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
Ah, Glen Scotia: forever labouring in the shadow of Springbank in Campbeltown. I’d love to say that I’ve always been a champion of this underdog but, as I always note when posting a review of a Glen Scotia, I’ve had very little Glen Scotia in my time. When I first started drinking single malt whisky there wasn’t a whole lot of it around and nothing I read led me to want to seek it out. Since then I’ve had a couple of older Glen Scotias that I really liked (two 20 yo releases from Archives and Wilson & Morgan and one 40 yo from Malts of Scotland) and two younger ones that I did not care for very much (one indie released in the mid-2000s and one more recent official release, the Double Cask). The official line has been revamped a couple of times in recent years and there are now at least a couple of teenaged releases out there along with the NAS Double Cask. This 12 yo dates from the early-mid 2000s, I think, before their bizarre disco cow bottle design. I *think* I might also have a sample of the older 14 yo knocking about somewhere (unless in my addled state I am confusing it with a sample of Scapa—another distillery labouring in the shadow of a more famous neighbour). Let’s see if this one leads me to want to track it down. 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
On Tuesday I reviewed the 2019 release of the Springbank 21. Here now is another recent Campbeltown release: a new NAS heavily peated whisky from Kilkerran. I don’t really pay attention to whisky news anymore and so I had no idea that this had been in the works. Like most optimistic idiots I’d assumed that once Kilkerran aged their stocks up they’d be putting out whiskies with age statements. And given how good the 2016 release of the Kilkerran 12 was I’d assumed they were just continuing on that path. But here’s a heavily peated NAS release. What is the impetus for this? To capture some more of the heavily peated market? Doesn’t the NAS Longrow already aim to do that for the group? I do hope they’re not going to do a Kilchoman-like pivot to a series of NAS malts. They put out an 8 yo at cask strength not too long ago; I’m assuming this one is a year or two younger than that. And that one I thought was rather unremarkable. That doesn’t seem to bode well for this. But the proof will be in the glass. Let’s see. 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
Here is the second edition in Springbank’s recent Local Barley series. The first was a 16 yo that was released in 2016 (I have a couple of bottles, as yet unopened). This one was released in 2017 and was matured entirely in bourbon casks. I believe there’s been a 10 yo in the series since, also released in 2017. Please let me know if there’s another that I’m unaware of. All have been very well received. As the name implies. these are releases distilled from locally grown barley and in the case of at least this one that local barley was bere barley, a Scottish strain that has a lower yield than the varieties normally used to make whisky (please let me know if the others were also from bere barley). The only other bere barley-based malt I’ve had was from Bruichladdich and I wasn’t overly impressed with that one (I don’t think I’ve reviewed it). Will this Springbank be much better? Will it make me regret not having got a bottle? Let’s see.
On Wednesday I posted a review of a recent release of the Highland Park 12. Here now is a review of the 2017 release of another whisky that I used to enjoy a lot but have inconceivably neglected since my review in 2013 of a bottle from the 2010 release: the Springbank 15. Like the Highland Park 12, this bottle too has been redesigned. But if in the case of the Highland Park 12 what used to be a very unassuming bottle has been completely re-designed (more than once) to its current etched form, all that’s changed in the case of the Springbnk 15 is the label. And I am probably not alone in thinking that it is a change for the uglier rather than the prettier. Whatever else they’re spending their time and money on at the home base in Campbeltown, I’m not sure that they’re spending a lot of either on packaging design. But how about what’s inside the bottle? Has it too changed as the Highland Park 12 has? Read on to find out. Continue reading