference sample saved from my first-ever bottle of the Springbank 18, released in 2010. I managed to locate it and tasted it somewhat nervously, fully expecting that it had gone flat. But it had not and indeed tracked very well with the truncated notes I’d taken on the bottle in those pre-blog days. I drank the rest of this down in very quick order after taking these notes. Spoiler alert: I really enjoyed it. However, I doubt I will buy another bottle of Springbank 18 anytime soon. This is not due to the fact that the current Springbank 18 has less sherry in the mix but because it costs the bloody earth. Continue reading
Okay, I am done with my mini-tour of Islay (stops at Caol Ila, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg). But I’m not done with peat. Let’s take the ferry back to the mainland and head south, to Campbeltown. And let’s get quite timely for a change. This is the 2020 release of the Longrow 18. I reviewed the 2019 release last year and thought it was just excellent. Will this be as good? Well, it’s certainly not made in the same way. Though I did not note it in that review, the 2019 release was put together from a vatting that was 75% ex-sherry and 25% ex-bourbon casks. This year’s edition has a more complicated composition, being from 25% ex-bourbon, 55% ex-sherry and
4520% ex-rum casks. Now, I’ve never had a Longrow that had been near rum casks before—that I know of at any rate—and I’ve never been too impressed with any whisky that came out of a rum cask, but I am a little bit intrigued anyway to see what that might do to Longrow’s trademark austere character. Let’s see. Continue reading
Okay, after Taiwanese and Irish whiskies and French brandy, let’s get back to Scottish single malt whisky. Here is a Springbank. This is the youngest of the whiskies released widely so far in their recent Local Barley series. I’ve so far reviewed the 16 yo (released in 2016) and the 11 yo (released in 2017). There were also a couple of 10 yo releases, I think—in 2017 and 2019—and this year a 8 yo. The 16 yo I thought was excellent and the 11 yo only a little short of that. Where will the 9 yo, released in 2018, fall? Let’s see.
Springbank 9, 2009, Local Barley (57.7%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Peppery and peaty to start with a mix of rubber and hot tarmac coming up from below. Salt on the second sniff and some sweetness under the rubber that I can’t quite pick. With air the familiar Springbank notes of sackcloth/burlap and cracked spices (mustard seed, coriander seed) begin to come through along with some dried mango. As it sits the sweet note expands and becomes fruitier (plum, apricot, lemon) and more honeyed. About 40 minutes in the nose is just brilliant with all of the above plus some cream. A few drops of water and there’s more brine, more cracked spices, more apricot and more cream; plus some dried orange peel. Continue reading
An old post of mine on distillery character and whether it exists suddenly became very popular earlier this week—I guess someone linked to it somewhere on Facebook? In that post I registered skepticism about the idea of distillery character as normally bandied about by whisky geeks. I have to admit though that Springbank is the distillery that most rebukes my argument (the exception that proves the rule?) with a profile that is remarkably consistent across official and (rare) independent releases and across their Springbank and Longrow lines (it’s been a long time since I had a Hazelburn). Indeed, the Springbank DNA is evident in Kilkerran as well. That profile is present in spades in this Springbank 18 as well (spoiler alert: I rather like it). I’m very glad to review this 2016 release, not just because I love that Springbank profile but because I was under the impression I’d reviewed more than one Springbank 18 in the past when in fact I have hitherto reviewed a total of zero. It’s high time this gap was filled. Continue reading
On Wednesday I had a review of the Springbank 1997, Batch 1, released in 2007. Here now is a review of Batch 2, released a year later. This one I did purchase a whole bottle of. I liked Batch 1 a lot and so am hoping that Batch 2 will be comparable. Let’s see if it in fact is.
Springbank 1997, Batch 2 (54.9%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Typical Springbank notes of damp earth and sackcloth with some dried orange peel and some coastal notes (kelp, brine, seashells) running through them. With time there’s more salt and some red fruit—plum?—along with the orange peel. Sweeter and softer with water (cream, malt) at first and then some pencil lead. Continue reading
Springbank released two batches of the 1997 vintage, one in 2007 and one in 2008. I bought a bottle of the second batch not too long after its release and have been sitting on it now for about a decade for some reason. Well, I think the reason might have been that I’d hoped to find a bottle of the first batch and open them together. That never happened but a few years ago I did acquire 8 ounces of Batch 1 via a bottle split; not sure why I didn’t do that paired tasting then but better late than never.
The bottle was acquired by Florin—the man who brought the good news from Ghent to Aix—at a store in Berlin in 2014. Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls and I then split it with him. Michael, being a young hasty type, only waited four years to review a part of his share. Here now are my notes. Continue reading
This Springbank was released for the German market in the early/mid 1990s. It is one of a few bottles released with the so-called “House & Tree” label. Whiskybase has records of a NAS House & Tree label for the French market that was a release of 251 bottles. Serge has a review of another NAS House & Tree label for the German market (which may or may not be this one, a release of 319 bottles). This made me think that the label on this sample was mistaken about the age statement, and so I checked with the source of the sample, the Notorious Pat T. He sent me pictures of the bottle this sample came from and I can confirm that the bottle has a smaller label around the neck with the age statement and that the back specifies that it was bottle 43 of a release of 294 bottles, possibly for Krüger’s Whiskygalerie. So much confusion and none of it, frankly, very interesting. I say this after having made you read a paragraph about it. You’re welcome. Continue reading
Last week’s review of a Glendronach 19, 1993 was the first of five reviews of bottles I opened to mark my 50th birthday. As I said last week, all five whiskies were distilled and/or bottled in significant years of my life. That Glendronach was distilled in 1993, the year I left India for the United States, where I’ve lived ever since. Today’s Springbank was distilled in 1996 which is not a particularly significant year in my life; but it was bottled in 2009, the year our first child was born. I really liked last week’s Glendronach; I’ll be really bummed if I picked a less than good cask to mark the year of his birth.
The odds, however, are good. I’ve liked all the other casks in this sherry wood series that Springbank’s old importers, Preiss Imports, released back in 2009. I’ve previously reviewed the Oloroso cask; others included a Cream Sherry and an Amontillado cask (bottles emptied pre-blog). I could be wrong but I think this was among the first of what turned out to be a regular series of single sherry cask Springbank releases in the US (there were a couple of wine cask releases before this). It was followed by a 14 yo sherry cask series a couple of years later and there’s been a regular trickle of these ever since, at ever increasing prices. I purchased this not too long after release and have been sitting on it ever since for no good reason. Well, let’s open it now and see what it’s like. Continue reading
Let’s make it two weeks in a row of reviews of peated whiskies. This also rounds out a week of reviews with terrifically low utility. On Wednesday I reviewed a Caol Ila sold exclusively at the distillery in 2017; on Monday I reviewed a Port Ellen released in 2011. Today I have a Longrow 14 that was released in 2010. The last Longrow 14 I reviewed was from the 2011 release, so I appear to be going backwards in time. Someday I hope to review one released less than nine years ago (I don’t seem to have any in the stash). If you’ve had a more recent release perhaps you can tell me if my notes on the 2010 and 2011 releases track with what the 14 yo is like now. Okay, on to the review!
Longrow 14, 2010 Release (46%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: The usual Longrow goodness. That is to say, sweet, mineral peat along with a bit of coal smoke and below all of that lemon and salt. The lemon gets more preserved as it sits and there’s some savoury gunpowder. A few drops of water brightens the lemon up a bit. Continue reading
I’ve sung the praises of the Springbank distillery so often that I am not going to bother doing it again. Suffice it to say that in an industry that for the last decade has been seeming to move further and further away from what’s in the bottle, Springbank (and their younger siblings at Glengyle/Kilkerran) have been keeping it real, making the whisky they’ve always been making. And one of those whiskies is the 12 yo, cask strength. I’ve had a number of batches of these over the years (and I’ve reviewed a few) and I do believe I’ve liked them all a lot. The formulation has changed over the years; there’s now more bourbon casks than sherry in the mix—indeed, if the Whiskybase entry can be trusted, this is composed from 65% ex-bourbon and 35% ex-sherry casks. The 18 yo and above and their single cask releases are all priced quite high—this is my only major complaint about them—but the 10 yo and the 15 yo are still relative bargains and at <$80 this will be too if it’s as good as previous batches. Let’s see. Continue reading
Here is another contemporary classic: the 16 yo that was the first release in Springbank’s recent’ish Local Barley series. I’ve previously reviewed the 11 yo that was the second release in the series and I liked that one a lot. Based on the coverage of this one I’m expecting to like it a lot too. Let’s see if that comes to pass.
Springbank 16, Local Barley (54.3%; from my own bottle)
Nose: An austere mix of mineral oil, sack cloth, lemon, brine and cracked coriander seed. On the second sniff some soot joins the party as well. Gets sweeter as it sits. With a few drops of water it gets brighter/more acidic and the soot expands as well; some tart apple too under it all now. Continue reading
In early May I reviewed a Longrow 13, 2003 from a single first-fill sherry cask. I found that one to be marred by a little too much sulphur but not irredeemably so. Here now is a sherried 14 yo Longrow from the same year but this one is from refill casks and a whole bunch of them: the total release of this whisky comprised 9000 bottles (not an unusual number for Springbank). So probably about 18 or 19 butts. That should theoretically allow for an averaging that guards against any major flaws. Let’s see if that turns out to be so.
Longrow 14, 2003 (57.8%; refill oloroso sherry cask; from a bottle split)
Nose: Uh oh, a mix of rubber and sour, yeasty notes. Some more pleasant sherry aromas lurk beneath (toffee, orange peel) but are completely dominated. Gets quite salty quite quickly. As it sits the sulphurous notes subside a bit. A few drops of water knock them back further and pulls out more salt along with cocoa and roasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds). Continue reading
Here is the last of four reviews of recent releases from the lords of Campbeltown. I’ve already reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21, the Hazelburn 14, Oloroso and the new Kilkerran, Heavily Peated. Here now is the 2019 release of the revered Longrow 18 (Longrow, in case you don’t know, is the name for the heavily peated, double-distilled malt made at Springbank). I’ve previously reviewed two other releases of the Longrow 18: the 2008 release (which was, I believe the first release) and the 2011 release. I liked both a lot. I also have a bottle of the 2014 release on my shelves which I should really open some day soon. The reason I don’t go through Longrow 18 as often/quickly as some other regular releases from Springbank is that it costs the earth in the US. And so I wait to buy it in the UK or Europe once every few years. Well, my parents will soon be passing through London on the way to visiting us—so let’s see if this is good enough to have shipped to my uncle’s place in London, where they will be stopping for a week. Continue reading
Here’s another 2019 Campbeltown release. I’ve previously reviewed the Springbank 21 and the new Kilkerran Heavily Peated. I liked the Springbank a lot, the Kilkerran less so, but neither got me very interested in purchasing a bottle: the KIlkerran because it just wasn’t very interesting, the Springbank because it’s way too expensive for what it is. Next week I’ll have a review of the Longrow 18 released at the same time. Here now is the fourth from the stable: a Hazelburn, the triple-distilled, unpeated whisky distilled at Springbank. I’ve not had very many Hazelburns before and I don’t recall having had a heavily sherried one. And that is what this is: a large batch of 9900 bottles from oloroso sherry casks. As to whether they were full-term or only partially matured in the sherry casks, I do not know. If you do, please write in below. I’m interested to see what this is like at any rate. Let’s get right to it. Continue reading
I am a big fan of the whiskies made at the Springbank distillery but not always a fan of their pricing, especially in the US. On the one hand the price of the 10 yo has remained constant for a long time (and it offers great value) and the 15 yo too—at this point anyway—remains reasonably priced for the age (and also very good). But after that the prices begin to go through the roof. The 18 yo is very expensive and the 21 yo even more so still. The lowest price currently shown for it in the US on Winesearcher is $350 (before tax) and there are stores charging north of $500 for it. As far as I can make out the justification for this is that it is not made in very large quantities and Springbank is a cult distillery. Certainly, while the only other Springbank 21 I’ve had was very good (the 2013 release) it did not remotely justify the price being asked for it then (which was about the same as the current price). Will this 2019 version be a lot better? I’m not sure but I’m curious to see what a Springbank from a combination of rum and port casks—which is what this is—is like. I’ve had rum cask Springbank and port cask Springbank and neither made me wish for more of those over their regular bourbon and sherry offerings. Let’s see how it goes. Continue reading
Longrow, as you know, is the name of the more heavily peated malt made by Springbank (there are other differences in the production process as well). Most of the bourbon cask Longrows—or ex-bourbon heavy releases—I’ve had have been very good, and those are most of the Longrows I’ve had. Indeed, it has been a long time since I’ve had a Longrow matured in sherry casks, and I don’t think I’ve reviewed any on the blog. I have reviewed a couple of wine cask Longrows, however. I did not care very much for the 14 yo Burgundy Wood release from 2012 or so which had a bit too much sulphur for my taste. I liked the 11 yo port cask Longrow Red better. Of course, none of this may have any bearing on this single first fill sherry cask which was bottled for the German market. The general stereotype (fact?) goes that German drinkers in general are fairly sulphur-positive or at least more so than most others. Will this cask play to that (possible) preference? Let’s see. Continue reading
The last Springbank I reviewed was from a bourbon cask—the 11 yo Local Barley—and I liked it a lot. Here now is another official Springbank from a bourbon cask but one that’s almost twice the age of the previous. This was bottled in 2014 from a refill bourbon cask for Dr. Jekyll’s, a whisky bar in Oslo. I got this sample in a bottle split. I’m not sure how the person who had the bottle laid his hands on it, though I assume it was at auction. Only 100 bottles were apparently released for general sale and disappeared in a matter of hours. I do not know what the price charged for it then was; I’m pretty sure it would have been much lower than the current going rate for cask strength Springbanks. The prices asked for recent independent Springbanks have been eye-watering indeed and official cask strength releases of a lower age in the US are no less aggressively priced these days. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading