I keep saying that some of the most interesting whisky in the world right now is coming out of Campbeltown. Never mind Taiwan or Tasmania. This town – which a century ago was once the Mecca of Scotch distilling with well over two-dozen distilleries – is releasing fascinating whiskies from just a handful of brands. Out of this town comes character. Personality. The stuff that’s important to me, a drinker in pursuit of the next quality flavour kick.
So sometime last year I finally joined the the Springbank Society. The society is the whisky equivalent of like those backstreet, neon-lit porn shops you used to find all over Soho before the restauranteurs moved in. It is a purveyor of titillating bottles, niche things that you simply can’t find anywhere else. And you get this little thrill whenever the society releases another wave of whiskies. Group emails are sent among whisky drinkers. Facebook groups light up with discussion. Because it’s always interesting when Springbank distillery – steward of Springbank, Longrow, Hazelburn and also Glengyle (Kilkerran), a distillery that makes sure things are made properly, with no marketing spin – has some new stuff about to land, and that it is restricted to members of the society.
Today’s whisky is pretty much the sole reason that I joined the Springbank Society. It’s the Longrow variant, Springbank’s peated sister. This Longrow was bottled for the society late last year at 53.2% ABV. 600 bottles were available at something ridiculous like £65 each. Honestly, can you think of another distillery that releases limited editions as inexpensive as this? It’s spent its entire 14 years in a fresh Sherry Butt.
As soon as the email announcing this whisky landed in my inbox, I threw my money at them. Was it signing up for?
Springbank Society Longrow 14 Years Old – Fresh Sherry Butt Review
Colour: Oloroso sherry to burnished gold.
On the nose: smokey tomato ketchup. Paprika, redcurrants, blackcurrants all mingled together with some lovely oily, industrial, slightly medicinal kind of peat. Somewhere under all that heft are raisins and sultanas, mixed peel and wholemeal bread. Caramel. Bonkers. Traces of sulphur – pencil erasers, spent matches – but this is a good thing.
In the mouth: vibrant and spicy, like some kind of slow-cooked Mexican dish in a glass. Again that spicy, smokey tomato ketchup quality comes through. The smoke leans towards the ashy end of the spectrum. Nutmeg, chipotle, quite meaty too. Salted caramel truffles. Olive oil. Redcurrant sauce. And cloying, beautifully dry, in the mouth.
Oomph. I suspect there’s a touch of the old BDSM about these intense whiskies. You enjoy the extremeness of it all. Let’s face it, you don’t willingly buy a filthy Longrow single cask without expecting something of this nature, and it absolutely has not disappointed me. The Springbank Society Longrow 14 Years Old Fresh Sherry Butt is a triumph for the price.
In my recent GlenDronach Port Puncheon review I talked about why people love single casks, because of their outlier nature, and this simply reaffirms my point. It is an assault on the senses, with all the kind of intense flavours that some mass market brands would fear using in case it puts newcomers off their whisky. Indeed, if you like mild whiskies, then avoid this. It isn’t for you.
But if you like intense, outrageous character, and don’t mind a bit of the dirty stuff, this is absolutely the right match for you. Swipe right.