Springbank. The name conjures up quality, because they haven’t skimped on their processes, and high prices, because we all know the whisky is good, and therefore buy it.
I have a hard time speaking about Springbank for this reason. I love Springbank. My first review was the standard 10, and while I feel I was 3-4 points too high on it, I can’t deny how much I enjoy having a Springbank. And due to the fact I’m not independently wealthy or in control of vital requirements of the world, I don’t have it often.
Well until recently when I got into a stash due to home related reasons. Hell, I can’t even blame the pandemic on this one, someone poured me some Springbank and I was rehooked faster than a masochist in a meat locker.
The question we ask today: Do all Springbanks hit home runs? Or can even the jewel of Campbeltown have some slip ups?
Let’s see, shall we?
Thanks again to a friend for sharing this with me.
Springbank 15 2003 Maltbarn
Price: € 259
Cask type: Ex-Sherry Cask
Number of bottles 157
Colour: 5Y 8/8
Nose: Tropical funk, yellow plum, banana bread, the zoo, coffee
Very funky nose. Immediately goes into a sweet plum, well developed tropical notes, and a strong barnyard note that seems to encompass tropical and earth elements that I’ve only smelled while at the zoo.
Water brings out coffee notes, so this just gets better is what I’m saying.
Taste: Sunflower/tahini, lemon, cashew, stone fruit, muddy, coffee
Cleaner at first. Kinda surprised, it’s lighter on the taste, but then starts developing into the stone fruit, and then gets really dirty once water gets in there.
Finish: Banana, creamy, peanut, farmy, brine, chocolate pudding, diesel, floral
Chocolate, peanut butter, salt, more farminess, some rough aspects to make me feel like a man, some floral aspects to help out my feminine side…
I mean, this finish is nuts in how complex it is. Kitchen sink style, throw it all in.
Conclusion: Holy damn that’s good. It had been awhile since I had a Springbank, let alone something picked by a really, really good independent bottler, and then we have this. It’s like going without seasoning for a month and then eating a bag of Doritos.
It’s truly a dram with so many flavours and things going on that it’s hard to focus on just one aspect. Springbank stone fruit, earthy funk, rich roasted coffee notes, acidity, nuttiness… chocolate! I mean it’s easier to nail Jell-O to the wall than nail this.
Grab it. It’s worth it.
Thanks to /u/xile_ for pouring this dram.
Springbank 10 2019 Local Barley
Price: £ 135
Cask type: 77% bourbon, 20% sherry, 3% Port
Number of bottles: 9,000
Colour: 10Y 9/6
Nose: New York Cheesecake, green banana, raisin, white chocolate
Creamy, sweet and acidic to start off. Or a cheesecake, if you will. Some fruit, not as much funk though it’s certainly still there. Water brings out more richness, fruit, and some bonkers sweet notes.
Taste: Brine, banana funk, creme caramel, herbal liqueur
Salty, banana funk, and a dessert that I once ate 12 of in one sitting in Greece. What more could I ask for?
Water gets this strong, bitter, grassy note. Very strong one at that. Think something you’d accidentally drink when you were a teen, not knowing it should probably be mixed because you’re just getting drunk.
Finish: Caramel, mint, lemon, papaya, cookies & cream, nougat
Simpler finish at this point. Goes in some interesting directions, most of which have sugar in theme. It does mitigate a sugar overload though and is balanced. It may be a bit much to those of you who have “proper” diets and aren’t “slowly killing themselves with sweets”.
Conclusion: Strong, lovely flavours that go everywhere. The local barley series has been a fun one for me. I think this is a young, sweet dram that
Springbank 8 2011 Cadenhead’s in The Courtyard
Price: I can’t actually find anything. Many Euro Bucks.
Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon Barrel
Number of bottles 80
Colour: 5Y 9/6
Nose: Peach chocolate truffle, brown sugar, smoke, almond/cashew
Rich, strong, chocolate? Like when you go to a really, really high end chocolate place and the guy in the back is allowed to do anything as long as they have six hundred different ones so people can rush in and ask for a variety. Seriously people, don’t just ask for a variety, take a fucking second to figure out what your friends like and make some goddamn choices.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, good truffle start, gets simpler after that. Pretty unique.
Taste: Peach, white chocolate, more truffles, almond, smoked pear
More rich chocolate and peach, more simple nuttiness, and some smoked fruit. I mean, if you haven’t been following along, stone fruit and smoke are part of Springbank.
Finish: White chocolate, peach, pepper, mint jelly, parsnips
Following along? It’s sweet, it’s fruity, it’s peppery and sharp at time, with just the right amount of earth.
It’s only at the end where I realize how biased I am towards Springbank.
Conclusion: This is why I love Springbank. This is the flavour profile I fell in love with. This reminds me of all of that, I’m biased. It’s rich flavourful peach and chocolate. Purely that. That’s complex, that’s unique, and that’s a good time. The finish ends with some herbal, strong notes that end it all well.
This is very, very up my alley.
Thanks to /u/devoz for this sample.
Springbank 14 Bourbon Wood
Price: € 125
Cask Type: Fresh and Refill Bourbon Barrels
Number of bottles: 9,000
Colour: 7.5Y 6/6
Nose: Mango, coconut cream pie, key lime, almond, brown sugar
Tropical notes, but in a way that keeps growing. Coconut and mango, key lime notes are all very similar to me, mostly due to my love of pies.
There’s some nuttiness, some brown sugar. Really makes you come back to it over and over, as it flits between those creamy/tropical fruit/butter notes.
Taste: Lime pudding, honey, salty cracker, floral vanilla, orange juice, cereal
We’ve settled on lime, like so many bartenders out there who have forgotten those ugly yellow limes that aren’t as tasty. Some cereal notes, some salt, floral, acidic… If the nose jumped between lots of tropical notes that were distinct, this jumps between lots of cereal notes that feel distinct while pairing with sweet and salty aspects.
Put in your own ejaculation here.
Finish: Vanilla, orange juice, lime zest, tapioca, burnt sugar, floral salt
Finish shows off the best aspects of the nose and the taste, blended perfectly together. Nothing is left out, nothing is overdone, and all of it feels immensely complex.
Conclusion: A balanced, flavourful, insanely complex kitchen sink Springbank that brings all of the citrus, cereal, and tropical fruits possible. It’s simultaneously easy drinking and fun and also a nerdy, complex dram that sneaks up on you.
I re-read my notes while drinking this and kept amping up the score. At first I was like “Oh, yeah, Springbank is good, this is a good ex-bourbon dram”. Then I’d have another sip, maybe add some water, maybe leave it, and note how much it could change or how similar it could be.
So yeah. This is good. Grab a dram if you find it.
Thanks to /u/Whiskyjig for this dram
Springbank 16 1991 Wood Expressions – Rum Wood
Price: € 275
Cask type: Rum wood
Number of bottles: 5,100
Colour: 7.5Y 7/8
Nose: Orange zest, floral lime, hot chocolate mix, mint
Starts with the Springbank profile we’ve seen, though I’d say the fruit may be more in the forefront. There’s some cocoa there, some mint, though this seems muted in comparison to others we’ve had so far. And by we I mean me but I’m trying to connect with you because I’ve gone completely squirel-y from being inside and feeling like I should be helping the world but can’t.
Fuck it, onto the memes.
Taste: Orange creamsicle, cereal, lemon, caramel, floral, papaya
Nice creamy/orange note, and then… Nothing really to back it up. Kinda falls short. It’s like the really good Springbank spirit is giving me this amazing citrus, and then the rum comes in playing the tuba by itself, which is terrible. The tuba is not a good solo instrument, and rum casks are the tubas of the barrel world.
Finish: Brown sugar, lime gelatin, funk/old orange, raspberry, brine
Again, big notes that I’m attributing to Springbank, and then some simple elements from what I assume is the rum cask.
Conclusion: A hot, rough dram that does well only because the Springbank is so well made. This isn’t Springbank going well, this is further proof that rum casks are used until they’re falling apart and the hope that we can get something cool in a whisky from them is a pipe dream.
This is a good dram because Springbank is good. This isn’t going to blow your mind. Almost any of the other drams I’ve reviewed here are better than it because of the combination of cask and spirit. Good try, but I’d pass.
Thanks to /u/cake_my_day for the dram.
Springbank Vintage for Lateltin 1996
Price: € 277 (might be secondary)
Cask type: Oloroso Sherry Cask
Cask Number: 266
Number of bottles: 645
Colour: 2.5YR 2/8
Nose: Anise, strawberry liquor, saltwater taffy, almond, leather
So take the issue with the last dram: No cask influence, right? Now have cask influence, with lovely sherry notes dominating the nose. There’s a bit of the Springbank here, with the salty/caramel aspect popping up, though sherry is on display right here.
Taste: Strawberry, ginger, cardamom coffee, anise, almond, buttermilk
Again, we have the cask leading the way. However it’s not heavy handed. The creamy aspects of Springbank are there.
Also: Holy damn that coffee note is heavenly, and frankly I don’t get that typically from sherry casks by themselves.
Finish: Cocoa, brown sugar, brine, anise funk, lime zest
Here we go, more of the Springbank at the end. It’s giving you drips and drops, like a junky. Which to be fair is needed.
Funky, spicy finish on everything, with some of that strong zest and cocoa loveliness.
Conclusion: Strawberry and coffee dram. Cleaner than I’d like, though makes up for that at the end. Some may have issues with more sherry, some may love that. I didn’t get the feeling like it was too much. More so balanced. Also coffee man, it’s just amazing. Hell should I just put coffee above? It’s closer to a light roast single origin with all the fruit and molasses.
Also that leather note on the nose. This is just fun and good.
Springbank 26 1990 Rest & Be Thankful
Price: € 449
Cask Type: Bourbon
Cask Number: 096
Number of bottles: 267
Colour: 5Y 6/8
Nose: Mango, vanilla, pastry, daffodils, banana bread
Tropical, floral, buttery… Nothing else going on, but given time we have some banana bread, and if that’s not a bonus then you’re dead inside.
Kinda hoping it grows a bit more.
Taste: Smarties, mango, wood, floral/vegetal, cheap chocolate
Continues on the floral/mango train. And stays there. The train seems to be stuck somewhere, perhaps in the trainyard where cheap chocolate and flowers come from. Or Switzerland, I think.
Nothing else happens. It’s all cheap sweets going on.
Finish: Mango chutney, chipotle, cumin, burnt end ribs, orange
Alright, some developed smoke here. And it’s all too sweet to really enjoy that.
Conclusion: Too sweet. Tastes like mango floral cheap chocolate. Which I should love. All of this should be really good. Old Springbank. Ex-bourbon cask. But instead it’s just meh. Literally should have been put into a cask to finish it or enhance it longer. The finish is the best, most complex part.
I don’t know, I’m just annoyed I sat on this so long and thought about it being amazing and the oldest Springbank I’ve ever had and instead I got something that tastes like a hipster tried to start a pharmacy and needed to fill out the candy section for Easter and also he sucks.
Well… oh well, the rest were pretty awesome.
Scotch review #1209-1215, Campbeltown review #63-69, Whisky Network review #1857-63